By Matt Nestor
Trying to make a statement in the last regular game before the IHSA regionals, Machesney Park Harlem had a chance to tie Rockton Hononegah at the end of the third quarter.
As the clock wound down, the Hononegah Indians’ Carlos Hendrix anticipated a Harlem pass, as he did much of the night, got the steal and made a layup as the clock expired.
Hendrix opened up the fourth quarter with more of the same as Hononegah (22-6, 12-4) pulled out a 66-51 victory over the Harlem Huskies heading into regionals.
“I thought the second half, when (Hendrix) amped up his intensity defensively, that got him out in the open floor,” Hononegah Head Coach Mike Miller said. “When he’s coming at you with a full head of steam, that’s a good thing for us.”
Hendrix led the Indians with 16 points. Chase Robinson chipped in 15 for Hononegah as well.
It was needed early to overcome a Harlem (11-18, 6-10) team that was amped up for their senior night early and held on to an early lead. Tre Wagner hit his first three shots and a couple of free throws early to help get the Huskies off to a good start.
But the Indians responded back the way they have for much of the season, with stifling, suffocating defense.
Hononegah caused multiple Harlem turnovers and dominated the paint. Senior Coop Lewis helped lead the charge with nine rebounds and three monster blocks.
“Coop is such a presence defensively,” Miller said. “He has had a great offensive year for us as well, but with his length, he blocks a lot of shots, and he’s a good rebounder around the basket. That is another way to get our break going, and he definitely alters a lot of shots.”
Another good sign for the Indians was an improved offensive game from dead-eye shooter Andrew Tapley.
The senior sharpshooter did not have a great game, missing all six of his 3-point attempts, but he did hit a couple of shots and got to the free-throw line off several shot fakes, another dimension that could help get Tapley untracked heading into regionals.
“We know that he is going to be guarded tightly,” Miller said. “It’s good to see him put the ball on the floor and get to the basket a little bit. He’s such a good free-throw shooter that if he can get himself to the free-throw line, those are 2 points.”
For Harlem, Alex Ghinazzi led the way with 14 points, while Wagner chipped in 13.
In other NIC-10 action:
• Auburn (22-4, 16-0) is hitting on all cylinders as they capped a perfect conference run with a dominating 67-49 victory over East. Anthony Strickland scored 20, Fred Van Vleet scored 19, and LaMark Foote had 16 to help the Knights continue their 11-game winning streak. The E-Rabs (16-11, 8-8) did get 16 from Deontray Austin as they prepare for their Class 3A regional.
• Boylan (21-5, 13-3) also enters the regionals on a roll, clinching second place in the conference with an impressive 91-56 win over Belvidere (7-19, 2-14). Teyvious Montgomery led the way with 21 points for the Titans.
• Guilford (10-17, 6-10) got 19 points from Quavion Kimble as the Vikings held on to top Belvidere North by a score of 78-74. Brandon Schwebke led the Blue Thunder (9-17, 6-10) with 25 points.
• Luke Norman scored 18 points to help the Freeport Pretzels (10-15, 6-10) score a comeback victory over the Jefferson J-Hawks (9-18, 5-11) by a final of 57-53.
From the March 2-8, 2011, issue