Neuqua Valley runs past DeKalb to take outright DVC crown
The fans and players were loving the fast-paced action in Tuesday night's DuPage Valley Conference finale at Neuqua Valley, but the coaches on both sides may not sleep so well as they try to get their defenses geared up for a postseason run.
Neuqua Valley outscored visiting DeKalb 76-70 in Naperville to claim the league title at 8-2 and supplant a Barbs squad that had owned the DVC in the three years since joining the league. Both teams shot well and the 41-41 tie at the half featured as many points as some league contests have produced through four quarters.
"We haven't seen a score like that in the first half all year," said Neuqua Valley senior forward Nick Lendino, who finished the game with 19 points and 6 rebounds. "Defensively we struggled in the first half. We let up way too many points. That's unacceptable. We are really going to have to lock down in the postseason but I know we can."
Lendino did his best to stay with Barbs sharpshooter Sean Reynolds, but the sophomore was unstoppable while scoring 21 points through two quarters and finished the game with a season-high 31 points. Reynolds knocked down five 3-pointers in the first half alone, and seven shots from beyond the arc all told.
"Most of the game I was on him but first half he was lights out. He's real quick and he can shoot from anywhere so he's hard to guard. We started to help each other out in the second half," Lendino added.
Wildcats coach Todd Sutton was not thrilled about his squad's defense, but could not complain about a potent attack led by Luke Kinkade's 22 points.
"It was tough. Their offense is incredible," said Sutton, whose team heads to the postseason with a 24-7 mark. "You know me, I hate this. I like those 42-41 [games]. I don't like this."
The Barbs led 18-15 after one quarter and headed to intermission knotted at 41-all after Reynolds sank a step-back 3 just before the buzzer. He was one of four DeKalb players to score in double figures as Davon Grant had 13, Eric Rosenowå 11 and Darrell Island 10.
"Obviously I think both teams would like to clean some things up defensively," Barbs coach Mike Reynolds said. "It certainly was an entertaining game and a good test going into the postseason. It was a high-powered game. You'd think it would be a little rougher and physical defensively but both teams seemed to be able to find a rhythm and play extremely well.
"Obviously we have to clean some things up defensively, but offensively that was one of the best games we played all year."
Top-seeded DeKalb will open regional play next week at No. 6 St. Charles North and more offense like what was on display Tuesday would be great for the team's hopes of a deep run.
"I thought he [son Sean] played well," Reynolds said. "He was out all of last week pretty much with sickness. He shot extremely well and played extremely well against a really good defensive team. It was good to see and hopefully something we can build on."
The Wildcats, too, hope to build a path to a strong playoff run.
"Most conference games are in the 40s, 50s, but being in the 80s and 70s sometimes is fun," said Kinkade, who had four 3s in the game. "Lots of points ... I like the high scoring games. I feel like for playoffs, we're a team that can go off like this game and we play good defense, even though [Sean] Reynolds lit us up. We're a defensive team and we can shoot."