Wednesday afternoon's boys basketball game between Naperville Central and Metea Valley at the Hoops for Healing Tournament in Oswego was fast-paced and aggressive. Hence, the fouls were plentiful.
Games like this call for a strong bench, and the Redhawks showcased theirs in a 71-65 victory that saw Rob Suntken come into the game and score a game-high 15 points.
"He was huge. He was outstanding," said Redhawks coach Pete Kramer, who also praised the efforts of starter Nicky Lopez when the Naperville Central lineup got into foul trouble.
The Redhawks (2-1) went into the game less than 24 hours after battling perennial state power Proviso East tough but falling 90-72.
"I was worried about this game," Kramer said. "I knew in the first half that we would come out flat after last night. We didn't play well, but we found a way to win."
Metea Valley (0-3) led 33-31 at halftime and trailed just 48-44 going into the fourth quarter. Just 39 seconds into the last period, the Mustangs' Vin Patel, who scored 12 points, sank a 3-pointer to pull his team to within 3.
But then things went sour for the Mustangs quickly. The team received two technicals about four seconds apart for disputing calls. Naperville Central's Austin Pauga went to the line both times and made all 4 free throws. Soon after, Suntken hit a 3-pointer and the Redhawks had a 57-47 lead.
"We were just trying to take care of the ball and take the shots that are there for us," Suntken said.
At that moment the outcome seemed to have been resolved. The Mustangs, however, had other plans and went on a 15-8 run that culminated with Trayvond Taylor's 3-pointer to cut the Redhawks' lead to 3 points at 65-62. Taylor shared game-high scoring honors with 15 points.
Time started running out on Metea Valley, though, and in the last 1:33 of the game, Naperville Central was sent to the free-throw line 6 times and made all 6 attempts.
"We talked about having the passion and fight with the guys. I thought it was lacking the first few games, but the guys showed it today," said Metea coach Bob Vozza.
It's been a rough start for the Mustangs, but Vozza believes that being in the Hoops for Healing Tournament will help the team's development. Metea Valley graduated six of its top seven players from last season.
"Absolutely (the team is getting better), though it's hard for us to realize that now," Vozza said. "Facing teams like Proviso East, Naperville Central and Oswego makes us better off. The schedule, though, does not get easier. Our conference is tough. I think we would get over the hump if we could win a big game."
Also scoring in double digits for Metea were Sean Davis with 11 and Hayden Barnard with 10.
Following Suntken on the Naperville Central scoresheet were Mike Blaszczyk with 14 and Pauga with 13.
"After three games I'm extremely proud of where we are at," Kramer said.