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Metea Valley's Bryson Oliver makes his way through lane for a layup against Neuqua Valley High School on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at Metea Valley High School in Aurora IL. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Knowing full well the opportunity missed in late November against Neuqua Valley, opportunity came knocking once again Saturday night for Metea Valley.
Energized by converting on nine three-pointers, Metea Valley kept No. 14 Neuqua Valley at bay for the majority of the night, pulling off a 55-49 upset of Neuqua Valley in Aurora, snapping the Wildcats’ 15-game winning streak to start the season in the process.
The lone starting holdover from last season’s 25-win team, senior forward Sean Davis, knocked down four of the Mustangs’ collective nine triples on his way to recording a team-high 16 points.
“Yeah, I was surprised [at how well I and the rest of the team shot from three-point range all night]. I mean, it was just the adrenaline shooting,” Davis said. “I felt it.”
Avenging their 38-36 loss at Neuqua Valley in November and moving to a game back in the division race, the Mustangs (10-6, 5-2 Upstate Eight Valley) guaranteed themselves a split of their season series with Neuqua Valley for the third time in as many seasons under longtime former Wildcats assistant Bob Vozza.
Feeling that he and his teammates weren’t given much credit to being the only team to stay within single-digits of Neuqua Valley, courtesy of that 38-36 defeat Nov. 29, Davis said the Mustangs’ motivation to right that wrong, so to speak, was high.
“It was a great motivating factor. I think that’s one of things that [drove] us to get this win,” he said.
Neuqua Valley (15-1, 6-1 Upstate Eight Valley) grabbed the first lead of the night after a Jabari Sandifer basket to open the game’s scoring but never led again as Metea Valley’s hot shooting from long distance helped kept Neuqua Valley within arm’s length.
Free throws proved to be the Wildcats’ biggest Achilles heel of the night, as they converted just 17 of their 27 free throws.
“At the end of the game, we have to knock down our free throws,” Sandifer said. “I mean, I missed one. Brad [Mikulecky] missed, too. … We lost by single digits. If we would’ve made half our free throws throughout the whole game, I mean, we would’ve been at least closer than [six].”
Due in large part to connecting on five three-pointers in the first half, Metea Valley took a 10-point lead into the locker room at halftime, 27-17.
Opening the second on a 15-4 run, the Mustangs led by as many as 14 points in the first half as Davis, Trayvond Taylor and Melvin Meeks combined to hit on the team’s five three-pointers in the opening half.
“Yes, yes and huge shots. I don’t even know how many we had,” Vozza said of the nine three-pointers his team made. “We were on fire and Sean was good all night and then Vin [Patel] had some huge ones [in the fourth]. So we’re good on defense when we get out on transition and hit some shots. Neuqua’s awfully good in the halfcourt and they made us struggle in the halfcourt.”
Defensively, Taylor and the rest of the Mustangs’ defense did a commendable job on the Western Illinois-bound Sandifer.
Sandifer, fresh off a 17-point outing Wednesday at Bolingbrook, was held to just six points in the first half before coming on in the second half to finish with a game-high 19.
“Great player. Seems like we’ve been trying to guard him for three, four years here,” Vozza said of Sandifer. “But you kind of knew that in certain situations he was gonna try to get his. Trayvond did a great job. He was wearing [Sandifer] out a little bit and we got some help from Eddie [Goldston], but [Sandifer’s] a great player.”