CRYSTAL LAKE – It was a bittersweet feeling for Amanze Egekeze after Huntley’s 51-44 loss to Prairie Ridge on Saturday night. Egekeze reached 1,000 career points but said there was something more important to take away from the game.
“It’s always nice to accomplish something like that,” Egekeze said. “It would have been nice to do that on a night where we get a win. It’s tough losing two conference games in a row, but we’ll get back at it and learn from tonight’s mistakes.”
The loss cut Huntley’s Fox Valley Conference Valley Division lead to just a half game over Cary-Grove, and one game over Jacobs, which Huntley plays on the road Friday.
Prairie Ridge (15-10 overall, 6-5 FVC Valley) gave Egekeze, who finished with 11 points (1,005 career), different looks all night, pressuring him to just 2 of 10 shooting from the field. One of the biggest plays of the game came with 3:45 remaining when Egekeze fouled out, with the Red Raiders trailing, 39-37.
“He’s the best player this conference has seen in quite some time,” Prairie Ridge coach Corky Card said. “He continues to grow and get better every year, and we just tried to make things tough for him. It definitely didn’t hurt us to have him on the bench at the end.”
The Wolves were led by Michael Bradshaw and Payton Otto, who each scored 14 points. Otto, a sophomore, scored 12 of his 14 in the fourth quarter.
“They were face guarding me for a while in the first half,” Otto said. “But later in the game, we started crashing the boards, and my teammates were able to kick it out to me for open shots. After I made a couple, I got my confidence going.”
The Red Raiders (15-7, 7-2) trailed for most of the first half, until junior guard David Cruz hit one on his two 3-pointers on the night, giving Huntley a 16-13 lead just before half. The Red Raiders took a one-point lead into halftime.
Huntley came out firing in the third, making three consecutive 3-pointers, taking a 7-point lead and forcing a full timeout by the Wolves. After two free throws from Prairie Ridge junior Jack Berg, Bradshaw scored five straight, to tie the score at 27.
Otto then scored 9 of the next 11 Prairie Ridge points, giving the Wolves a 38-31 lead with 6:25 remaining in the game.
It wasn’t until the 6:03 mark of the fourth quarter when Egekeze made his first basket. He soared through the air, nearly dunking the ball, made the shot and was fouled. He was unable to convert the free throw, keeping the Wolves’ lead at 5.
The Red Raiders were able to pull even at 39 after Egekeze fouled out, when senior Riley Wicks made a layup with 3:01 remaining. The Wolves closed the game from there on a 12-5 run.
“I think the difference from this time to last time was our ability to make plays down the stretch,” Card said. “This was a hard-fought, scrappy basketball game, and it’s always a big plus to win games like this heading toward the end of the season.”