Naperville Central held on against the scrappy Lake Park Lancers in what was more of a defensive battle than a shooting match to win 43-38 in a DuPage Valley Conference boys basketball game on Friday in Roselle.
The Redhawks' Taylor Zelinski had a game-high 13 points, and Marcus McDaniel had 12 for the Lancers.
The Redhawks (15-5, 6-2) featured the twin towers upfront, seniors Nick Czarnowski and Patrick Maloney, but the younger and smaller Lancers gave them a game. Both teams were shooting 3s in the first half despite plenty of turnovers on each side. The first half ended with the Redhawks holding a 27-22 lead.
McDaniel, a junior, drove to the hoop and worked hard to earn his points. Lancers coach Josh Virostko said the undersized McDaniel should be distributing the ball more when the Lancers' lack of size makes it difficult.
"We have to manufacture everything," Virostko said. "Also we don't know how to practice hard enough at this point because we are a little young and when you go against good teams they stop you.
"You have to get used to going to the level that you got to go to in order to execute against teams that have size and know what they're doing on defense."
It was turnovers that did in the Lancers (13-9, 3-5) combined with the 3-point shooting by the Redhawks. Zelinski netted three 3-pointers and Matt Bennett added two more.
"I anticipated this being a tough game for us," said Redhawks coach Pete Kramer. "I thought defensively we played pretty solid. Offensively, we played a little sloppy. We turned the ball over at times. I thought Zelinski shot the ball pretty well. Our big kids never got any real rhythm. Give them credit, they took away some of the things we were trying to do."
"It's great having those 3-point shooters out there," Czarnowski added. "Pat (Maloney) and I feel really confident that if we're double- or triple-teamed that we can kick it out and they're going to knock shots down. Our team does a really good job of that."
The Lancers' Sean Moore hit a bucket with 41 seconds in the game to cut the Redhawks' lead to 39-36. But a slam dunk by Czarnowski off a Lancers turnover with 26 seconds left made the score 41-36 and sealed the victory for the Redhawks.
"We know every game in the DVC is going to be a tough game," Czarnowski said. "They are a good team, they played hard tonight and deserve to be in a close game the way they play defense. We have to come out and finish a little better next time."