Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer sees his team beginning to peak at the right time.
The Redhawks moved their record to 12-5 with a 67-54 nonconference road win at Plainfield East on Tuesday night in a game that they controlled from the outset.
"We're getting better as we go along here," Kramer said. "We're starting to move forward instead of staying stagnant. This was another good win on the road against a good team."
In addition to the win, Naperville Central went 22 of 30 at the free-throw line, bouncing back from a 14-of-29 performance in a 52-47 win at Wheaton North on Friday.
"I said to our team that we're not going to talk about free throws anymore," Kramer said. "We'll work on them in practice, but we're not going to put a big emphasis on them. It must have worked because we haven't talked about them."
The Redhawks jumped out to a 17-6 first-quarter lead on the strength of a 10-2 run that included two 3-pointers by Taylor Zelinski and a pair of baskets in the paint by Patrick Maloney.
Naperville Central's lead climbed to 30-11 with 3:46 left in the half after it connected on three straight 3-pointers, beginning with Maloney from the top of the key, followed by back-to-back 3-pointers by Ryan Antony.
Plainfield East's Aaron Jordan, who led all scorers with 22 points, helped cut the Redhawks lead to 50-44 with 5:12 to play in the game, but Naperville Central's accurate free-throw shooting made the difference down the stretch.
Matthew Meier followed with a 2-of-2 performance at the line, and then after a defensive stop, the Redhawks' ball rotation took over a minute off the clock before Antony was fouled and made both free throws, putting his team up 54-44 with 3:14 left.
"We were able to take some time off each possession and once we had a lead, we didn't want to shoot them back into the game," Kramer said. "I thought our kids did an excellent job of executing down the stretch."
Naperville Central's two big men were again in double figures as Maloney led with 18 points, while Nick Czarnowski scored all 16 of his points in the second half.
Both players combined for 23 points in the second half.
"Our two big guys played outstanding," Kramer said. "Czarnowski and Maloney playing together like they have been is fun to watch."