Huntley's late stop clinches regional crown
Huntley forward Noah Only didn't see much on the final play except the No. 40 on Rockford East's Carl Harris' jersey.
Only didn't see the problems the Red Raiders' Bryce Walker and Ethan Blackmore created for East's Matthew Hoarde on the right wing, then T.J. Samuels in the right corner.
"I really didn't see anything. I was trying to focus on not letting (Harris) get the ball," said Only, who is 6-foot-3. "He's 6-7 and had a bunch of points in the paint tonight. I was focusing on him. I was looking at him."
When Only finally glanced up he could hardly believe his eyes. He leaped up in front of Harris to intercept the pass, fell to the floor, then hopped up after the buzzer sounded and flipped the ball in the air.
Huntley's last defensive stand preserved a 49-48 victory Saturday night for the championship of the Class 4A Hononegah Regional boys basketball tournament.
The No. 1-seeded Raiders (22-10) meet St. Charles East at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a Jefferson sectional semifinal. Hampshire and Auburn play at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the second semifinal.
Huntley started strong, struggled through the second and third quarters (with 14 points total), then closed well in the fourth quarter, hitting 6 of 8 from the field and 6 of 7 free throws.
Neither team led by more than five points in the fourth quarter, which started out tied at 29-29.
"Focusing on the next play. We had our ups and downs, but it was just next play, next play," Only said. "We had to grind it out. Even when we were down, we were still right there."
Huntley forward Ian Ravagnie led all players with 20 points and scored all of his team's eight third-quarter points. Ravagnie fouled out with 2:03 to go in the fourth as East (22-11) took a 45-44 lead.
Ty Goodrich replaced Ravagnie and hit the biggest shot of his life on the next possession. The ball swung around to Only on the left wing, who considered shooting, but passed to Goodrich in the left corner as he saw a defender closing fast.
Goodrich swished a 3-pointer for a 47-45 lead.
"I was super-impressed that Noah didn't force that shot, he's one of our best shooters," Raiders coach Will Benson said. "He passed to a kid who hasn't made a 3 in over a month. I'm not kidding. And he buried it."
Goodrich appreciated the trust shown by his coaches and teammates.
"I just had to focus on the shot and not worry about the outside noise," he said. "I was able to knock that one down. My teammates and coaches trust me. In that position, you can't think twice about it."
No. 4 East had a chance to tie on the next possession, but Hoarde missed the front end of a bonus free-throw chance and in a scrum for the rebound, Huntley got the ball on alternating possessions.
Lucas Crosby hit two free throws for a 49-45 lead. Huntley played man-to-man most of the game, but switched to a 2-3 zone. East's Sterling Hoarde hit his only basket of the game, a 3 from the left corner with 1:04 remaining.
Huntley ran the time down and Goodrich drove to the basket, but missed. The E-Rabs got the ball in the frontcourt and called their last timeout with 9.8 seconds to go.
The Raiders went back to the 2-3 zone, which turned out to be the right call.
"We were looking to get something toward the basket," East coach Roy Sackmaster said. "Will (Benson) made a great adjustment and went to the zone. Our kids kind of got lost in the moment and didn't know what to do. There were a couple guys who were open, we just didn't execute.
"One hundred percent credit to Will, their kids made a great adjustment. That kind of summarized the game, they just executed better than us. As talented as we are, we didn't do enough of the little things."
Benson gave credit for the zone call to assistant coach Chris Heward. Benson reasoned if his team is up two or three points, he wants to play man to guard against a 3.
"If you're up one, who cares if a 3 beats you? That's my thing. He used his last timeout and by the time they recognized it, they didn't have a lot of other options," Benson said. "The initial suggestion came from Chris and it was in my brain."
Walker guarded the inbounds pass like he was in man defense, then backed into the zone. He forced Matthew Hoarde to give up the ball to Samuels, who tried to get it inside to Harris.
"I saw the ball coming and just jumped and grabbed it. It was a great feeling, I knew the game was over," Only said. "Especially after last year coming up short to the same team out by us (at Jacobs). Coming to Rockford and taking it away from them."
Ravagnie, who carried the offense for much of the game, was thrilled his teammates came through without him in the final 2:03.
"It was definitely high emotions," said Ravagnie, who hit three 3s. "I like to be out there for my team and do what I can. They really picked me up, got the job done, played good defense. Got it done."
Omare Segarra scored all five of his points in the fourth quarter and Lucas Crosby scored four in the fourth.
Matthew Hoarde led East with 16 points, Harris had 15 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.