Poulakidas, Neuqua Valley can't get into a rhythm

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Patrick Hoffman slips while driving to the hoop on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Patrick Hoffman slips while driving to the hoop on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaJoliet West's Jaiden Lee celebrates a foul call on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaJoliet West's Jaiden Lee celebrates a foul call on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Donovan Navarro dives for a loose ball on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Donovan Navarro dives for a loose ball on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaJoliet West's Ashawn Burbridge drives to the hoop on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaJoliet West's Ashawn Burbridge drives to the hoop on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaJoliet West's Jeremy Fears Jr. dribbles to the hoop on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaJoliet West's Jeremy Fears Jr. dribbles to the hoop on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaJoliet West's Trent Howland grabs a loose ball on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaJoliet West's Trent Howland grabs a loose ball on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Nonso Obguefi puts up a jump shot through two Joliet West defenders on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Nonso Obguefi puts up a jump shot through two Joliet West defenders on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Connor Davis squares off with Joliet West's Jeremy Fears Jr. as they disagree over a call on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Connor Davis squares off with Joliet West's Jeremy Fears Jr. as they disagree over a call on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Nonso Obguefi drives into the paint on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Nonso Obguefi drives into the paint on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Connor Davis draws a foul while attempting a layup on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's Connor Davis draws a foul while attempting a layup on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaJoliet West's Jemere Hill draws a foul on a jump shot on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaJoliet West's Jemere Hill draws a foul on a jump shot on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

  • Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's John Poulakidas drives to the hoop on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

    Geoff Stellfox/For Shaw MediaNeuqua Valley's John Poulakidas drives to the hoop on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at Lockport Twp. High School in Lockport, Ill. The Tigers defeated the Wildcats 50-40.

 
By Les Johnson
Shaw Media Illinois
Updated 3/10/2020 11:03 PM

The second half of the Joliet West boys basketball season has been something of a patchwork quilt.

A multitude of injuries forced the Tigers to bring up some underclassmen and increased the roles and minutes of several players on its roster.

 

So when foul trouble struck many of the critical players in the Joliet West ranks during Tuesday night's Class 4A Lockport sectional semifinal against Neuqua Valley, the Tigers were well-prepared for what came next.

And while it was never easy, the patchworked lineups held during the critical moments and allowed Joliet West to emerge with 50-40 victory and advance to Friday's sectional championship where it will face either East Aurora or West Aurora.

"The name of the game is depth. You know we never want to go 11 or 12 deep, but tonight we got Jamere (Hill), Trent (Howland) and Ashawn (Burbridge) in foul trouble, but we go 10 or 11 deep, and we stay within one point," Joliet West coach Jeremy Kreiger said. "We weren't in the 60s like we want to be, but we understand in March, the name of the game is to be on the right side of the scoreboard at the end of the game."

The gap in the final score was misleading. Neither team could grab a foothold in the game, and after a few instances of early 5-point leads by Joliet West neither team held a lead larger than three points at any time until four minutes remained in the game.

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Burbridge's pair of free throws at the four minute mark finally gave the Tigers a little bit more breathing room with a 42-38 lead, and then lockdown defense held Neuqua to just two more points and multiple breakout opportunities.

Both teams rarely could fully deploy their players because of foul trouble. The Wildcats' John Poulakidas sat most of the first half with foul trouble. Those problems kept him from finding his groove. Poulakidas wouldn't score in the game until the 6:25 mark of the fourth quarter, when he made a 3-pointer. Connor Davis picked up a large amount of the slack as he finished with a game-high 21 points.

"They were face guarding and doubling off the pass, and that made it tough for me to get my rhythm," Poulakidas said. "They are really great at pressuring the ball, but some of it was on us as well. We should have been able to execute a little more down the stretch."

Burbridge led Joliet West with 11 points and Howland added 10. In all eight Tigers' players scored.

"We knew we had to stop, not really just one person, but locking down John (Poulakidas), that was our main goal, and we knew if we did that and did all of our other defensive principles then we knew we would come out with the win," Howland said.

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