For three quarters unbeaten Neuqua Valley couldnt make its half-court offense click against Lake Park.
Senior center Pat Kenny, in particular, couldnt find room to deliver against the Lancers consistent double-teams.
They were fantastic against Pat, said Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton. Thats the best job anyones done all year.
But with the Upstate Eight Valley game on the line, Kenny produced three baskets in the opening 3:21 of the fourth to help the Wildcats push a 2-point edge into a 48-38 triumph Saturday night in Naperville.
Neuqua Valley (8-0, 4-0) started its run when Kenny and Western Illinois-bound point guard Jabari Sandifer ran a pick-and-roll for a Kenny layup.
Then senior forward Trevor Davis scored in the post before Kenny added a 15-foot jumper and a short flip in the lane.
Kenny scored eight of his 10 points in the final 12 minutes, while Sandifer led everyone with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals.
We just said we wanted to be in the game to learn from it, said Lake Park coach Josh Virostko. And at the end of the third quarter, it was 35-33 and we said, OK, now we can learn from this. The problem was in the fourth quarter, Sandifer and Kenny made plays. Thats why theyre special players.
Lake Park (5-4, 1-3) devised a game plan to deal with Kennys aggressiveness and knack for scoring in the post. Lancers center Jake Ktsanes forced Kenny to catch the ball further away from the hoop than his preference then Lake Park attacked him with a second defender as soon as he caught the ball.
I think I was trying to force a little too much at the beginning of the game, Kenny said.
He wasnt the only one. Neuqua Valley committed 15 turnovers in the first three quarters and had to rely on its defense to create transition baskets.
Backup forward Elijah Robertson electrified the Neuqua Valley fans when he stole a pass from the wing to the top of the key and threw down a dunk at 3:28 of the first quarter.
Kenny stole a similar pass and took it all the way for a jam in the second quarter while Sandifer turned a third-quarter steal into a breakaway layup.
Their (motion) offense is kind of methodical, Kenny said. You can see the same stuff happening. We kind of got the hang of it, anticipated it and read it right for some easy baskets.
Yet Lake Park ran several sets that generated open jumpers for Jeremy Caboor, Sean Moore, Carlos Cortez and Ktsanes. Caboor and Moore each scored 10 points.
Ktsanes 15-footer with 1:57 left in the third pulled the Lancers within 35-33, but they didnt score for more than five minutes while Kenny went on his mini-spree.