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Boys basketball: Neuqua Valley downs Oswego East

Kendall Dorsey (24) Oswego East drives inElijah Roberts(25) NeuquValley. | JCunningham~For Sun-Times Media

Kendall Dorsey (24) of Oswego East drives into Elijah Robertson (25) of Neuqua Valley. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 28, 2013 9:42AM

Neuqua Valley senior guard Jabari Sandifer saved his best for last in Wednesday’s 61-46 semifinal win over the hosts at the Class 4A Oswego East Regional.

The Western Illinois University recruit scored 19 of his game-high 23 points in the second half to help lead the Wildcats (27-2) to victory.

“Jabari is just a great playmaker,” Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton said. “They went box-and-one on him most of the first half and we wanted other people to step up, and they had some opportunities but we missed some free throws.

“In the second half, our best player made more plays and it made everybody else better.”

The Wildcats were up 22-17 at the break, but the hosts — who had a tough night shooting — battled back to tie it 24-all with 5:06 left in the third and were down just three (31-28) with 1:45 remaining when Sandifer went to work.

He closed the quarter with a personal 6-0 run on a three-point play and three-pointer sandwiched around a Tyler Ross trey for the Wolves, making it 37-31 Neuqua Valley heading to the fourth.

Sandifer opened the fourth with back-to-back layups to extend the margin to 10 (41-31).

The Wolves got within 43-40 on a Kendall Dorsey bucket off an inbounds pass on an athletic catch-and-shoot with 5:23 remaining, but then the Wildcats put the clamps on defensively and outscored the hosts 18-6 the rest of the way.

“Credit Neuqua Valley, they’re pretty good defensively,” said Wolves coach Ron Murphy, whose club closes 13-14. “In the past, they’ve had the ability to score a little more efficiently, but I think this team defenses the ball much better.”

Oswego East made 16 of 52 shots (30 percent), but leading scorer CJ Vaughan — defended by Neuqua’s Brad Mikulecky in the Wildcats’ man-to-man — was limited to 3 of 15 and finished with a team-high 11 points.

“(Mikulecky) might be the best defender we’ve ever had at Neuqua,” said Sutton. “He’s had a good year and does a good job of taking the other team’s best player every night. He had some help, though, too. And that’s why (Mike) McAllister hurt us some with the penetration.”

Darren Miskel had what Sutton called “his best game of the year,” adding 16 points and eight rebounds for Neuqua Valley.

“They play right,” Murphy said of the Wildcats. “That’s the best I can say about them. They do a great job on the offensive glass, too. No. 55 (6-4 Pat Kenny, who had 13 points and 5 rebounds) isn’t flashy but he’s very efficient.”

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