Cary-Grove clinches Valley Division with victory over Huntley

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Turnovers have seemed like a double-edged sword to the Red Raiders in their past two games.  Huntley picked up a victory against Dundee-Crown on Wednesday by forcing 17 turnovers.  This time, Huntley’s 25 giveaways on Saturday night in Cary led to its loss.

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“I think what really was the difference in this game was the number of turnovers,” said Huntley head coach Steve Raethz.  “You can’t turn the ball over that many times against the team the caliber of Cary-Grove because they’re going to make you pay.”

It was Senior Night at Cary-Grove and the Trojans shined in their second meeting with Huntley this month.  After Huntley beat Cary-Grove for the first time since 2006 earlier this month, Cary-Grove struck back and won this time by a score of 41-29.

The Trojans came out hot in the first quarter, draining back-to-back three-pointers and starting the game on a 10-0 run. The only point the Raiders could muster in the first eight minutes of play was a free throw by sophomore Sam Andrews.

“The first time we played them, we didn’t get a whole lot of that fast-break stuff,” said Cary-Grove head coach Rod Saffert.  “Both teams played some tremendous defense in the paint, so you’ve got to get outside shots, and tonight we got it.”

However, Huntley wouldn’t die down.  Raethz tried to keep his team playing like it usually does, with a strong defense.  He coached by telling his players to keep “high hands” constantly in the first quarter.

“When we talk about closing out with high hands, we not only talk about shooting but we talk about putting pressure on the ball,” said Raethz.  “I thought our kids did a really nice job of playing the lane and limiting touches to [Cary-Grove junior Olivia] Jakubicek in the first half.”

The Raiders’ leading scorer this season, Andrews, went on a tear in the second quarter, putting up a streak of seven straight points scored.  The Raiders’ defense also tightened up, ending the half with a two-point deficit at a score of 12-14.

“I thought that we really weathered the storm in the first half,” said Raethz.  “I thought that our defense was outstanding in the first half, allowing only four points in the second quarter.”

Huntley tied the score after a layup by Andrews (17 points) to start the second half, and that’s the closest they would get all game.  After that, Cary-Grove went on an offensive tear. At one point, the Trojans scored four points in as many seconds on a layup by  Jakubicek (8 points), which was followed by a steal and a jumper by junior Joslyn Nicholson (10 points).

“In the second half, we just didn’t make some good adjustments when they started changing defenses on us,” said Raethz.  “We just really, I thought, panicked at times and didn’t handle the pressure very well.  With us not handling the pressure very well, it caused turnovers.”

The final dagger came about halfway through the fourth quarter when Cary-Grove senior Alyssa Lee drained a three-pointer to give the Trojans a 37-24 lead.

“I think our intensity was a lot higher,” said Lee, who finished the game as Cary’s leading scorer with 14 points.  “I think I just focused more and knew that I owed it to my teammates and myself to come out there and give it all I got in my last home game.”

Cary-Grove’s victory allowed it to clinch the Valley Division.  Saffert believes that having the game at senior night helped amp his team’s performance.

“The chemistry tonight was just phenomenal,” said Saffert.  “It helps that it was Senior Night My senior Alyssa Lee stepped up.  We played with much more intensity the whole game instead of the half game like last time.”

The victory gives the Trojans some confidence going into the playoffs in just over a week.

“It means a lot,” said Saffert.  “You want momentum going into the regional tournament and tonight it really helped us.”

Huntley is taking the loss as a stepping stone into the playoffs, as it plans to fine-tune its play going down the stretch of its final games this year.

“I like how hard we played the last two games,” said Raethz.  “Now it’s just cleaning up some of the things that we need to do offensively.”

The Raiders finished the regular season with a record of 6-4 in conference while the Trojans finished 9-1 in conference.  Huntley’s next game comes on Feb. 10 in the FVC Division Showdown.  It plays Jacobs at the Dekalb Regional on Feb. 13.

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