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Most will argue that basketball is about scoring, but it’s also about keeping the other team from scoring too.
Neuqua Valley is an example of the latter, as the Wildcats’ defense is a big reason for their 13-0 start to the season, and their steel trap effort in a 64-47 win over Peoria Central Friday helped Neuqua improve to 3-0 in Black Division pool play and sent it to Saturday’s title game of the 47th East Aurora Holiday Tournament.
“This is why we came here, is to play the good teams, which will make us better for the long run,” Neuqua coach Todd Sutton said. “If we are going to be any good at all we have to play and beat teams like [Pleasure Ridge Park].”
Trailing 10-9 after a first quarter that saw the defending Class 3A state champion Lions make five of their seven shots from the field, the Wildcats turned it up in the second quarter, holding Central to just six points and closing out the period on a 14-2 run. The Lions shot just 2-for-10 in the quarter and Neuqua took a 26-15 lead into the break.
The Lions (3-7) never got closer than eight points the rest of the way and shot 42 percent for the game while turning the ball over 20 times.
“In the second quarter we gave up two baskets, and that was fun to see,” Sutton said. “It was a help-and-recover drill and they were awesome at it. It was a defensive clinic.”
Pat Kenny paced Neuqua with a game-high 17, while Jabari Sandifer tossed in 16 and Darien Miskel added 11 off the bench. The Wildcats shot 48 percent on the night (57 percent in the second half), including hitting seven of their 14 shots from behind the three-point arc.
“We had to slow down (on offense) because we were playing too fast,” Sandifer said. “Peoria Central is a team that likes to play up and down so we had to get into our offense, which we did.”
Myles Boone scored 14 to lead the way for Peoria Central.