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Waubonsie's Bryan Jefferson drives to the net while being defended by Neuqua's Pat Kenny in Naperville on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media
The shocked look on Jared Brownridge’s face said it all.
One second, the Waubonsie Valley star guard was dribbling past the half court line, probably picturing himself making a game-tying three-pointer and silencing the large crowd at Neuqua Valley Friday in Naperville.
A second later that chance was gone. Wildcats senior Brad Mikulecky picked his pocket, essentially sealing a 50-47 win for Neuqua Valley.
“No, I didn’t see that coming,” Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton. “We were trying to foul him on purpose.”
“I was pretty surprised,” Neuqua Valley senior Jabari Sandifer said. “Jared is a great ball handler and a great player, one of the best I’ve played against. Brad just plays some pretty tough defense.”
Without Sandifer, the Wildcats wouldn’t have been in the situation to seal the win. Sandifer was huge whenever necessary. He scored 10 points in the second quarter to bring Neuqua Valley back from an early eight-point deficit. Then, he opened the fourth quarter with a three, breaking a 29-29 tie. He scored 10 in the fourth as well, finishing with 25 points and four rebounds.
Brownridge was held to just 13 points, struggling against double-teams most of the night. Bryan Jefferson, a 6-7 senior, stepped up and shouldered the scoring load for the Warriors (13-7, 4-4 Upstate Eight Valley), finishing with 26 points.
“I’ve been watching [Jefferson] and he’s been playing really well lately,” Sutton said. “He’s been at an MVP-type level over the past month.”
The Wildcats had another star on the night, one that made just one basket. Sophomore Connor Raridon’s three-pointer with 1:18 to play gave Neuqua Valley the lead for good.
“Confidence,” Sutton said. “When I put him in I told him we needed him to make a big basket and that’s just what he did.”
Sandifer thought it was the key moment of the game.
“Connor is a great shooter,” Sandifer said. “He was having an off day, but he made the one that counted. That gave us a big boost.”
Pat Kenny scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds and senior Darien Miskel added six for the Wildcats (16-1, 7-1).
Browridge and Jefferson accounted for 39 of Waubonsie Valley’s 47 points.
“It wasn’t a great offensive night for either team,” Sutton said. “We started slow but [Sandifer] got us back into it with his play in the second quarter.”