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Neuqua Valley clinches UEC Valley Division title
By Mike Krizman | Daily Herald Correspondent
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Published: 2/10/2013 12:34 AM

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Neuqua Valley’s three-year wait for a seventh conference title ended on Saturday.

The Wildcats dominated in a 62-37 win over South Elgin, clinching the outright Upstate Eight Valley title with an 11-1 conference record.

It was Neuqua’s first title since 2010 and seventh in school history dating back to 2002.

“It’s just so difficult to do,” Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton said of winning conference. “We’ve had to fight through injuries, sickness and being pushed every night by great opponents. We’re very proud of the guys.”

The Wildcats (22-2 overall) jumped all over South Elgin (5-18, 0-11) from the opening tip.

Jabari Sandifer drove through the lane for an easy layup on the first offensive possession. Jason Lonn followed with a 3-pointer, and then a fastbreak layup by Sandifer put the Wildcats up 7-0.

The quick start was fueled by 10 first-quarter points off the fastbreak as Neuqua Valley finished with 18 for the game.

Connor Raridon put the exclamation point on a dominating first quarter with a 3-pointer at the buzzer that gave the Wildcats a 24-5 lead.

The Storm was held to just 2 first-quarter field goals and was forced into 13 first-half turnovers.

“South Elgin runs a lot of motion offense, so when they tried to cut back door, we tried to get the back side help coming around,” Neuqua Valley senior Brad Mikulecky said. “They got us a couple of times on it, but for the most part we were able to hold our own.”

Leading 40-17 heading into the third quarter, Neuqua Valley opened with a 12-2 run as Pat Kenny started things off with a baseline jumper, followed by two straight fastbreak layups by Sandifer.

Kenny and Sandifer combined for 10 of the 12 points during that run.

With a commanding 52-19 lead, Sutton pulled the starters at the 2:33 mark of the third quarter.

South Elgin scored the first eight points of the fourth quarter, starting with a basket in the paint by Jake Amrhein and ending with a crossover dribble and floater by Matthew Smith, who led his team with 12 points.

“The way we started the game off, we just weren’t following the game plan offensively as far as what (Neuqua Valley) was doing to us,” South Elgin coach Chaz Taft said. “It finally clicked in the last seven minutes of the game, but by then it was too late.”