Neuqua Valley literally rose to the challe*nge on Tuesday in a sequence that topped Chicago Christian 66-64 at the 51st East Aurora Holiday Boys Basketball Tournament.
"We made a couple of plays at the end after we lost momentum. Certainly needed it," said Wildcats coach Todd Sutton.
Closing the game on a 5-0 mini-run, Neuqua Valley tied the score 64-64 on Noah Herdman's 3-point shot near the top of the key with 2 minutes, 8 seconds left.
Chicago Christian missed on the other end, and with 1:24 to play Neuqua's Alex Filo scored on an offensive putback for the 66-64 lead.
Chicago Christian missed again but Knights star Malik Parker stole the ball from Neuqua's Blaise Meredith -- who instead of sulking took chase, then rose to block Parker's layup attempt from behind.
"Since he's shorter you already know where the ball's going to be because he's got to put it pretty close to the rim," said the 6-foot-2 Meredith, who scored 8 points with 5 rebounds and 3 assists. "You've just got to make sure he doesn't pump-fake you. You've just got to time it up."
Neuqua (6-5) survived one last 3-point try from Parker, who made 5 of them while scoring a game-high 28 points. Between Parker and double-figure scorers Josh Decker and Jack Ellison it's understandable that Chicago Christian (5-6) has had games of 103, 97 and 95 points this season.
Not against programs like Neuqua Valley, though. Going 0 for 5 from the foul line and 6 of 15 from the floor in the fourth quarter makes it even tougher.
"When you're beating a team by 50 those details don't matter," said Knights coach Kevin Pittman. "When you're in a close game like this those details matter."
Details like Filo following up a teammate's shot.
"We ran the play right, just as Coach called it," said the 6-8 senior. "I just went to the rim because I just felt, if this ball's not going in I want to be right there to put it back. Sure enough it did, and that's what gave us the lead at the end. That was the plan."
The plan did not jell in the Wildcats' tourney-opening loss to Joliet Catholic. On Tuesday, from leading scorers Connor Gentry and Jonathan Tan -- 15 and 12 points, respectively -- to final subs Christian Oliveras and Stephen Ruiz, it came together.
"A lot of guys contributed, a lot of good play by a whole bunch of guys," Sutton said. "Actually, everyone who played contributed, some way, somehow."