Neuqua Valley edges Naperville North for Sutton's 600th win
After a hard-fought victory for the Neuqua Valley boys basketball team Friday, Todd Sutton reflected how being a varsity coach has changed over his 31 seasons.
"It used to be you're going to play an opponent and they're going to play man-to-man all night," Sutton said. "Tonight, we played against a triangle-and-two, and box-and-one, a zone and man-to-man so we had to prepare for four defenses. It's just getting so much more complex."
The Wildcats holding on for a 48-44 DuPage Valley Conference victory at rival Naperville North already was sweet but it also turned out to be historic.
Unknown until afterward to the players and Sutton, this was his 600th varsity career coaching victory in his 22nd season with the Wildcats after nine at seasons at Pecatonica in northwest Illinois. Assistant coach and son Tyler Sutton and some parents, however, were prepared with postgame celebratory signs.
"I don't keep track of that stuff. (I thought I was) in the area. I don't know. I don't pay attention to that," Todd Sutton said.
Neuqua junior Connor Davis initially was elated simply that the Wildcats (17-5, 2-3 in DVC) ended a nine-game losing streak to the defending DVC champions. Neuqua has won 11 of its last 12.
"Coach deserves his 600th win. Honestly we didn't know. I don't think he did either, honestly," Davis said.
"He's a great coach. He's hard working. He gets game plans for us. He gets the film that we need. He makes sure we're ready for every game."
Trailing 42-34 with 5:04 left, the Huskies (9-10, 1-4) closed to within 43-42 and 45-44 before Davis made two free throws with 5.5 seconds for the game's final points that secured the outcome.
Davis finished with 13 points behind an 8-point third quarter that included a 3-pointer and conventional three-point play. Senior Erik Roche led a 23-point effort from non-starters with 10 points, including two 3s early in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats scored a season low yet appeared in control until their fourth-quarter stretch with three straight missed one-and-bonus free throws and turnovers on back-to-back inbounds passes against the Huskies' full-court pressure.
After the Huskies' Grant Johnson scored inside, Neuqua's Patrick Hoffmann 1 of 2 free throws with 16.6 seconds for a 46-44 advantage. When the Huskies' Zeke Williams drove the lane, Neuqua reserve Donovan Navarro knocked the ball loose and passed downcourt to Davis, who was fouled.
Naperville North's Myles Barry had 10 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, and Johnson had 13 points with 10 rebounds.
The Huskies hung close at halftime 23-16 despite 4-for-16 shooting. Neuqua opened a 31-21 lead on John Poulakidas' lone 3 and entered the fourth quarter ahead 34-26.
"It's got to be pretty close to the top if not the best quarter we've played," Barry said.
Naperville North coach Gene Nolan praised the man-to-man defense by Williams on Poulakidas, who passed 1,000 career varsity points Monday. Poulakidas had 8 points on just 7 field-goal attempts but also two key free throws with 28.4 seconds that opened a 45-42 lead.
"The fight defensively was there, especially in the second half," Nolan said. "I thought we did some good things, some things that we can keep growing on. I think we got better tonight. We're better now than we've been all year. We want to focus on the progress, not the outcome."
One big difference was Neuqua's bench, which had 13 of its 23 first-half points. Nonso Obguefi scored 6 first-half points inside.