Prep Basketball: McNease’s big quarter lifts E-Rabs — and other playoff action
By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
After a quick start, early fouls plagued Steve McNease of Rockford East. While he sat on the bench, he watched Kaneland cut a 14-point East lead to 3 at the half.
The third quarter was just as quiet and East entered the fourth quarter tied and their top scorer with only 5 first-quarter points by his name.
All McNease did in the fourth quarter was make all seven shots he took and knock down six of seven free throws as the senior scored 21 of his 26 in the fourth quarter and East pulled out a 66-54 win to move on the the IHSA Class 3A sectional finals in Sycamore.
“I didn’t know he had 21 in the quarter, that’s ridiculous,” East Head Coach Roy Sackmaster said after the game. “He’s done that a lot lately. In the beginning, he’s fighting it because he’s so emotional and he wants to win so badly. He just went out and played his game.”
The key play came midway through the fourth quarter in a tight game. With the score tied at 47, East point guard Javon Henderson, who scored 11 of his 12 points in the first half, brought the ball up and McNease came up to set a pick as he crossed half court.
McNease flared out after setting the screen and Henderson found him at the top of the key. McNease let the 3 fly, giving the E-Rabs a 3-point lead they did not relinquish.
“That was a play called by Javon and Steve,” Sackmaster said. “I was about to scream out a play and I read Henderson’s lips. I saw Henderson say ‘pop,’ and I just let them play.”
After a frustrating first half, McNease said it was a shot he could not pass up. His hot start in the quarter also helped boost his confidence.
“I was not passing it,” the senior forward said with a smile. “When I get in a groove, I keep going. When I’m on, I’m on. So, I kept shooting. That 3 happened to be open, so I took it.”
As much as McNease carried his teammates on the offensive end, the rest of the E-Rabs picked it up on the defensive end and on the glass.
East held Kaneland to 31 percent shooting from the field and only 15 percent shooting from behind the 3-point line. They also outrebounded the Knights by eight in the second half to turn a rebounding deficit into a win on the glass by the game’s end.
“We knew we were better than this team, but our heads weren’t in it at first,” Darshawn Pumphrey-King, who scored 12 points, said of the team’s early rebounding woes. “We were letting everything go their way, but we came out and played our game in the second half.”
The win leaves East one game short of a chance at the Super Sectionals in DeKalb. The E-Rabs will face the winner between Johnsburg and Aurora Central Catholic.
Aurora Central knocked off the E-Rabs in the sectional finals last year, and while the E-Rabs don’t care who they face, they would love a chance at revenge. But no matter who they face, East feels like they can control the outcome, even if the game is tight at the end.
“When we play as a team, we can’t be stopped because we have so much depth,” McNease said. “We always think late, so it happens late.”
Rockford Lutheran 72, Minonk Fieldcrest 46
For the first time in 17 years, the Rockford Lutheran Crusaders will be heading down state with a shot at a championship.
The Crusaders overcame a lot of pregame doubt and overwhelmed Fieldcrest for an easy 72-46 win in their IHSA Class 2A super sectional game at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.
Much of the season has been about the transfers that Lutheran has tried to mix in to their lineup, but with a trip down state on the line, it was a different newcomer who led the way.
Freshman Nate Wieting scored 23 points to lead the way for Lutheran. Senior Derek Seyller had 16 and fellow senior Teyvious Montgomery had 11 for Lutheran.
The Crusaders will next play Friday, March 9, against Normal University in the 2A semifinals in Peoria. Tip time is set for 6:30 p.m.
Auburn 62, Huntley 48
After a 28-point defeat last year in the playoffs to Rockford Auburn, Huntley was hoping for a different outcome in their Class 4A sectional semifinal matchup.
Huntley was able to cut that margin in half, but it still meant a 14-point loss to the Knights as Auburn cruised to a 62-48 victory.
Auburn was in control from the start, leading by 11 after the first quarter and by 19 at halftime. All-State guard Fred Van Vleet scored 35 to lead the way for Auburn, who also got 12 points from LaMark Foote.
The Knights will play for their second-consecutive sectional championship Friday, March 9, in Dundee against he winner of the McHenry and Elgin semifinal matchup.
Posted March 7, 2012
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