Winning the DuPage Valley Conference title isn't easy.
Good thing degree of difficulty doesn't matter to Glenbard North's boys basketball team.
Chip Flanigan's late runner put the Panthers ahead, and then they withstood a furious finish to top Naperville Central 59-57 Friday in Carol Stream.
With two games to play, Glenbard North (18-5, 10-2) remains tied with West Aurora atop the DVC standings. With the loss, the Redhawks (18-6, 9-3) fall a game back.
"The last possessions were basically whoever could get the ball, whoever wanted it more, and we did," said Flanigan, who scored 12 of his game-high 24 points in the fourth quarter. "Every since the beginning of the season our coach told us we had a chance to win conference, and we believed him. This is a special team."
If the Panthers beat Wheaton Warrenville South on Saturday and Wheaton North next Friday, they're guaranteed at least a share of their first DVC title since 1991.
After Flanigan's buzzer-beating 3-pointer edged Naperville Central on Jan. 11, Friday's rematch proved to be just as heart-stopping as both teams fought to maintain a share of first place.
"That was two good teams going at it," said Glenbard North coach Joe Larson. "Both of us probably didn't play our best game necessarily, especially shooting the ball. But you could just see the effort out there by both teams."
Glenbard North rallied from a 9-point deficit late in the third quarter, a comeback sparked by Jeremiah Fleming's third 3-pointer. Patrick Maloney, who finished with 13 points and 16 rebounds, got a steal and bucket to keep Naperville Central ahead 54-50 with 3:27 left in the game, but the Panthers kept up the pressure.
Flanigan's three-point play and Justin Jackson's baseline layup gave Glenbard North a 55-54 advantage. A pair of Fleming free throws boosted the lead to 57-54 with 38 seconds left.
Naperville Central responded with a huge play when Nick Czarnowski, who led his team with 23 points, came up with an offensive rebound and converted a game-tying three-point play with 23 seconds left.
Flanigan answered again with his go-ahead runner and, with no timeouts remaining, Naperville Central raced down the court. Ryan Antony just missed a 3-pointer, and Matt Bennett's putback attempt rimmed out.
Jackson ultimately snared the rebound as time expired, sending the home crowd into a frenzy as the student section stormed the court.
The loss snaps a nine-game winning streak for Naperville Central, a streak that began three days after the buzzer-beating January loss to the Panthers.
"We knew it was going to be a battle, but at the end it wasn't meant to be," said Redhawks coach Pete Kramer. "I'm proud of our kids. We always ask them to give us a shot at the end, and that's exactly what they did."
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