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Neuqua Valley wins defensive battle with Metea Valley

MeteValley's Trayvond Taylor puts up shot traffic during Thursday's game against NeuquValley. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

Metea Valley's Trayvond Taylor puts up a shot in traffic during Thursday's game against Neuqua Valley. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 1, 2013 6:33AM

Given the history, rivalry and familiarity his program shares with Metea Valley, Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton knew what to expect.

Typifying the battles the two programs have shared over the last three years, a hard-fought, defensive battle quickly commenced Thursday night.

Overcoming the Mustangs’ tough defense, Neuqua Valley battled through its shooting woes enough to pull out a 38-36 victory in Naperville.

“Two teams playing defense. You don’t see a lot of that around here and we saw two teams (Thursday) night playing really intense defense,” Sutton said.

Putting a collective 4-for-26 first-half shooting performance behind them, the Wildcats did enough behind senior center Pat Kenny, who tied for game-high scoring honors with 12 points, and senior point guard Jabari Sandifer to win.

Turning in a 15-of-30 night from the charity stripe as a team, it was Sandifer’s four free throws down the stretch that helped seal the win for the Wildcats.

“It was really frustrating (to not be able to find a flow offensively). It was our first conference game, so it’s always going to be hard,” said the Western Illinois-bound Sandifer, who scored 11 points. “So, I mean, it was just rough. We just had to get a sloppy win in conference. It happens sometimes.”

Grabbing just one win last week in the Hoops For Healing tournament, Metea Valley (1-4, 0-1) was gunning for its third win in as many tries at Neuqua Valley.

The Mustangs were instead left with a loss against another high-quality opponent, following losses last week to Proviso East and Naperville Central.

“Four of those teams (we’ve played so far) are fighting for that sectional,” Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza said. “So I think we’ve gotten better each game. We fought Naperville Central. We got through Oswego East there and we fought a good Neuqua Valley team (Thursday) night. So I think (after) five games, we’re better than we were that first game.

“We gotta get into a situation now where we take advantage when we play some teams that we can handle.”

Fresh off winning its Thanksgiving tournament at Riverside-Brookfield, Neuqua Valley (5-0, 1-0 Upstate Eight Valley) managed just one field goal in the first quarter but only found itself trailing by two as the two teams combined to score 10 points in the game’s first eight minutes.

 With the lead exchanging hands six times in the first half, the Wildcats ended the first half by scoring six of the final nine points in the half to take a modest 13-11 lead into halftime and played on the lead for the entire second half.

 Vin Patel led the Mustangs with 12 points, coming courtesy of four three-pointers, while senior Sean Davis added 11.

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