The level of play on basketball senior nights usually falls into one of two categories.
The bad is when the seniors can’t properly channel their emotions, resulting in a sub-standard effort. The preferred outcome is when they focus their emotions, leading to a glowing performance.
Naperville North definitely fell into the latter category on Friday night as the Huskies played a near-perfect first half in opening a 23-7 lead at one point on the way to a 53-32 DuPage Valley Conference defeat of Glenbard East.
“I was really proud,” said Naperville North coach Jeff Powers. “We went with a different starting lineup, with Adam Milsap, Mike Laurenzo and Riley Carlson in there, and they played outstanding. We didn’t miss a beat and we were up seven when I put the regular guys in.”
Indeed, Milsap pulled down 3 rebounds, Laurenzo drained a 3-pointer and Carlson snared an offensive rebound that led to a score in their starting minutes, but it also helped that the Huskies (16-8, 8-4) had senior starting guards Jayson Winick and Anthony Rehayem on the floor with them. The pair combined for 11 points as Naperville North opened a 14-7 lead after one quarter.
The Huskies then held the Rams (3-20, 0-12) scoreless for the first 6:30 of the second period with Zach Tuxhorn, Rehayem, Laurenzo and Milsap all scoring in a 9-0 run, with Winick picking up 2 assists.
“It was really emotional for us seniors, one of the last times we would be playing together as a team, but we came out real hard,” Winick said. “We pressed them and I don’t think they were ready for it and we got out to a big lead.”
Of course, a good effort from the Huskies might have preordained since they entered the contest red-hot and on a six-game winning streak. One of the keys to that run has been a strong commitment to defense that was on display all night as they held the Rams to 4-for-21 shooting in the first half and only 27.6 percent from the field for the game.
“The kids are staying in their stance, playing defense, and even though we’re small, we’re holding our own on the boards,” Powers said. “It really amazes me that we’re able to play defense that well.”
Glenbard East actually had an early lead and when Michael Finley hit a 3-pointer at the three-minute mark of the first quarter, they only trailed 9-7. However, more than nine minutes passed before they moved the scoreboard again, with Tyler Behrendt’s three-point play the only points Glenbard East scored in the second quarter as the score stood 25-10 at the break.
With Naperville North leading 35-16, JaRon Hall’s 3-pointer and driving layup did spark a mini-run that got Glenbard East within 35-22 late in the third quarter, but Winick hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer then scored 8 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter as the Huskies won going away.
“We had a bunch of new guys, transfers and juniors, and it took us time to get them together and now we’re playing together as a team,” Winick said in describing the impetus Naperville North’s winning streak.