HUNTLEY – As the Fox Valley Conference season progressed, the Huntley girls basketball team adopted a new goal.
Of course the Red Raiders wanted to win the FVC Valley Division title outright, which they did, but they also set their sights on finishing undefeated in division play. Crystal Lake South was the only remaining obstacle in preventing that from happening. Huntley expected a tough game against the Gators on Tuesday, and it got one.
The Red Raiders had to battle back from an eight-point first-half deficit. But led by sophomore forward Ali Andrews' game-high 21 points, Huntley recovered for a 61-50 FVC Valley win.
The Red Raiders (23-3 overall, 12-0 FVC Valley) outscored the Gators (15-12, 7-5) by 10 in a pivotal second quarter.
"I was just really, really pleased with our kids and their focus," Huntley coach Steve Raethz said. "It's a tough thing to do to go all the way in a 12-game conference schedule and go undefeated. It's a great accomplishment for our kids."
The Red Raiders finally began chipping away at what became a 17-9 South lead early in the second quarter. Huntley began finding Andrews in the paint, leading to nine second-quarter points. Her basket with 2:13 remaining in the second quarter tied the score at 23, although the Gators responded on their next possession to retake the lead on Rachel Rasmussen’s jumper.
Andrews scored 20 seconds later to tie the score, 25-25, and her basket gave her 1,000 career points. A strong performance to close gave Huntley a 30-27 halftime lead. Andrews became the fastest in program history to 1,000 points, breaking the record set by her sister, Sam Andrews, a senior who did it in just over two seasons.
"People were talking about [the record], but I was just thinking about playing like always and looking to be a good teammate," Ali Andrews said of her milestone. "It means a lot knowing all the hard work I put into basketball has paid off."
South senior forward Sara Mickow hit a milestone of her own Tuesday. Mickow, who finished with 13 points and 13 rebounds, grabbed the 1,000th rebound of her three-year career on her final rebound of the game. Mickow's 1,000 rebounds are by far a program record, with the second-most falling in the mid-600s.
Despite Mickow's double-double, the Gators couldn't put together a second-half comeback, wasting a strong start to the game. South spread the ball around against Huntley, leading to four different players scoring its first 11 points to take a seven-point lead with 2:37 left in the first quarter.
Huntley struggled to convert open looks to start the game. Thankfully for the Red Raiders, Sam Andrews (14 points) kept them from facing a huge first-quarter deficit by scoring the team’s first five points. The Gators had chances to get back into the game during the second half, but a poor performance at the free throw line (10 for 19) thwarted that opportunity.
"We came out and played real well right from the start and then we had a bit of a lull in the second quarter," South coach Kyle McCaughn said. "From then you're playing one of the best teams in the area, and you're fighting uphill the whole way."