Bolingbrook guard Prentiss Nixon said after Wednesday’s win that a sectional title would be nice, but it is not the team’s ultimate goal.
Up three with 12.1 seconds left, the Wildcats had the ball and a chance to tie. An off balance three by Conner Raridon resulted in an air ball that was grabbed by teammate Zachary Lendino, who then turned it over looking for a teammate behind the 3-point line who wasn’t there with 1.0 left.
The 30-year drought was over for the Raiders, who captured their first sectional title since 1985 after a heart-stopping 59-56 win over Neuqua Valley in the Class 4A Bolingbrook Sectional final. The Raiders (23-6) advance to the Hinsdale Central Supersectional against West Aurora on Tuesday.
Nixon was breathtaking, and the Raiders needed every one of his 32 points that included eight nothing-but-net 3-pointers. His most electrifying moment came in the third when he hit three 3-pointers in a row giving his team their first lead, 35-33, since 9-5 midway through the first.
Each team’s biggest lead was five points.
“Games between Bolingbrook and Neuqua are always going to be competitive,” said Nixon, whose team’s only home court loss was 76-69 against the Wildcats on January 6. “They beat us the first time, and I think our team took it personally. To be able to defend our home court for a section championship is amazing.”
Nixon got help offensively from Dimitri Akenten and 6-9 Julian Torres. Akenten was doing a lot of the dirty work — grabbing rebounds (11) and collecting steals (3) — but started to assert himself offensively late in the third when he started to score eight of his 10 points.
“I’m just coming out, going hard and doing what I had to do for my team,” Akenten said. “We are just trying to make a run and go as far as we can and have fun doing it.”
Torres, who struggled early in the post, missing seven of his first eight shots, redeemed himself finishing with nine points and eight rebounds.
Meanwhile, Joe Sieger connected on six 3-pointers for the Wildcats (27-5) and finished with 20 points. Raridon, who got himself in foul trouble late in the third guarding Nixon, added 18.
“Neuqua Valley is the best team we have played this year by far,” Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost said. “This was a great team win, and I’m so proud of our guys.”