Improving McHenry stuns Huntley
McHenry feels like it has played some of its best basketball the past few weeks even if the wins haven't always been there.
The Warriors lost a heartbreaker to Hampshire on a 3-pointer in overtime Friday and before that split a pair of close games against Jacobs and Cary-Grove.
"The last few weeks have been really big for us," McHenry junior guard Marko Visnjevac said. "We're playing well even if we lost a couple. It's been some of our best shooting games and performances. We were able to keep that same energy tonight."
The Warriors picked up one of their biggest wins of the season Tuesday with a 55-50 Fox Valley Conference win over Huntley, sending the Red Raiders to their third straight loss.
McHenry improved to 13-15 and 5-10 in the FVC with the win, and Huntley fell to 19-8, 11-4 and now trail FVC leader Burlington Central by two games.
"We're getting better and better," McHenry coach Chris Madson said. "The conference has been beating each other up lately, so it's hard to gauge anything. But I told them, I feel like we won this game two weeks ago with our improved play.
"Earlier in the year, Huntley goes on a run against us and it's, 'Oh boy, here we go.' Those were moments in November and December that knocked us out."
Visnjevac led the Warriors with 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but it was junior forward Hayden Stone who came up big in the game's most tense moments. After Huntley's Noah Only knocked down a 3-pointer with 6:30 left to cut McHenry's lead to 40-39, Stone answered with a big three-point play of his own - taking a pass from Zack Maness and going up strong to the basket while getting fouled.
Stone had nine points in the fourth quarter after scoring only two over the first three.
"Some of the plays didn't go my way early and halftime I had a conversation with Coach and he kind of built my morale," said Stone, who had 11 points and nine rebounds. "I went into the fourth quarter and just let go of those past shots that I missed or left short.
"I saw Zack looking at the corner for [Visnjevac], and he hit a nice dump pass. I was like, 'This guy is going to overplay,' so I just went at him and hit it. That was a big play that kind of changed the course of the game."
Huntley led most of the first half, but McHenry took a 26-25 lead at halftime on a buzzer-beating 3 from Visnjevac, who ran out the final 10 seconds of the second quarter before burying an off-balanced shot over Huntley's Ethan Blackmore.
Visnjevac made a similar shot Friday to send its game against Hampshire into overtime.
"I feel like I do a good job of end-game [situations]," Visnjevac said. "I took my time, saw there were three seconds left and took the best shot I could."
Caleb Jett chipped in nine points for McHenry, Adam Anwar had eight points, all in the third quarter, and Zack Maness had seven points.
Huntley was led by Only with a game-high 20 points and six 3s. Ian Ravagnie posted 14 points and two 3s, and Lucas Crosby had six points. The Raiders made 11 3s.
Huntley coach Will Benson was left looking for answers after his team's third loss in a row.
"McHenry has gotten a lot better, and I knew that this was going to be a dangerous game because we haven't played well," Huntley coach Will Benson said. "This is the third game in a row I feel like our opponent wanted it more than us. That's on me and I have to figure out how we're going to get out of this rut."
Visnjevac hopes Tuesday's win could change the way other teams look at the Warriors.
"I think it opens a lot of people's eyes up because usually everyone looks at us and thinks, 'Oh, they're just McHenry. They're just bottom of the conference,' " Visnjevac said. "But people need to realize that we can compete with good teams, too."