When you know your opponent can knock down 3-pointers, it's best to grab an early lead and then do your best to limit those outside threats.
That's exactly what Naperville Central did Friday night in knocking off Plainfield North 58-48 in opening round action of the Tip Off Tournament at Naperville Central. The Redhawks jumped ahead 13-2 after one quarter and then managed to hang on as the Tigers connected on eight 3s on the night. Despite the long-range points Plainfield North (1-1) trailed by double digits almost the entire game before closing to within 56-48 with a minute to go.
"I thought defensively we were pretty sharp in the first half, but in the second half …" said Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum, whose team led 29-14 at the half. "Part of it was them. They just started hitting shots like crazy. We had little things, we probably weren't helping enough on screens, and that kind of thing. So there are things we can do better. But they just started hitting shots."
Fortunately for Naperville Central, the home team hit more than its share of shots and also did a nice job on the boards, with post players Lucy Schmid and Olyvia McGuire combining for 16 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.
"We tried to hold them to only one shot," said Redhawks junior guard Mia Lakstigala, who had a game-high 19 points. "We knew going in that they had some pretty good 3-point shooters. So we tried to not get our heads down if they went on a run. We just kept on playing our game and going hard."
Going hard from the get-go was a key as Lakstigala opened the night's scoring with a 3 and teammate Erin Moran followed with a pair of shots from beyond the arc. The Redhawks took an 11-2 lead less than four minutes into the contest. Tierrah Farris hit two of her three 3-pointers in the first half for the Tigers, but the Redhawks still led by 15 at the half behind 10 points from Lakstigala.
"We were staying close. But I believe in the beginning they felt they couldn't play with them," Plainfield North coach Reggie Lemon said of his players' mindset prior to the game. "They were a little nervous and we hadn't beaten them in a few years. In the second half they started to play and feel comfortable but it was too late by then."
Powered by a balanced attack, Naperville Central finished off the Tigers and claimed their season opener. Schmid had 13 points and 9 rebounds, while Maiah DeShazer and Moran each added 9 points.
"Our bigs are good at grabbing rebounds and a lot of our players are versatile," Lakstigala said. "We're working hard in practice to be the best that we can be … it seems like everybody can score for us, so it's kind of hard to stop all of us at once."