Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer is blessed with so many good outside shooters that he has joked at times this season that the team almost forgets it has a 6-foot-9 force in the paint.
On Friday night, even while the Redhawks were knocking down nine 3-pointers against visiting Glenbard North, everyone on both teams was constantly well aware of the presence of Nick Czarnowski, who had 23 points and 13 rebounds as Naperville Central defeated the Panthers 85-63.
The Redhawks center scored his team's first five points and had seven points as the hosts took a 13-5 lead after one quarter. When Glenbard North started ganging up on him down low, Czarnowski kicked the ball back out and found the likes Mike Blaszczyk, Rob Suntken and Ryan Antony, each of whom connected on multiple 3-pointers.
"Me and 'Blaz' both had pretty good games against them last time and we knew we had to establish ourselves in the post right away," said Czarnowski, who combined with Blaszczyk to score 49 points. "Our guys did a great job getting the ball down low, and I felt like I had total control down there."
But it was by no means all the big guy as four Redhawks players scored in double figures, with Blaszczyk leading the way at 26 points and Suntken and Nicky Lopez each tallying 10 points.
Glenbard North trailed just 39-31 at one point in the third quarter before the Redhawks rattled off 10 straight points and went on a 16-2 run to take command. Panthers coach Joe Larson expects Naperville Central to give opponents a hard time come playoff time.
"That team, if they're shooting it that well from the perimeter, you have to get out on the shooters, and it opens up the middle for Czarnowski," Larson said. "They'll be a tough matchup, a tough out in the playoffs."
With Czarnowski and Blaszczyk each scoring 9 points, Naperville Central (15-8, 8-3) led 30-22 at the half. But Kendall Holbert and Chip Flanigan each nailed 3s as the Panthers hung tight for part of the third quarter before the Redhawks used a 25-point third quarter followed by a 30-point fourth quarter to pull away.
"Our two guards (Nicky Lopez and Ryan Antony) played really well, and Blaz and Czar were outstanding too," Redhawks coach Pete Kramer said. "We're unselfish and it's fun when we play like that."
Holbert led Glenbard North (8-12, 4-7) with 13 points, while Flanigan had 10 points and Justin Jackson 9 points and 8 rebounds.
Czarnowski agrees with Larson that these Redhawks can be tough to defend when everything's clicking the way it was on Friday. "Everyone was a threat tonight," he said. "We had balance out there. When you score from everywhere and everyone scores, we're tough to stop."