Neuqua Valley stuns Waubonsie Valley at the buzzer
On a night when Neuqua Valley celebrated boys basketball coach Todd Sutton having won his 600th game, the hall of famer displayed one reason he's got so many.
Creativity on the fly.
On a new play drawn up moments before, Connor Davis swished a 30-foot 3-point basket to give Neuqua Valley a 53-52 DuPage Valley Conference win over Waubonsie Valley on Friday in Naperville.
Davis countered what had appeared to have been a Waubonsie game-winner. With the scored tied 50-50, Warriors star Marcus Skeete drove the lane. Though his shot leaked off the rim, teammate Carter Langendorf glided in to put it home for a 52-50 lead with 1.8 seconds left.
Neuqua Valley (20-6, 3-4) took time out for Sutton to whip something up. He figured Waubonsie Valley (22-4, 4-3) would blanket the Wildcats' typical shooter, John Poulakidas. He chose Plan B.
"He's never run that play and we just drew it up for him," Sutton said of Davis, a 6-foot-4 junior guard. "We had a good feeling, and we got lucky."
Inbounding the ball from the far baseline, Mark Gronowski was a natural for that assignment because he's a South Dakota State-bound quarterback.
"I use a pump fake and then I roll out to the right, basically like I'm rolling out for a pass, and then I set up and throw it," Gronowski said.
Davis came back to the ball, button hook-style.
"I got the ball and as soon as I turned around I saw that (Waubonsie guard) Adri (Malushi) was standing right there. I knew I had a little bit of extra time, I was able to turn around, I had to double-clutch and I got it in. I don't know how," Davis said.
"It was a great pass. I was able to get it nice and calm and controlled, nobody was there, I was able to turn around and score. It was good, it was great."
"That was one of the craziest high school moments I've ever had," he said.
Naturally it left Waubonsie Valley coach Jason Mead disappointed, particularly when his team battled without injured starter Ben Schwieger.
"I thought we played really hard and deserved to win and sometimes you don't get what you deserve," Mead said. "I know our kids without one of our best players busted their butts for 32 minutes and we were winning for all but zero seconds."
A tussle unlike Waubonsie's commanding 60-44 win over Neuqua on Dec. 13, even with Skeete scoring a game-high 27 points with 12 rebounds the game was tight throughout.
Until, with Caleb Brackett's hustle and four straight points and free throws by Skeete and Malushi, Waubonsie took a 43-34 lead with 2:54 left in the fourth quarter.
Neuqua Valley pressed full-court, disrupting the flow while Davis and Poulakidas, who scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, got active.
The Warriors missed a pair of free throws with 28.3 seconds left, but Poulakidas capped a 16-7 Wildcats run with two free throws with 14.1 seconds left for the 50-50 score setting up the final back-and-forth.
"You've just got to grind and hope the last minute you find a way to win," Sutton said.
On the opposite end of that result, Skeete remained strong.
"It's heartbreaking," he said after praising Langendorf, Brackett and Mason Marinelli for their work, "but I can't dwell on the loss, I can just be happy that we're making progress as a team. And tonight you saw progress as a team."