By Matt Nestor
For seven quarters between Friday and Saturday night, Jan. 29-30, the Rockton Hononegah Indians played almost flawless basketball.
A night after cruising to a 79-52 victory at Machesney Park Harlem, the Indians were hosting the Rockford Guilford Vikings and found themselves with a comfortable 56-34 lead after three quarters against the Vikings. But nobody told Guilford the game was over.
A barrage of 3-pointers from the Vikings, and 32 fourth-quarter points, brought Guilford into striking distance. But some clutch free throws down the stretch allowed Hononegah to cling to its lead, and escape the scare with a 70-66 win.
“I didn’t really plan on working on our late-game situations, but it was probably good for us,” Hononegah coach Mike Miller said. “You have to give them a lot of credit for coming back. Those kids don’t quit. They got hot, and they made some shots.”
Much of the game seemed easy for the Indians, thanks to Lucas Limberg. The junior efficiently scored 14 points in the win, a night after scoring 12 against Harlem. With leading scorer Stanley Moore struggling to a game-high 17 points, the lift Limberg gave the Indians was much needed.
“Lucas is a guy who has a really high ceiling,” Miller said of Limberg. “He’s probably one of the most athletic guys on the team, probably only 5 feet, 10 inches, and is our best dunker. He’s a great shooter, and he’s really come on and given us huge minutes this year.”
After a slow start, the game got away from the Vikings, thanks to a myriad of turnovers. That, combined with the tough zone defense of the Indians, not to mention a tremendous size advantage down low, really seemed to bury Guilford for much of the game.
But once the fourth quarter started, senior Thomas Hawkins, who scored 15 points, and juniors Brandon Blankenship (19 points) and Eric Swangren (10 points) had designs of bringing their team back.
The trio all hit 3-pointers in the quarter, as did Timmy Hill, Tylen Patan and Cyrus Wimbley. Several times during the fourth quarter, the Vikings got within 3 points.
Every time it got close, however, a different Indians player, whether Moore or junior Chase Robinson, stepped up to make big free throw after big free throw to ice the game for Hononegah.
“I’m happy with our guys making plays when we had to,” Miller said. “When it was winning time, guys made free throws, guys got rebounds when we needed them to, they executed our press break, and hopefully this is something we can build on.”
The wins were important for the Indians. With Rockford Boylan, Rockford Jefferson and Rockford Auburn all winning over the weekend, the wins left Hononegah tied with Auburn for third, two games behind the Titans. And with Boylan traveling to Jefferson and Auburn next weekend, wins like this can loom large in the standings.
“It’s great because we’ve been battling some sickness and some injuries,” Miller said. “We played very well last night and dominated the whole game. For three quarters, we did the same tonight. It was a great weekend for us, and hopefully it will springboard us for the rest of the year.”
Around the NIC-10
• The Boylan Titans stayed undefeated with two wins. Armani Flannigan scored 13, Jason Painter scored 10, and Nick Bauch chipped in 6 as the Titans used their size in a 75-61 victory over Belvidere North. Chris Miller and Austin Angel combined for 30 points on the wings to help Boylan to a 68-48 win over Belvidere.
• J.D. Danforth scored 25 in a win at Freeport, and followed that up with 28 against East as the Auburn Knights picked up two road wins to stay two games behind the Titans in third place. Fred Van Vleet chipped in 29 points combined in the two wins for the Knights as they prepare to host Boylan Friday, Feb. 5, to try to get back into the conference race.
• The Jefferson J-Hawks stayed in second place, a game behind the Titans. They did their part to help set up a massive conference showdown Saturday, Feb. 6, at Jefferson, topping the Guilford Vikings 64-49. Mershon Wilkes continued his hot play, leading the way for the J-Hawks with 18 points.
• Davin Hinkle scored 13 points and helped the East E-Rabs get out to a 34-18 halftime lead against the Belvidere Bucs. They then withstood a massive Belvidere comeback to hang on for a 58-55 win, the first of the season for the E-Rabs in conference.
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From the Feb. 3-9, 2010 issue.