Naperville Central center Nick Czarnowski has played at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic basketball tournament for three years.
He knows what the Redhawks have to do in order to win their fourth title.
"It was important that we came out and played strong," said Czarnowski. "The past few years, even when we won it in 2011, we struggled early in the games. This year we wanted to take the initiative and play strong right from the beginning."
The Redhawks did just that in whipping Streamwood 73-43.
"This was a real good bounce back win for us," said Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer. "We talked about the OT loss we had against West Aurora Friday before the game. I think at times we've been pressing and playing not to lose instead of trying to win. There's a difference. We had a lot of players play their roles tonight."
While Czarnowski scored 17 of his team-high 18 points in the first half, Patrick Maloney stepped up also. Maloney tallied 13 points and pulled down a season-high 14 rebounds.
"Maloney was just an animal out there," said Czarnowski. "Our guards did a great job of getting the ball into us where we were able to hit the shots."
Taylor Zielinski scored 11 points had 6 assists. Emannuel Rugamba and Matthew Meier combined for 13 points off the bench for Naperville Central.
The Redhawks started the game by scoring the first seven points before the Sabres' Cole Seger (12 points, 2 blocks) scored. Naperville Central then built first quarter leads of 11-2 and 18-4 before settling on a 24-8 lead to end the quarter.
Streamwood played well in the second quarter by only being outscored 19-18 but still trailed 43-26 at halftime.
The Redhawks (6-3) pulled away from the 1-8 Sabres by starting the quarter with a 8-2 run to lead 51-28.
Max Draper scored 8 points and Jacob Siewart had 6 points for Streamwood, which will face the host Wildcats Thursday afternoon.
Naperville Central shot 28 of 44 for 63 percent and will take on Vernon Hills Thursday at 8:45 p.m.