The third place game of the 35th Annual Hardwood Classic between Naperville Central and St. Viator at Wheeling on Saturday night was a hard-fought and physical contest from the opening tip to the final horn.
Forty-five fouls were called in the game, and at times it felt like the whistle could have been blown three or four times on one play.
Naperville Central was able to endure the physical test and come away with a 61-54 victory.
"I was very pleased with the way we kept our composure," Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said. "When things weren't going so hot on the offensive end, we kept working on defense. I thought we rebounded pretty well, for the most part. And we played as a team at both ends."
Kramer said he was pleased with how his team shared the ball on the offensive end, and that he was proud of his players with how hard they played during the course of the tournament.
The Redhawks' scoring distribution backs up his feelings. Senior guard Mike Blaszczyk led Naperville Central with 15 points, while guard Nicky Lopez chipped in 13 and grabbed 7 rebounds. Guard Ryan Antony (9 points), center Nick Czarnowski (8 points, 11 rebounds) and guard Rob Suntken (7 points) all played key roles in the win as well.
After a Blaszczyk 3-pointer with 3:36 left in the third quarter, Naperville Central (9-4) led 39-25. St. Viator (9-3) made several small runs over the rest of the game, but could never cut it to a one-possession game.
Spurring the St. Viator charge was guard Patrick Martin, who scored 16 of his game-high 22 points in the second half.
"I thought he was the one guy out there tonight that was playing loose," St. Viator coach Mike Howland said. "He seemed carefree. That's who he is. When he gets hot, he can really go on a run. I think he's going to be able to build on that performance going forward into the second half (of the season)."
It was the fourth game in as many nights for both teams, and at times it showed for both teams in the form of jump shots coming up short and missed free throws.
"You have to go hard in practice," Blaszczyk said. "The harder you go in practice, the more stamina you are going to have in the game. Especially with four days in a row. It gets kind of mental. You've got to be mentally tough and win the fourth game even though it's four games in four nights."
Junior guard Ore Arogundade had 13 points and 11 rebounds for St. Viator, and senior guard Mayo Arogundade scored 10.
"We're in a little bit of a funk right now," Howland said. "The things we always do well, we are not doing well right now. We've hit kind of a bump in the road, and we've got to find a way to get over it. I think this break comes at the right time because we are just a shell of ourselves right now with the way we are playing."