Neuqua Valley protects home court again, beats Naperville North
A bleacher malfunction may have altered the setting of Neuqua Valley's DuPage Valley Conference game against Naperville North on Friday night, but the result was the same.
The Wildcats remained unbeaten at home, grinding out a 55-44 victory without any east-side bleachers and with their student section relocated underneath the south end basket.
"It was a little different tonight," Wildcats senior Cole Vonnahme said. "We got off to a slow start, but I think they did too and it was about who could adjust faster and get the ball down the court and maintain their tempo as opposed to going to the other team."
Neuqua Valley (15-6, 5-2) led by as many as 9 points in the first half, but Naperville North (11-11, 3-3) chipped away, pulling to within 23-20 at the half.
Zeke Williams made a pair of free throws to open the third quarter to pull the Huskies to within 23-22 but that's as close as they got.
"Credit to Neuqua Valley, they play so well and execute so well and I thought they did a great job," Huskies coach Gene Nolan said. "We had them for 11 offensive rebounds and I thought the effort they had on the offensive glass was really good. And credit to them, because it was a game that I thought either team needed to get easy second-chance points."
The Wildcats, who improved to 6-0 at home, were holding onto a 32-26 lead after three quarters but got the boost they needed, opening the fourth quarter on Christian Srbinov's baseline drive. He converted the layup, turning it into a three-point play and 35-26 lead.
Scoring runs were limited all night with the defense controlling the pace.
"It took us a while to get a flow, but our defense picked us up with easy points with layups here and there," Wildcats senior Jayden Dean said. "It was one of those games where we weren't hitting our outside shots much so we had to look to drive and for fastbreak points and stuff like that."
Dean was the lone Neuqua Valley player in double figures with 16 points while the balanced attack featured Vonnahme with 9 points, 8 from Nicolas Lendino and 7 from Kurt Lomuntad.
Luke Kinkade and Erikas Gurskas had baskets and Nick Kinkade sank a pair of free throws to complete a 6-0 run, and finally the Wildcats were in control, leading 43-30 with 3:45 left to play.
"I felt like we were battling throughout the first half and then in the third to fourth quarter we started to play our kind of basketball and control the game," Vonnahme said. "With half our bleachers down it was pretty weird, but still all the fans showed up and we love that environment here."
Zeke Williams led the Huskies with 18 points while Luke Williams added 12.