If Lake Park hoped to catch Naperville Central still celebrating last week's state football championship, it was out of luck.
The Redhawks showed no signs of a letdown, welcoming newcomer Lake Park to DuPage Valley Conference boys basketball play by handing the visiting Lancers a 53-29 defeat Friday night.
"We were definitely motivated," Redhawks senior center Nick Czarnowski said, with last week's Hoops for Healing tournament loss to Benet more on his mind. "No one wanted that to happen the way it did. We came out, worked hard this week on defense. That was our biggest concern. Kept our hands up on defense, everybody executed and the offense kind of just came to us."
Naperville Central (4-1, 1-0) jumped out to a 10-3 lead and never gave it up, though Lake Park (3-2, 0-1) threatened the lead a few times. The Lancers came out of halftime and cut the Redhawks' margin to 4 points while Naperville Central missed its first seven shots during a scoreless span of more than five minutes.
"We came out flat offensively," Redhawks coach Pete Kramer said of the third quarter. "Not even flat, we just missed some shots and turned the ball over a few times. Otherwise I was pleased. First conference game and first home game. We've got some young kids playing."
The Lancers couldn't get any closer.
"We just don't hit shots and if you don't hit shots against a good team eventually they make a run and you get beat," Lancers coach Josh Virostko said. "If we would have hit some shots when we had the openings and we would've executed better offensively, we might have actually had the lead there in the second or even the third quarter. But we just missed too many open looks and we didn't execute properly. Part of that is being an immature team and being a young team."
The Redhawks got revved up starting with sophomore Matthew Meier's steal and layup with 2:48 left in the third quarter. That started a 9-0 Naperville Central run, and the Redhawks finished the third period leading 34-23.
"I thought the second half we just played a lot more active, a lot more aggressive," Kramer said. "We found some different combinations defensively that were good, and that's going to help us as we go along here."
The Lancers cut the lead to single digits one last time on sophomore Daniel Hynes' 3-pointer with 7:15 to play, making the score 35-26, but the Redhawks had found their rhythm on offense and weren't about to stop, reeling off another 9 unanswered points.
It was a disappointing start to DVC play for the Lancers, and Virostko couldn't figure it out.
"We played Neuqua last year, Waubonsie, we played all the Valleys last year," he said of Upstate Eight Conference play. "Naperville Central is as good as any of those teams. We need to go in and just play like it's anybody.
"If we're thinking it's the DVC or if we're thinking about it's Naperville Central and how good they are, we're beat before we get off the bus. I think some of our guys might think that. Some of our guys might have trouble with thinking the teams we're playing are teams we can't beat, and if that's the case, maybe we shouldn't play all the teams on our schedule."
Czarnowski led Naperville Central with 14 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 blocked shots. Matt Bennett added 12 points, and Patrick Maloney scored 9.
Senior Sean Moore and Hynes led the Lancers with 6 points apiece.
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