Neuqua Valley overcomes slow start, knocks off Metea Valley
Sometimes the tempo of the game decides who wins a basketball contest.
On Friday night at Neuqua Valley, the Metea Valley boys basketball team controlled the tempo early on. But the Wildcats got it away from the Mustangs and never gave it back resulting in a 57-50 victory.
"We tried new things on defense. Metea likes to control the tempo and go up and down the court," said senior Nick Lendino, who scored 12 points, one of four Wildcats to finish in double digits.
It was all Metea Valley (5-4 overall, 1-2 DuPage Valley Conference) in the first quarter, leading 12-6 on 5-of-8 shooting from the field.
The Wildcats (8-2, 3-0) would not be stagnant on offense after that, cranking out 18 points in the second quarter to lead at halftime, 24-22.
A last-second shot by Neuqua's Chris Srbinov, who led his team with 14 points, gave his squad that halftime lead.
Neuqua never gave the lead back, but Metea stayed on the Wildcats' heels.
"We executed on offense tonight, but defense was important," Srbinov said.
With the Wildcats ahead 35-28 with 2:52 remaining in the third, James Parker fed a picture perfect pass to Quentin Schaffer, who scored and was fouled and made the subsequent free throw for the three-point play.
Not that long after that Parker's basket cut the Neuqua down to four again at 37-33.
The Wildcats broke the game open in the final quarter, leading by as much as 14 on Colin Gerrity's basket to make it 52-38. Gerrity finished with 10 points.
Metea fought until the end closing the contest out on a 7-2 run.
"We had opportunities," said Mustangs coach Isaiah Davis. "But we could not get that rhythm to consistently knock down our shots."
"There were a lot of positives (for us)," the Metea coach said. "But give Neuqua credit. They capitalized on finishing their shots on the rim."
Will Ashford led Metea with 15 points. Nick Schroeder had nine and Javion Grizzle had eight.
It's the end of conference play for both teams until 2023 with holiday tournaments finishing out the year. It's also an opportunity to measure how far a team has come at this point in the season.
Davis is pleased at Metea's start as it navigates through a tough schedule.
"We just need to continue to get better each day at practice," he said.
Luke Kinkade was the final Neuqua player to score in double digits with 12.
"We're growing together as a team. The chemistry is there. We connect both on and off the court," Lendino said. "We did well tonight. We did our thing."