Neuqua Valley falls on Lincoln-Way East 3-pointer in final second

By D.J. Wanberg
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/24/2023 10:54 PM

The postseason in high school basketball can provide some of the most memorable and exciting games with constant thrills and highlights.

But the law of the postseason has never wavered. One team will celebrate and the other squad will go home disappointed.


Kaiden Ross' teammates piled on him in celebration after his 3-point basket with 0.4 seconds left on the clock gave the Lincoln-Way East Griffins a 50-48 victory over Neuqua Valley to win the Class 4A East Aurora regional on Friday night.

Lincoln-Way (25-5), a four seed in the Class 4A Bolingbrook sectional, advances to semifinal play on Tuesday to face top-seeded Joliet West.

While the Griffins were celebrating, the fifth-seeded Wildcats (25-8) saw their second-half comeback come up short.

Neuqua shooting was cold in the first half at 31.8 percent (7 of 22) with 3-point shooting worse at 27.3 percent.

That changed in the second half as total shooting heated up to 52.2 percent and 3-point shooting went to 60 percent.

Wildcats coach Todd Sutton was not worried about Neuqua's shooting troubles in the first half.

"That was the best second half that we've played. I told them to take the shots (in the second half). They are going to go in. They were taking good shots in the first half," he said.

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Lincoln-Way East led 24-17 at halftime and continued to lead throughout most of the third quarter.

The Griffins led 31-23 before the Wildcats went on an 8-2 run in the final 1:46 of the stanza. The points came from Joel Zechariah, Colin Gerrity and Luke Kinkade.

Kinkade's basket made it 33-31 Griffins going into the fourth quarter. He led Neuqua with 15 points. Zechariah and Vova Polishchuk followed with 8 points each.

The final eight minutes saw Polishchuk sink a 3 to put Neuqua up 34-33. It was the first lead of the contest for the Wildcats.

The rest of the quarter saw the teams exchange the lead. With just 1.9 seconds left in the game, the Wildcats' Chris Srbinov gave his team a 48-47 lead on a putback.

Obviously, time remained for Lincoln-Way East to pull the game out.

Griffins coach Rich Kolimas said the Wildcats posed a lot of challenges.

"Neuqua is a great team that executes its offense. We had one day (both teams won on Wednesday to advance) for multiple sets run. We were fortunate enough to squeak out a win," he said.

The loss does not take away what was a full resume of success this season for Neuqua.

"They're hard working guys. My top four posts are all 6 feet and guarded 6-8 players all year," Sutton said. "It was a great effort all year."

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