Huntley goes cold in regional final loss
Huntley put together a nice stretch of offense late in the third quarter with nine points in 2:35 to grab a six-point lead against Rockford East.
But absolutely nothing came easy after that.
East cranked up its defensive pressure. The Red Raiders could not make shots. E-Rabs forwards Latrell Kyles and Matthew Hoarde each converted a three-point play to start the fourth quarter and East closed things out at the free-throw line for a 49-39 victory Friday night for the Class 4A Jacobs regional championship.
"Their defense is really good. Yeah, we didn't shoot it well, but a lot of that was their defense," Huntley coach Will Benson said. "Their defense made us uncomfortable all game and outside of Aiden (Wieczorek) we just couldn't make any shots."
Wieczorek was outstanding, with 8 of 13 shooting for a game-high 23 points, but no other Raiders player scored more than four. Huntley finished its season 27-6, tying the school record for victories.
East (24-9) advances to the Huntley sectional to play Larkin at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The Royals defeated Dundee-Crown, 58-42, to win the Larkin regional on Friday.
"We had a lot of turnovers, their pressure took us out of our rhythm offensively," Wieczorek said. "We got kind of cold. Their pressure was tough for sure."
The Raiders managed only five points in the fourth quarter, all from Wieczorek. He scored 12 of Huntley's 14 second-half points. Wieczorek hit a 3 and two field goals, along with Nate Ary's layup to give the Raiders a 34-28 lead with 1:40 to go in the third. Wieczorek's 10-footer with 1:21 remaining was the Raiders' next field goal.
"They pressured us a lot more," Raiders forward Adam Guazzo said. "They had the momentum. They were pushing us off screens. They basically had control the whole game."
East coach Roy Sackmaster said the difference had to do more with mindset than strategy.
"There wasn't a lot of X's and O's adjustments," Sackmaster said. "The No. 1 key was who wants it more. Through three quarters, Huntley wanted it more and it showed out there. They were leaving everything on the floor. They were tougher than us.
"We were crying about the refs, including myself, out of frustration. In the fourth quarter, I said, 'There's nothing else to talk about, this comes down to who wants it more. It's on you. Go out there and earn it.'"
Kyles finished a three-point play to start the fourth. Hoarde added another 20 seconds later for a 37-34 lead.
It stayed at 39-36 for almost 5 minutes, then the E-Rabs sealed their title with 6 of 8 free-throw shooting in the last 1:13.
"We had more energy. During halftime we got yelled at," Kyles said. "We came out with more energy and rebounded better, played more as a team. He told us to keep finishing, get rebounds, crash the boards play hard."
Wieczorek scored the Raiders' last point on a free throw with 1:03 remaining to make it 42-39, but had to leave the game. When he was fouled, he hit knees with an East player and hobbled to the line to make 1 of 2.
"That kid (Wieczorek) is a warrior, man," Sackmaster said. "That kid is an absolute warrior."
Wieczorek was not injured badly, but could not put weight on his left leg for a brief time.
"It just felt like I couldn't put any pressure on it right away," Wieczorek said. "It felt super-weak, I wish I could have been playing."
Kyles and Hoarde each scored 14 to lead the E-Rabs. Jemere Jefferson added 10.
"Our effort was great, our rebounding was good, our defense was really good," Benson said. "If you'd have told me we'd held those guys to in the 40s before the game I'd have taken it. We just couldn't score. Fourteen points in the second half, you're not going to beat teams that way.
"It was a good game. Officials did a good job. We just couldn't make any shots."