DIXON – Some players fold under pressure. Some rise to the occasion. Jalen Riley is the latter.
With his team trailing in the final minutes, Riley scored Sauk Valley’s last nine points in the Skyhawks’ 63-57 Arrowhead Conference win over Kishwaukee on Thursday night at Sauk Valley Community College.
“I thrive on pressure situations. I love it,” said Riley, who poured in a game-high 26 points. “It brings the best out of me.”
With the visiting Kougars (18-9, 4-6) leading 56-54 and less than 3 minutes remaining, Riley got free on the left wing and drained his fifth 3-pointer of the night. Riley and Daven Ottley, making his first start since returning from a wrist injury, each hit a free throw to make it 59-57 with 1:29 to play.
After a Kishwaukee turnover, Sauk’s Magd Owayed missed a shot, but Ottley (12 points, 16 rebounds) was there for the rebound. Moments later, Riley knocked down a pull-up jumper, making it 61-57 with 38 seconds left.
Following a missed 3-pointer by the Kougars, Riley put the game away with two more free throws.
“I’m happy and excited to be back on the floor,” said Ottley, who liked what he saw from the Skyhawks (17-10, 7-4) in his absence. “I saw a lot of improvement while I was out, so I knew when I came back the team would be much better.”
Sauk coach Russ Damhoff is just as giddy to have Ottley back.
“They can’t cheat. They’ve got to play him inside,” Damhoff said. “But probably bigger than his offense is his rebounding and defense. That was the thing we missed the most when he was gone, was his defensive rebounds.”
It was another dogfight between the teams, who played a two-game point, a 68-66 Sauk win, on Jan. 24.
The Skyhawks’ largest lead was seven, that coming at 22-15 with 6:51 left in the first half. Their largest deficit was three, on several occasions early in the second half.
Taylor Lavery led Kishwaukee with 19 points.
Star of the game: Jalen Riley, Sauk, game-high 26 points, scored 8 of team’s last 9
Key performers: Taylor Lavery, Kishwaukee, 19 points; Daven Ottley, Sauk, 12 points, 16 rebounds
Up next: Kankakee at Sauk Valley, 7 p.m. Saturday