For a basketball player, there's nothing better than having a hot shooting hand. And it made all the difference as Naperville Central shot past visiting Wheaton North 77-65 on Saturday night.
The Redhawks (10-4, 3-2 DuPage Valley Conference) shot 60 percent from the field in the first quarter to lead 16-13 and then hit for six 3-point baskets during the second quarter to lead 38-27 at halftime.
The Falcons (5-6, 1-4) played Naperville Central tough the rest of the way, but the Redhawks held on to their lead.
"The kids were unselfish. They were not caught up in who was scoring," said Redhawks coach Pete Kramer. "Give Wheaton North credit -- we could not pull away."
Naperville Central senior Nicky Lopez led his team with a game-high 22 points including four 3-point baskets.
"You make that first shot and your confidence goes up and you take more shots and you get more confidence," he said.
Mike Blaszczyk followed on the Redhawks' scoresheet with 15 and Rob Suntken had 12. Nick Czarnowski had 10 rebounds.
"Our defense was crucial. Our big men stepped up," Lopez said.
Besides the team's sharpshooting and defense, Kramer praised his team's bench play with Suntken, Matt Auld, Matthew Bennett and Taylor Zelinski all receiving mention from their coach.
Wheaton North got within 45-40 with 1:52 left in the third quarter on a 3 by Matt Biegalski. He hit for a team-high 20 points, which included four 3-point baskets. Three Falcons scored in double-digits: Jake Heggeland (13), and Andrew Slivinski and Jaylen Howze with 10 each.
Naperville Central nailed eight 3-pointers in the first half and just two in the second. Wheaton North coach Dave Brackmann said that was crucial to the Falcons staying in the game.
"In the first half, I thought we gave them a lot of good looks, but I tip my hat to them on their shots. I thought we made looks more difficult in the second half," he said.
Wheaton North is back in action Tuesday at Streamwood.
"I thought we played well for 28 minutes against them and I knew we needed 32 minutes against a good team like Central to beat them," Brackmann said.
It's rivalry time for Naperville Central as the Redhawks play at Waubonsie Valley on Tuesday night and play host to Naperville North on Friday night.
"It's a big week," Kramer said.