Neuqua Valley avenges Metea loss to take DVC lead
With a second chance at knocking off their rivals this season, Neuqua Valley focused on defense and on limiting Metea Valley's second chances on Friday night.
The Wildcats avenged an early season loss to the Mustangs with a 57-49 win that featured stingy defense, strong rebounding and a clutch, game-sealing free-throw shooting performance down the stretch. Neuqua outrebounded the hosts 33-21 while improving to 20-7 on the year and 6-2 in the DuPage Valley Conference, now a game ahead after Naperville North's loss to Naperville Central.
"Since I've been a freshman, we've always lost the first game to Metea and won the second one, and it happened again this year," said senior guard Chris Srbinov, who had 13 points and 8 rebounds for the Wildcats. "We knew we had to get a lot of rebounds and play better D.
"At Neuqua we focus on defense, that's what wins us game. For me if I can't score I can contribute with rebounds. That's the best way to help the team out."
The game was tied at 11-11 after one quarter before the visitors held Metea Valley (18-8, 4-4) to just 8 points in each the second and third quarters while building a 40-27 lead headed to the final quarter. The lead grew to 15 in the fourth quarter before the Mustangs made a late charge and closed the gap to 52-46 following a 3-pointer from Jahki Gray with 1:12 left to play.
Srbinov then sank a pair of free throws to up the lead to 54-46 and Neuqua added three more foul shots to hold off the Mustangs.
"As a senior I want to end my career winning the DVC, being the champions of the conference. We've got Waubonsie next (next week) and we've got to keep on competing," Srbinov said.
Junior guard Luke Kinkade had another big night, leading all scorers with 16 points and adding 8 rebounds and a pair of steals for the Wildcats, who play Bartlett at Saturday's Kaneland Shootout.
"We stayed after it. Our defense was great, we ran our plays, we hit our shots. We did everything because it was a must-win game," said Kinkade. "Coach always says when we win on the rebounds we win the game. It's true every time. And everyone made their free throws and we needed them at the end because they made a run."
Neuqua made 15 of 22 free throws in the game while Metea was just 2-for-4.
Gray didn't score in the first half and had just 2 points through three quarters before he threw a scare into the Wildcats with three 3s in the fourth quarter while finishing with 11 points. James Parker led the Mustangs with 12 points and Nick Schroeder added 10 points and 4 steals.
"They did a good job of securing the boards," Mustangs coach Isaiah Davis said. "We were defending well for most of the game, but once the shots stopped falling we just didn't defend as well. It gets tough for kids sometimes when they're not seeing the ball go through the basket. Give Neuqua credit, they did a good job defending."