The plan was to hang tough with the heavy favorites and then just take your chances later in the game.
For East Aurora searching for its first win of the year the plan only worked briefly as the Tomcats hit a few 3-pointers in the first quarter and let unbeaten Neuqua Valley (7-0, 3-0) know it might be in for a ballgame.
But once the Wildcats defensive pressure picked up in the second quarter and the deep, balanced Neuqua Valley offense started to click, East Aurora just didnt stand a chance Friday night as the visitors prevailed 66-38 in Aurora.
We told the kids East Aurora always has shooters. If you guard them they dont make them and if you dont guard them they make them, Wildcats coach Todd Sutton said after his team allowed four 3s in the first quarter. We played good offense in the first quarter and good defense in the second quarter.
That the Wildcats did. Despite the sluggish defensive start, Neuqua Valley led 20-14 after one quarter as Jabari Sandifer and Connor Raridon each had 3- and 2-point baskets and center Pat Kenny added a pair of buckets inside.
When the defense then limited East Aurora to just 3 points in the second quarter with the lone Tomcats field goal coming in the final minute, it was a 37-17 game at the half and the Wildcats were off and running.
We knew playing the No. 1 team in the conference that we had to be patient and play smart, Tomcats coach Wendell Jeffries said. We wanted to keep it around single digits in the first half, but they made us pay. You turn the ball over and they hit 3s and they get quick baskets. Just like that theyve got 5-0 runs on you.
Jeffries squad was hit with the flu bug this week and he said that might have played a role in the teams 2-of-13 night from the foul line. Even so, the 0-7 team showed good signs in spurts but has struggled for results after facing a brutal early-season slate that includes a game with Proviso West on Saturday.
Neuqua Valley is not the team you want to try and break a skid against as the Wildcats proved. Sandifer had a trio of 3s and finished with 15 points, 5 boards and 3 assists, while Kenny was his usually steady self down low finishing with 17 points and 6 boards. Raridon added 10 points and a pair of steals.
Weve been playing good defense all year and thats how we win a lot of our games, Sandifer said. We just picked it up after that first quarter and it was fine.
For East Aurora DeJon Talbert had 9 points on a trio of 3s and Kejaun Davis added a pair of long jumpers to tally 6 points.