Hot-shooting Neuqua Valley downs South Elgin
Whether it was due to hot shooting or regular wear and tear is impossible to say, but the net on Neuqua Valley's side of South Elgin's court had to be replaced during pregame warm-ups Thursday when a hole developed.
Neuqua Valley junior guard Joe Sieger and the Wildcats then wore the nets out at both ends once the game began.
Sieger connected on 6 of his 8 attempts from 3-point range and 10 of 13 shots overall en route to a career-high 27 points, and Neuqua Valley sank 11 of 26 long-range attempts (42 percent) to sweep the Upstate Eight Valley season series with a 78-54 road win.
Neuqua Valley (18-3, 7-1) made 32 of 58 field goal attempts overall (55 percent) but a key, according to hall-of-fame coach Todd Sutton, was his team's sudden accuracy from beyond the arc, particularly in light of a 2-of-20 performance from 3-point range in Monday's 63-44 loss to Normal.
"We're definitely the roller coaster ride at Universal Studios," Sutton said.
Neuqua Valley's coach credited many of those open looks to unselfish team passing. Of the Wildcats' 32 baskets, 24 were assisted. Senior guards Demond George and Alex Edwards combined for 9 of those assists with Sieger often the beneficiary.
"They were really getting me the ball on the fast break and in the half court, all over the place," Sieger said. "They were giving me good passes, giving it to me in the right spots and I just hit it."
South Elgin (7-13, 2-5), which a week ago activated previously injured 6-foot-10 center Tyler Hankins, had trouble covering Neuqua's shooters.
"Now that we have Ty, we have someone to protect the rim so we have to go back to applying more pressure on the perimeter. That's not what happened," South Elgin coach Matt Petersen said. "There was no pressure on the ball on the perimeter. It was like playing that old zone when we had to do it that way because we needed multiple people to protect the paint. No pressure equals wide-open threes."
Offensively, South Elgin shot 50 percent from the floor (22 of 44) and four players scored in double figures: freshman Anthony Lynch (14 points), Hankins (11), junior Matt Smith (11) and sophomore Logan Atkins (11). However, Neuqua won the rebounding battle 26-19 and forced 13 turnovers.
The Wildcats bolted to a 37-25 halftime lead, powered by five 3-pointers from Sieger, who scored 17 points in the first half. He added 10 more third-quarter points to build a 60-37 lead. The Wildcats led by as many as 29 points midway through the fourth.
Senior forward Oakley Bunce scored 12 points off the bench and 6-4 senior Connor Raridon added 9 points and 10 rebounds for the Wildcats, who are idle until Tuesday's home date with East Aurora.