Neuqua Valley wins the DuPage Valley, ends DeKalb’s stranglehold on the conference

The Wildcats haven’t cracked the Super 25 at any point this season, but are playing like a ranked team now.

SHARE Neuqua Valley wins the DuPage Valley, ends DeKalb’s stranglehold on the conference
Neuqua Valley’s Luke Kinkade (32) shoots a three against DeKalb.

Neuqua Valley’s Luke Kinkade (32) shoots a three against DeKalb.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

DeKalb joined the DuPage Valley Conference (and entered the Sun-Times’ coverage area) four years ago.

The Barbs have owned the DVC, winning conference the first three years. That streak officially came to an end on Tuesday in Naperville.

Neuqua Valley, which already had won a share of the conference title, beat the Barbs 76-70 to win it outright. DeKalb is very young this season and had been out of the running for the conference crown for a while.

“They have run this conference since they joined,” Wildcats senior Nick Lendino said. “So I know they wanted to do everything they could to take it away from us, even though they couldn’t win it. So we had to put in that one extra degree of hard work to pull off the championship.”

The game was played at a high level and a blistering pace.

“I hate this,” Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton joked. “I like those 43-41 games. When we are making all those shots it means we aren’t going to play defense.”

Lendino scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds. Junior Luke Kinkade led the Wildcats (24-7, 8-2) with 23 points and six rebounds.

“At the beginning of the season everyone counted us out and now we won the conference,” Kinkade said. “Everyone is confused, wondering where Neuqua came from. It’s cool.”

Neuqua Valley beat Bolingbrook on Feb. 7 and that opened plenty of eyes. The Wildcats hit a rough patch in mid-January, losing three of four games.

“We couldn’t make a shot,” Sutton said. “That has really turned around. But it can always turn around again.”

Neuqua Valley’s confidence is soaring. The Wildcats shot 7-for-16 from three-point range and had eight players score in the game. The offense was fast, decisive and successful.

“It’s our attitude now,” Kinkade said. “Mentally during the bad stretch we were in our heads and now we know if we miss it isn’t a big deal. We’ll just keep shooting and start making the threes.”

Neuqua Valley is the No. 5 seed in the Class 4A Bolingbrook sectional. The Wildcats haven’t cracked the Super 25 at any point this season, but are playing like a ranked team now.

“We can do some damage in the playoffs,” Kinkade said. “We are a team that everyone looks at us and thinks they can beat us. But we can beat a lot of teams in that regional and people will see that as the first and second rounds go by.”

The Barbs (21-10, 4-6) are one of the area’s best young teams, talented enough to play for a sectional title next month. Sophomore guard Sean Reynolds showcased an impressive overall game and finished with 31 points and five rebounds. Freshman Davon Grant had 11 points and eight rebounds junior Eric Rosenow added 11 points.

DeKalb is the one of two No. 1 seeds in the Class 4A Rockford Jefferson Sectional, which is broken into two sub-sectionals.

“That was a very tough game,” Sutton said. “Their offense is incredible.”

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