Neuqua Valley overtakes South Elgin in second half
The Neuqua Valley boys basketball team left nothing unchallenged in the second half of a 58-48 victory over South Elgin at the Upstate Eight-DuPage Valley Shootout at East Aurora Saturday.
The Wildcats won their fourth straight game and snapped South Elgin's 9-game winning streak by obstructing passing lanes, sticking hands in shooters' faces and accounting for more deflections than a professional spin doctor.
Neuqua Valley (13-16) trailed 27-24 at halftime but limited South Elgin (21-7) to 21 second-half points. The Wildcats forced 14 second-half turnovers.
"We locked in on defense and it showed," said Neuqua Valley senior guard Sentwali Nalls, who finished with 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting. "Coach always preaches defense and everyone is buying in at the end of the season. Games are going to be tough now, so everybody has to lock in on defense and get stops."
South Elgin led 20-11 in the second quarter but bumping bodies with the Wildcats exacted a toll over 32 minutes.
"They're a very physical team and we haven't played a team like that all year," said South Elgin senior Vincent Miszkiewicz, who led all scorers with a 20-point performance that included a pair of 3-pointers and a pair of dunks. "It was great to help us prepare for regionals. I think we just have to work on little things: cut better, set better screens and communicate better. If we can do that, we'll be better for the postseason."
The Wildcats led 38-37 at the end of three quarters and won the fourth period 20-11. They took a 6-point lead for the first time on an inside bucket from 6-foot-5 senior Nonso Obguefi with 3:31 left and sank enough free throws in the final two minutes to hold off the turnover-plagued Storm.
"When you turn the ball over 23 times in a game with limited possessions, you're not going to win," South Elgin coach Brett Johnson said. "I can say I'm proud of our guys for how hard they played. I told them no one likes to lose but this was a really good opportunity for us to see where we're really at moving into the postseason. So we take a lump from a quality team that has struggled all season, we learn from it and we get better from it moving forward."
Nalls dished 6 assists to spark the offense with leading scorer John Poulakidas sidelined.
"He's just playing great," Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton said of Nalls. "For the last month he's been passing that ball and getting us easy shots left and right. He had one great, long pass to Justin Blazek against the press that was like, wow, how'd he see it? I didn't see it."
Jace Warrick scored 13 points for the Storm. He and Miszkiewicz both fouled out late in the fourth quarter. Drake Montgomery added 8 points and 4 assists.
Obguefi finished with 13 points and sophomore Connor Davis added 12 points for Neuqua Valley.