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Neuqua Valley's Pat Kenny struggles to get his shot off through the defense of Bartlett's Mitch Reid (rght) and Billey Kramer on Friday. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Host Neuqua Valley won its 21st game of the season on Friday and the Wildcats did it by holding visiting Bartlett to 30 points.
The Wildcats’ 41-30 win also improved their UEC Valley record to 9-1, courtesy of a defense that never wavered.
“That’s our identity,” Neuqua coach Todd Sutton said. “We’ve had quarters where we’ve scored three or four points and halves where we’ve scored 11, so I loved our defensive intensity and toughness tonight.”
Lance Whitaker is no secret to any team that plays Bartlett, and the senior had to earn just about every one of the 15 points he scored.
“He hit some really hard shots and you can’t do anything about that,” Neuqua Valley senior Jabari Sandifer said. “We played some really good defense tonight and if we can keep it to a low-scoring game, that’s what we want to do.”
Neuqua Valley led 7-3 after a quarter, with Elijah Robertson pulling down five rebounds as the Wildcats gave up a bare minimum of second-chance scoring opportunities to the Hawks.
Neuqua used a 9-0 run to take a 16-3 second-quarter lead before Bartlett (18-7, 7-3) went on a 9-2 run of its own. The Wildcats led 18-12 at halftime and 28-19 after three quarters.
Sandifer led all scorers with 17 points that included a pair of third-quarter three-pointers and seven free throws in the fourth that iced the game. Teammate Pat Kenny scored eight points and pulled down eight rebounds and Sutton was particularly pleased with junior Josh Piotrowski’s performance in spearheading the effort to slow down Whitaker.
“I thought defensively, Josh Piotrowski put up a masterpiece,” Sutton said. “He didn’t score a point tonight ... but he was just about perfect on defense. I don’t know if he was out of position once.”