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Andy Nussbaum is quite fond of the players on this 2012-13 Naperville Central squad, but that's not to say he won't get in their ears some if that's what the situation dictates.
After Glenbard North's Laila Pickens opened the third quarter with three straight baskets — two on put-backs — Nussbaum called a timeout and let the Redhawks know they needed to pick up the pace. Naperville Central, which led 23-12 at the half, allowed the host Panthers to make a run in the third quarter and close to within 25-20.
"For them to get two rebound baskets at the beginning of the third quarter, we just weren't being aggressive enough," said Nussbaum, whose team turned it on from there en route to a 41-28 DuPage Valley Conference win. "I kind of got after them. Listen, I love this team, but they needed a little pick up and if that means pouring lemon juice on a paper cut, so be it. But I think they responded."
That they did. After the Panthers' 6-foo-4 center Katie Wisniewski split a pair of free throws to get the hosts to within 25-20, Shannon Ryan assisted on a short jumper by Laura Dierking and then a Ryan steal led to a Cierra Stanciel fastbreak basket.
Ryan then buried a 3-pointer to complete a quick 7-0 Redhawks run that forced Glenbard North coach John Chamberlain to call a timeout. Following the short break, Ryan again set up Dierking for a basket and it was 34-20 after three quarters.
"We just weren't playing our game," said Ryan, who finished with 14 points and 4 assists for the 13-1 Redhawks, who came to Carol Streamfresh off a win over previously unbeaten Neuqua Valley on Saturday. "We were not used to the slow tempo. But steal and layup here and there…every single time Cierra steals the ball it's a game changer."
With Stanciel and Victoria Trowbridge each recording 3 steals, Naperville Central used its defense to pick up the pace and hold off a Panthers squad paced by Pickens, a junior forward who finished with a game-high 16 points and 9 rebounds.
"We kind of let them play at their pace and we didn't have a lot of momentum," said the speedy Stanciel, who finished with 13 points. "After the timeout we caught our composure and we just said we had to get this one."
Nussbaum was worried this could be a tough night as the Redhawks were playing their seventh game in 14 days, fresh off a huge tourney title two nights earlier and also at the start of finals.
"When I saw the schedule I knew this was a trap game if there ever was one," he said. "Even so, I thought we played great in spurts."
Trowbridge had 8 points and 11 rebounds to help the Redhawks improve to 3-1 on the DVC, while Wisniewski finished with 5 points and 7 boards for the Panthers (4-7, 2-2).
"We got it close and then we had a bunch of turnovers," Chamberlain said. "I couldn't call a timeout quick enough. They smothered 3-4 passes, got run outs for layups and that was them slamming the door on us."