Neuqua Valley rallies past Naperville Central with late run
We're months away from the survive-and-advance portion of the high school basketball schedule, but you wouldn't have known that Friday night at Naperville Central.
Neuqua Valley and the host Redhawks exchanged big fourth quarter runs that ping-ponged the lead back and forth before the Wildcats finally pulled away with a 64-59 victory.
"They punched us, we punched back," said Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton, whose crew improved to 6-2 and 2-0 in the DuPage Valley Conference,
After a bucket from Neuqua Valley senior guard Bryan Thomas to start the final period, the Redhawks put together an 11-0 run, highlighted by a personal 7-0 spurt from junior center Ross DeZur.
Advantage: 55-51 Naperville Central, which had been down 38-26 at the half.
But not to be outdone, the Wildcats retook the lead, and ultimately the game, thanks to a 9-2 run highlighted by a 3-pointer from junior guard Luke Kinkade and a snazzy layup on a midcoast inbound.
"I didn't have a good first half, nor a third quarter, but my confidence stayed up and I kept shooting the ball," said Kinkade, who finished with 17 points, including a pair of 3s.
The player that really turned heads, especially in the second quarter, was senior guard Chris Sbirnov, who scored 11 of his 17 points in that frame. That included a 3 from the left arc with 2:15 left that gave the Wildcats a 29-21 lead at the time.
"He's had some very good games," Sutton said, adding Srbinov has improved his consistency and especially his defense. "You don't play defense, you don't play."
Senior forward Nick Lendino, the birthday boy, scored 12 and added 5 rebounds, while another senior forward, Nick Doherty, led the Wildcats with 7 rebounds, 3 on the offensive end.
It was a tough loss for the Redhawks, considering they expended so much energy reversing their deficits and actually looked to have the momentum for the final stretch run before Kinkade got hot.
Senior point guard Simon Krugliakovas paced Naperville Central with 20 points, including a pair of 3-pointers and all 6 of his free throw attempts.
DeZur chipped in 11 points and 8 rebounds, while senior guard Ivan Najdovski added another 11 points and 4 boards.
"I just thought I got my composure back," DeZur said. "In the first half, I wasn't playing that well, and my teammates helped me and encouraged me to play better, especially in the fourth quarter."