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Defense isn’t glamorous. But it can be beautiful.
No. 12 Neuqua Valley (21-1) held Fremd scoreless for an 8:37 stretch of the second and third quarters and Najee Smith and Allison Hedrick provided 14 points apiece as the Wildcats defeated the Vikings 54-37 Saturday at the 23rd annual McDonald’s Shootout hosted by Willowbrook High School.
Even Neuqua Valley coach Mike Williams admired the defensive curtain his team threw over the Vikings.
“They’re indescribably beautiful to watch,” he said. “Fremd’s a great team. We don’t have anybody to gauge ourselves against until we start playing the Fremds, the Wheaton Warrenville Souths, the Trinitys.
“Our kids are like, ‘OK, who’s next? Where’s the next game?” he added. “Like I said, it’s beautiful to watch.”
After Fremd (19-6) took a 21-20 lead on an Ashley McConnell three-pointer with 4:09 remaining in the second quarter, the Vikings did not score again until Haley Gorecki buried a three-pointer with 3:22 left in the third. By that time, Neuqua Valley had built a 32-21 lead.
“We talked about that at halftime,” Hedrick said. “We try to keep the teams between 30 and 40 points. It’s fun to see that and see how every game comes out.
“We studied film,” she added. “We knew who their (Fremd’s) players were. They don’t have as much an inside game as an outside game. We pretty much took away their shooters.”
Smith’s three-pointer to start the fourth quarter extended Neuqua Valley’s lead to 43-28, and a floater in the lane by Bryce Menendez (six points, nine rebounds) pushed the lead to 50-33 with 2:54 left.
McConnell and Gorecki each scored 13 points to lead Fremd, which shot just 31 percent for the game.
“We have to play better to beat a team of that caliber,” Fremd coach Dave Yates said. “I don’t think we played to our potential. We had droughts where we couldn’t put the ball in the basket. We got to fix that.
“I think their pressure got to us a little bit,” he added. “I can’t complain about our looks. Our looks were good. But a good look and completing that good look was the difference.”
For Neuqua Valley, the difference was beautiful.