Cary-Grove advances to FVC title game
No matter what deficit it faced, no matter how many turnovers it committed, no matter how many 3-pointers Huntley made, Cary-Grove never flinched.
Down 15 points midway in the third quarter, the Trojans chipped away. And they made just enough plays, free throws, and defensive stops to pull out a 60-55 overtime victory over Huntley in the Fox Valley Conference Tournament semifinals Thursday night.
C-G (9-3) advanced to Saturday's championship game against Burlington Central, which topped Jacobs, 57-46, in the night's other semifinal.
Huntley's Ben Ahmer (13 points) hit his fourth consecutive 3-pointer at the 5:44 mark of the third quarter to give the Red Raiders (9-3) a comfortable 40-26 lead. But the Trojans sliced that lead to 44-38 at quarter's end behind a stellar defensive effort and Michael Clarke's (13 points) layup at the buzzer.
"We're down 15, so I tell them, let's compete. Let's just chip away at it. And they did. These kids competed until the last second," said Cary-Grove coach Adam McCloud, whose team lost to Huntley, 46-40, six days earlier. "We did a better job in our base man-to-man (defense) in the second half. I think our pressure was the difference."
Huntley grabbed a 44-29 lead on a Nathan Ary layup with 4:07 left in the third, but the Raiders were stuck on 44 for the next 5:31. Their next points came at the 6:24 mark of the fourth. By then Cary-Grove had closed to within 44-42.
"We've played in a lot of close games this year, so we were kind of used to the pressure," C-G senior Drew Talkington (22 points, 8 rebounds) said. "We knew we just had to stay with our game plan, stay with what we practice. We made some adjustments that were really key."
Ryan Weaver (11 points, 7 rebounds) dropped in a layup to cut the Huntley lead to 50-49. Adam Guazzo (12 points) gave the hosts their final lead of regulation with a free throw at the 2:27 mark. C-G had the ball in the final 25 seconds and worked the ball around to Clarke, whose layup with :09 left sent the game to overtime.
Huntley scored first in the extra session, but C-G scored the next seven points -- four from Drew Sepeczi (11 points) and a three-point play from Evan Burghoff for a 58-53 lead. Huntley got within three, but Clarke's two free throws with 19 seconds left sealed the verdict.
"I told Adam his kids really competed hard. Yes, we had some turnovers and we did some things wrong, but credit Cary-Grove. They did a great job," Huntley coach Will Benson said. "They hung around and eventually caught us. We have one more game (the third-place game Saturday against Jacobs), so we'll look to finish off strong."
As for his team's challenge against 15-1 Burlington, McCloud said his team will be ready.
"They beat us by 13 in the first game of the season, but our goal was to work hard and get back to play them again another time and see how we could compete with them," McCloud said. "We don't want to just win games, we want to compete for championships. We're just glad to have the opportunity."