Letdown was the worry of the night for Naperville Central.
A week after shocking West Aurora to reshape the DuPage Valley Conference race, building off what it did and not letting all of the ensuing good press go to its collective heads was the mission with WW South next on the docket.
Consider that mission accomplished.
Ten different Redhawks scored, paced by three in double figures, to help pace a wire-to-wire 78-46 victory over WW South Friday night in Naperville.
Seniors Nick Czarnowski and Pat Maloney continued their solid post play by leading the way for the Redhawks with 14 and 13 points, respectively.
“We have a lot of chemistry. We trust each other. We know high-low stuff will always be there,” said Maloney, who also pullied down 10 rebounds, of playing with the Hillsdale College-bound Czarnowski. “We’re both good passers, we feel, so whenever we have a guy on our back, we can trust the other to get it to us in the post and trust each other to finish.”
Senior Matt Bennett scored 12 points while senior Ryan Antony, fresh off his game-winning triple at West Aurora one week earlier, chipped in with eight points.
Eight different Redhawks scored in a first half that saw them put up a 29-point second quarter en route to a 41-14 halftime lead.
After seeing the Tigers score the first basket of the second, the Redhawks responded by going on a 29-6 run before WW South got a bucket to end the half.
Czarnowski and Maloney combined for 19 first-half points, with both coming close to matching the Tigers’ collective output of 14 for the half.
“Defensively, I mean, we’re really playing well. I think, offensively, we weren’t that sharp early in the game, and our defense just (stepped it up),” Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said. “I think it was 16-6 (early in the second quarter)—I thought it was all our defense creating our offense. … We’ve come a long way. At one time, we were strictly playing zone and now, last six or seven games, we’ve been strictly playing man.
“It’s just great to see these kids come together. I think we’ve really improved. I think we’re a lot better than we were—even at Christmas time and I thought we were playing pretty well at Christmas.”
Armed now with a nine-game winning streak since a Chip Flanigan 40-footer at the buzzer gave Glenbard North a 62-61 win Jan. 11, Naperville Central (18-5, 9-2 DuPage Valley) is now in a three-way tie atop the DVC with West Aurora and Glenbard North.
The Panthers notched a 83-81 road upset of the Blackhawks, coupled with the Redhawks’ win over the Tigers to force the three-way tie with three games to play.
Naperville Central visits Glenbard North next Friday before closing out its schedule with home dates against Wheaton North and Naperville North.
“We knew last week was a big week, but we know we have to look ahead and keep winning if we want to win conference,” Maloney said. “We got to basically win out.”
WW South (4-19, 1-10 DuPage Valley) was led by junior Joe Metzger’s 12 points.