Cruz nails clutch shot to push Huntley past C-G
Huntley struggled to find points for most of the fourth quarter and saw its five-point lead against Cary-Grove turned into a two-point deficit.
Then, just like that, the Red Raiders came up with all the big plays they needed, none bigger than senior Daniel Cruz's 3-pointer with 1:20 remaining to break a tie.
Thirty seconds later, Ben Ahmer fired in another 3 and Huntley held on for a 46-40 victory over the Trojans in their Fox Valley Conference boys basketball game Friday at Elroy Fitzgerald Gymnasium.
"(Assistant) Coach (Ryan Starnes) set up a play, it was just my teammates having confidence in me and Aiden (Wieczorek) with the drive and kick," said Cruz, who buried the shot from the right wing. "It was just an open shot, might as well take a big shot."
The victory gave Huntley (8-2, 7-2) second place in the FVC and the No. 2 seed on the FVC Tournament, which starts with two play-in games Saturday. C-G (7-3, 6-3) finished third.
Before Cruz's crucial 3, Wieczorek found Adam Guazzo for a layup to tie the score at 38-38. Cruz's shot came after a timeout, although Raiders coach Will Benson gladly took no credit for the play.
"Starnes called the play, (assistant coach) Chris (Heward) drew it up, none of that was me," Benson said. "The kids executed it. Daniel stepped up and made a big shot."
Huntley got a defensive stop and Nate Ary rebounded and was fouled. Ary missed his shot, but forward Chet Andrews rebounded and passed to Ahmer, who hit his 3 from almost the same spot as Cruz.
"Chet got a huge rebound and I was wide open," said Ahmer, who led all players with 18 points. "I stepped in with confidence and knocked it down."
Ahmer heated up in the third quarter with three 3s in a span of 2:30, which put the Raiders up, 29-22.
"I hadn't hit a 3 up until then," Ahmer said. "I saw the first one go in and it just felt good. When I got an open look I was confident to knock it down."
Cruz added a 3 later in the quarter as Huntley went up, 33-24, but the Trojans were far from done.
C-G turned up its half-court defense and rallied behind Mike Clarke's five fourth-quarter points to take a 38-36 lead.
"I was happy with the way we competed," Trojans coach Adam McCloud said. "We had to come back and turn up the pressure. We probably should have kept the pressure going, but they shoot well and we didn't want to foul.
"I was disappointed that we let Ahmer score 18. He was one of the guys we had targeted that we can't lose (on defense)."
Wieczorek added 13, and Cruz scored eight for the Raiders. Clarke led C-G with 14 and Drew Talkington added 11.
Huntley will host the winner of Hampshire at Crystal Lake South, who meet at 1 p.m. Saturday, in a Tuesday 7 p.m. quarterfinal. C-G will host Dundee-Crown at 7 p.m. Tuesday in another quarterfinal.
If both win on Tuesday, they will meet again at Huntley Thursday in a semifinal.