DeKalb holds off Metea Valley
Zach Russell was just of several players to make crucial plays in DeKalb's favor in the final few minutes, stifling Metea Valley's upset bid Friday 63-58.
Trenton Kyler's ability to get to the free-throw line with aggressive drives to the hoop resulted in the junior guard posting a game-high 20 points. Kyler shot 8 of 10 on free throws and the Barbs (21-5, 7-0 DuPage Valley Conference) made 23 of 34 free throws as a team.
"He had some winning plays," Reynolds said of Russell. "Avery (Medina) handled the ball and made some winning plays. (Kyler) obviously made a lot of them and Joe (Owens) was struggling and he came back in to get (a) rebound. That was a winning play."
Kymari McBride was an unstoppable force in the first half for the Mustangs, scoring 11 of his team-high 15 points before the third quarter. But the Barbs found a helpful answer to his confident penetration of the paint.
"We were able to gap and pinch some of the driving lanes," Reynolds said. "They've got really good shooters. That's how they beat Naperville Central last week because they hit a whole bunch of 3s because McBride was able to pass all over the place."
Ethan Tai made the Barbs pay on their defensive miscues with a pair of second-half 3-pointers to help the Mustangs to keep the game as close as 54-51 late in the fourth. Alex Moreno scored 12 and Myles Leavy had 11 for the Mustangs.
With the Mustangs giving the Barbs fits with a trapping half-court defense in the fourth quarter, Zach Russell sank a dagger from the left corner in front of the DeKalb bench to give the Barbs a 54-49 lead.
"Joe set me a great screen and Avery gave me a great pass to knock it down," Russell said.
The two squads then traded buckets, then defensive stops on each end. Shortly after, Russell not only sank two free throws, he stole a pass around midcourt and took it in for a layup and an insurmountable Barbs 9-point lead in the final minute.
"I saw Jadyn (Thompson) was getting beat a little bit so I stepped up, stole the ball and got a layup," Russell said.
Metea Valley's Will Hopkins went to the free-throw line with 1:29 to go and his team trailing 56-51 and missed both free throws, only for Alex Moreno to put back the offensive rebound for a 3-point Mustangs deficit.
The Mustangs stayed in the game early with strong takes to the bucket. McBride and Moreno combined for 14 of Metea Valley's first 19 points.
The Mustangs grabbed their first lead early in the second quarter, grabbing five leads before halftime. However DeKalb sank 12 of 19 free throws in the first half and Kyler scored off an inbounds play with less than 10 seconds remaining in the half for a 31-28 Barbs lead.
The Mustangs were just 5 of 15 from the free-throw line, including 3 of 10 in the fourth quarter. Russell scored 9 of his 17 points in the fourth quarter and added 4 steals and 4 rebounds. Owens had 6 points for DeKalb. Christian Grays grabbed a team-high 5 rebounds and Daniel Brown added 4 boards.
Metea Valley's trapping zone gave the Barbs trouble in the second half before DeKalb knocked down some big buckets.
"Metea played pretty good," Russell said. "We struggled with them earlier in the year as well. Every team in this conference is pretty tough."