Huntley bounces back at Jacobs
Mental toughness, unselfishness, a hot shooting hand -- Huntley had all of that working in the fourth quarter.
The Red Raiders quickly eased any tension from the struggle through three quarters to distance themselves from Jacobs.
Ryan Sroka nailed a 3-pointer on Huntley's first possession. Niko Mendoza swished one the next trip down the floor. The Raiders held a comfortable margin the rest of the way for a 54-42 Fox Valley Conference victory Friday night at the Eagles' Nest.
"They're a tough team to play, they're physical and they're not going to let up," Raiders forward Hunter French said. "We have a tendency of closing out games well and we did a really good job. A lot of people flashing to the ball and knocking some shots down."
Huntley (20-6, 11-2) led by eight starting the third quarter, but the Golden Eagles (14-11, 7-7) cut that to one heading into the fourth. Jaden Henderson scored 12 of Jacobs' 15 points in the third.
Raiders coach Will Benson was talking to the officials between quarters and let assistant coach Ryan Starnes take the huddle.
"I just told them to trust what we do, believe in each other and be physical with your screens," Starnes said. "There was no crazy stuff we drew up."
Ben Ahmer pump faked, then whipped a pass to Sroka for the first 3. French passed up a shot the next possession and hit Mendoza for another open look. It started an 11-2 run for the Raiders.
"It came down to those toughness moments that we still haven't grabbed," Jacobs coach Jimmy Roberts said. "Those moments when you have to seize opportunities and be really tough on both ends of the floor. We weren't, and they were."
Jacobs had a shot to take the lead, but missed. Huntley's two 3s came in the first 1:17 of the third quarter, pushing the lead to seven.
"We always talk about getting a stop and a score," said Sroka, who led all players with 23 points. "I hit a 3 off Ben's pump fake, great pass. Niko has one of the highest 3-point percentages on our team and he buries one. Those were huge to start the fourth quarter."
Sroka grabbed eight rebounds and hit four 3s. Uchenna Egekeze scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds, French added eight points, six in the fourth quarter.
Henderson led the Eagles with 21 points and James Hayes added 10.
The win kept Huntley 1 1/2 games behind Cary-Grove for the FVC lead. Benson felt his team was not tough enough in Tuesday's 54-53 loss to Crystal Lake South, but showed plenty of grit Friday.
"We knew it was going to be an important bounce-back after getting out-toughed the first half against South," Benson said. "We weren't perfect tonight, but we played this game with a lot more toughness. That's important."