Most of the Naperville Central players who saw action in Monday's 56-51 season-opening win over Metea Valley during the opening day of competition at the Hoops for Healing Tournament in Oswego, were seniors.
Coach Pete Kramer expects those seniors to play big roles this season, and some came through big time against the Mustangs.
Taylor Zelinski hit for a team-high 17 points, including 9 of 11 from the free-throw line, Nick Czarnowski followed with 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds. Patrick Maloney scored 8 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
"We have a lot of seniors and that's what seniors do," Kramer said.
It was also the season opener for Metea, and Ron Edwards' basket at the buzzer kept the Mustangs ahead at 43-41 at the end of the third quarter.
The Redhawks, though, started the final period on a 7-0 run that started with two free throws by Zelinski and ended on a basket by Czarnowski for a 48-43 advantage with 3:53 left in the game. Soon after the Mustangs' Sam Henson scored on a putback to put his team back within 3.
Czarnowski's dunk with 1:45 remaining put Naperville Central back up 53-47. Metea's last rally came with 59 seconds left on Nick Dodson's shot that made it 54-51 and the Redhawks held on after that. Dodson finished with a game-high 22 points, including four 3-pointers.
"In the first half we were out of sync and didn't play well. They were quick on the perimeter and that bothered us a bit. I felt we played better second half defensively," Kramer said.
The team's were deadlocked at 10 after the first quarter, and Metea led 27-21 at intermission. Marquell Oliver's 7 points during the second period led the Mustangs' offense, including two free throws that put his team up by 11 with just under 2:30 left.
"I like the way guys came out. I liked their effort. And that's always going to be there with this group," said Metea coach Bob Vozza. "We need to work on free-throw shooting and execution. I thought we were tentative in the fourth quarter. The shots were there, but we were not stepping up with confidence."
Both teams return to Oswego on Tuesday. Metea Valley takes on the hosts at 5:30 p.m. followed by Naperville Central against Waukegan at 7 p.m.