CRYSTAL LAKE – Huntley’s boys basketball team preferred looking at the entire photo album rather than one snapshot.
Yes, the Red Raiders executed a last-second play masterfully and had a layup that would have sent the game with Hoffman Estates into overtime had it not rolled off the rim.
But there were too many other problems, particularly on defense, that Huntley felt should have been fixed in its 56-54 loss to the Hawks in the Coaches vs. Cancer Thanksgiving Tournament on Wednesday at the Crystal Lake Central Fieldhouse.
“We executed really well (on that last play), which is a really good thing,” Raiders coach Marty Manning said. “But that’s not why we lost the game. We gave up too many points. We struggled to guard people individually. We’re missing some toughness on the perimeter guarding guards. To compound that, we’re not play ing very good team defense yet.”
Huntley (0-2) led at halftime, 28-21, but Hoffman Estates (1-1) caught fire in the second half and wiped out the lead with a 16-6 third-quarter advantage.
The Raiders battled back at the finish on Amanze Egekeze’s 3-pointer with nine seconds remaining to cut the lead to 55-54. Jordan Thornton made his first free throw with 5.8 seconds to go and Egekeze rebounded the miss on the second and Huntley called timeout.
Egekeze set a screen, then popped open near midcourt. At the 3-point line, Egekeze could hardly believe his eyes as forward Riley Wicks was wide open just left of the basket.
“I was supposed to set a screen and come to the middle and see if I could get to the rim or create something,” said Egekeze, who had game-highs of 26 points and nine rebounds. “They made a mistake defensively and [Wicks] was wide open.”
Wicks banked his shot, but it rolled off the rim as time expired. He walked several steps past the baseline with a look of disbelief, although no one in Huntley’s locker room blamed him.
“We lost that game in the third quarter,” Egekeze said. “We gave up way too much and had that little letdown, and didn’t play a complete game.”
Manning sets a goal of holding opponents to less than 40 points each night out, something the Raiders often accomplish or come close to doing.
“We’re growing,” Manning said. “We made strides offensively tonight, which is good. Now we have to work a little bit on our defense.”
Egekeze hit two 3-pointers and scored 12 of his total in the fourth quarter. Forward Zach Gorney added 12 points for the Raiders, nine coming in the second half.
“It’s a work in progress,” Gorney said. “We’re getting better offensively. Our defense is not acceptable. We did a poor job on defense, but it’s the second game of the season, we have a lot of time to get better.”
The Hawks were led by Thornton with 17 points, 14 in the second half with three 3s. Jordan Robinson scored 15 and Trevor Pye had 11. Hoffman Estates shot 65 percent (13 of 20) from the field in the second half.
“We just made shots,” Hawks coach Luke Yanule said. “The big thing in the second half was our energy defensively. That defense will create energy for your offense. You can have flat nights shooting, you can never have a flat night with energy like that. For us to overcome what we did last year and beat Huntley, it’s a nice step for us early in the year. We have the utmost respect for the way they do things and who they are.”