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Last weekend Glenbard North and Wheaton North became the latest teams to fall at the hands of West Aurora, which remains the lone unbeaten team in the DuPage Valley Conference.
Now it's Naperville North's turn to take its best shot at the Blackhawks (10-3, 5-0). The Huskies (9-6, 3-2), the only other team to sweep both DVC games last weekend, hit the road on Friday in an attempt to bring the DVC favorite back to the pack.
It's actually the first of three major tests coming up for Naperville North. The West Aurora game begins a span of three straight Fridays featuring showdowns with Naperville Central and Glenbard North.
By February the Huskies will know exactly where they stand in the DVC.
"As long as we've got preparation time for each game, that's fine with me," said Huskies coach Jeff Powers. "We'll be ready."
Naperville North's young lineup has steadily improved throughout the season in the face of four losses suffered in the last 90 seconds of the game. While Jayson Winick and Jelani McClain have kept the offense humming, it's the defense that's winning games, according to Powers.
The Huskies are 7-0 in games they've held opponents under 50 points, including both victories last weekend over Lake Park and Glenbard East. Powers knows it'll take that kind of defensive effort to push Naperville North through its tough stretch ahead.
"We've done more than just talk about defense, we've gone out and done it," he said. "We'll just keep working hard at it."
Mixing it up:
Addison Trail (6-11) is turning to different playing grounds and different practice techniques to keep the season lively.
Blazers coach Brendan Lyons has been around long enough to realize basketball season is a long one, and he's taken steps to eliminate the "Groundhog Day" repetition that seems to strike during the winter.
"It's a long season and it's hard to keep everything fresh for the players," Lyons said. "We're trying to mix up what we do in practice, but we've also switched up our schedule to keep things new."
The Blazers hosted a pre-holiday tournament to spice things up in December and then traveled to southern Illinois to compete in the Centralia tournament. Addison Trail went 0-3, but Lyons believes the road trip was a good experience for his team.
"I think they were taken aback by the whole atmosphere down there," he said. "It's a lot different from the high schools they see around here."
Fourth-year starter James Pupillo rolled an ankle and missed the final game at Centralia, and Ronald Duling also struggled to compete in the tournament due to injury. Thanks to a near two-week layoff, both players returned last week for a pair of nonconference games.
From here on out, though, Addison Trail faces a flurry of West Suburban Gold games. Other than a Feb. 1 game against Maine South -- another road trip for the Blazers to Milwaukee -- the entire remainder of the regular season has Addison Trail playing Gold opponents.
"We suffered some tough losses this season, and it'd be nice to turn things around," Lyons said.
Diversity at WWS:
Wheaton Warrenville South hosts its second annual Martin Luther King Basketball Tournament on Saturday and Monday. Local squads Metea Valley, York and the host Tigers join a diverse cast that includes defending tourney champion Oswego.
"It's a good time of the year to compete against people outside your conference," said Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza. "Adding York this year upgrades it."
Metea Valley (8-6) may find that out quickly, first hand. The Mustangs open up against 6-8 Palatine on Saturday, and if successful they stand a good chance of facing York in Monday's 11:45 a.m. semifinal. Six-foot-eight Air Force recruit Frank Toohey and the Dukes (14-2) play the first game at WW South at 3 p.m. Saturday, against 4-7 Oak Lawn.
The lower bracket has 6-3 senior guard Matt Kienzle and WW South (2-11) ending Saturday's competition with a 7:30 p.m. game against 10-7 Bartlett. The prior game pits Oswego (6-6) against the tourney's other new team, Clemente (10-4).
Based simply on competition and record the brackets would seem to produce Monday semifinals between York and Metea, Bartlett and Oswego. The championship game is at 7:30 p.m. Monday, culminating an eight-game marathon at WW South.
Metea Valley, which has played neither York nor Palatine, hopes for a crack at one of two teams it already lost to, Oswego and Bartlett. Oswego beat the Mustangs their second game of the season; Bartlett topped won 51-48 last Friday. Entering Thursday's game at Neuqua Valley, that was only Metea's fourth loss since November.
Marquell Oliver, aided by his cousin Bryson Oliver averaging 4.3 assists, leads Metea with 16 points a game with a high of 26 against South Elgin.
"I think he's very good attacking the rim and getting himself to the basket," Vozza said of Marquell Oliver. Nick Dodson is just under 10 points a game, and Vozza said 6-foot-5 post Mark Konkle and 6-1 forward Justin Kuehn are coming on.
At WW South they'll hope to survive tests by unfamiliar foes for a possible chance at revenge.
"It's good to keep playing those games and putting your team in those tough situations and be better for it down road," Vozza said.
Back in action:
The last time Wheaton Academy (9-4) shared a basketball court as a complete team it was in a 73-31 victory over Gage Park at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament on Dec. 28. That was a silver lining to a brief three-game outing and 1-2 tourney record.
"I was probably hoping that we could play well and advance and play against some really good teams. That didn't transpire, but we've got some good games coming up," said Warriors coach Pete Froedden.
First he must reassemble the troops. Wheaton Academy is on its unique Winterim schedule through Jan. 22, and for Monday's practice Froedden said he had "a robust" 12 of 24 players on the court representing both sophomore and varsity teams.
In the past several seasons Wheaton Academy would play a couple out-of-state games while satisfying their Winterim service goals, but not this season. No games, but players are in locations from Haiti to New York working on the service aspect.
"We've got kids all over the world," Froedden said.
Josh Ruggles, Gordon Behr, brothers Chandler and Bennett Fuzak, Christian Smith and the rest will hit the floor soon enough.
Wheaton Academy plays four games at a Martin Luther King Jr. round-robin at Rockford Jefferson. The Warriors open with Belvidere and Rockford Lutheran on Friday and return on Monday to play Belvidere North and Rockford Jefferson.
Froedden said most of his varsity players would return either Wednesday or Thursday so the full squad could get in a couple practices before heading to Rockford Jefferson. It wasn't X's and O's that concerned the coach in Proviso tourney losses to New Trier and Urban Prep. It was about overcoming adversity.
"How do you respond when somebody hits you in the mouth," he said. "You're going to have a fight or flight response, and we want to step up our game and not retreat when those things happen."