Boys Basketball: Neuqua clinches share of UEC Valley title
BY BLAKE BAUMGARTNER For Sun-Times Media February 2, 2013 9:12PM
Neuqua Valley's Jabari Sandifer puts up two of his 12 points against East Aurora. | Jeff Cagle~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 4, 2013 6:53AM
Turning in one of its best defensive performances of the year less than 24 hours earlier against Bartlett, much was still on the line for Neuqua Valley with East Aurora on the docket.
Behind a 17-5 third-quarter spurt, No. 17 Neuqua Valley cruised to a 54-30 victory over East Aurora on Saturday night in Naperville.
Up just six points at halftime, the Wildcats scored the first six points out of the break and eventually opened the second half on a 10-2 run, prompting East Aurora to take a timeout with its deficit sitting at 14 points with 2:28 left in the third.
With the victory, the Wildcats clinched at least a share of their first Upstate Eight Valley crown and can clinch it outright with a victory at home over South Elgin next Saturday or with a Metea Valley loss to Waubonsie Valley that same night.
“I guess we did. Never thought about that,” said Neuqua coach Todd Sutton, who has led the program to seven conference titles in the program’s 15-year history.
Behind two of its senior leaders in guard Jabari Sandifer and forward Darien Miskel, who combined for 24 of the Wildcats’ 54 points, the bulge was 36-18 entering the final quarter.
“We just came out (strong in the third). We weren’t scoring too much in the first half, so we had to come out strong for the second half,” said Sandifer, who had seven of his game-high 12 points in the third. “We weren’t playing as we are capable to (in the first half) and (the Tomcats) were getting some easy shots, so we just eliminated that and started scoring and we were good.”
Ten different players scored for Neuqua Valley (22-2, 10-1 Upstate Eight Valley), with Sandifer and Miskel leading the way with 12 points apiece, and its lead rose to as much as 26 points late in the game.
“We weren’t really comfortable with our lead (at halftime). We wanted to make it bigger and the third quarter, (Sandifer and I) both really came out aggressive to push the lead up and make us comfortable,” said Miskel, who had half of his 12 points in the third.
Coming out of halftime only down six, East Aurora (3-20, 1-9 Upstate Eight Valley) settled in and got as close as four points late in the first half by trying to slow the game down.
But the Tomcats just couldn’t find an answer for either Sandifer or Miskel.
“I think we had a couple key turnovers because we tried to stay with the same game plan that we had the first half of slowing the tempo and taking care of the ball and getting good shots,” East Aurora coach Wendell Jeffries said. “But we had a couple killer turnovers where like (a) pick-six in football where they got steals and finishes and we couldn’t play defense. Then, all of a sudden, against a team that good — when you get down double digits, it’s hard to stick to the same game plan.”
Kejuan Davis, DeJon Talbert and Bryson McAlister each had six points for the Tomcats.