There was not a whole lot of suspense during Naperville Central's DuPage Valley Conference boys basketball game Friday night, but there were some exciting moments after the final horn.
Right after the Redhawks finished off visiting Wheaton Warrenville South 78-46, the players huddled around a laptop at the scorer's table to watch the waning seconds of Glenbard North's DVC showdown at West Aurora. When the Panthers won that game 83-81, the Redhawks roared as they found themselves in a three-way tie atop the league with three games left to play.
Naperville Central, which beat West Aurora last week, has won nine straight to improve to 18-5 overall and 9-2 in the DVC. The Redhawks used solid defense to take a 12-4 lead after one quarter and then blitzed Wheaton Warrenville South with a 29-point second quarter en route to a 41-14 lead at the half.
"We started to get the ball inside more and that's where we had our advantage inside with our size," said Redhawks forward Patrick Maloney, who had game highs of 14 points and 12 rebounds on Friday. "Our defense was staying strong like it was in the first quarter, which was key."
The Tigers (4-19, 1-10) had no answers for Maloney and Nick Czarnowski inside and also were hurt by the perimeter shooting of Matt Bennett, Ryan Antony and Matt Meier. Czarnowski had 13 points despite sitting much the second half with a big lead, and Anthony knocked down a pair of 3-pointers and once again ran the offense just the way coach Pete Kramer draws it up.
"I'm very pleased with the kids," said Kramer, whose team will play a critical DVC game next Friday at Glenbard North, the only team to have beaten the Redhawks in their last 13 games. "As a coach if your point guard is not in rhythm with you and in rhythm with what you want to do. … Ryan and I are really clicking and he's right there with me.
Whatever we're doing he's on the same wavelength and I think that's huge to our team."
What is also coming up big for Naperville Central of late is its defense. Kramer considers Bennett one of the league's top defenders and unsung heroes, and then you throw in big guys Czarnowski and Maloney who defend and rebound well and round out the starting lineup with Antony and forward Taylor Zelinski, and you have a group that can frustrate many an offense.
"Defensively, we're really playing well. I think offensively we really weren't that sharp early in the game, but it was all our defense creating our offense in the first quarter," Kramer said. "We have a come a long way. There was a time where we were strictly playing zone and now the last 6-7 games we've been strictly playing man. It's just great to see these kids coming together."
For the Tigers, Joe Metzger led the way with 12 points, 10 of which came in the third quarter when the two teams played to a 20-20 draw. Aidan Hernandez added 8 points and 5 rebounds for Wheaton Warrenville South.