Naperville Central sophomore Lucy Schmid is turning the basketball court at Wheaton Warrenville South into a home away from home.
Last year she hit the game-winning shot that lifted the Redhawks to a DuPage Valley Conference title. On Saturday Schmid scored a personal-best 21 points as the Redhawks held off the Tigers 56-55 in overtime to give coach Andy Nussbaum his 600th victory.
Schmid opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer and later broke a 47-47 tie with a short jumper in the waning seconds of regulation before Wheaton Warrenville South sent the game to overtime with a pair of free throws from MacKenzie Stebbins with 1.6 seconds left.
"She made the winning basket here last year to win the conference," Nussbaum said. "I told her dad, 'Don't move here because I know she plays well here.' She had a great game."
The post player has expanded her shooting range and is a big reason the Redhawks are off to a 7-2 start and sit atop the DVC at 4-0.
"We talked last year and said, 'You know, Lucy, if you can make shots outside the arc, you're going to add to your game,' " said Nussbaum, whose team needed every point it could muster against a strong Tigers team that entered Saturday's action 3-1 in conference. "It was huge for us today. The (three) 3s she made today were all huge."
With Mia Lakstigala tallying 11 of her 19 points in the first half, Naperville Central led 27-21 at the break and extended the lead to 42-32 after three quarters. Schmid's long jumper to open the fourth quarter gave the Redhawks a 13-point lead and it looked as if Nussbaum's historic win was sealed away.
But the Tigers switched to a zone defense that slowed the visitors, and at the same time the home team found its offensive stride. Sophomore Mira Emma knocked in pair of 3s and Jayla Johnson kept scoring in the paint as the Tigers rallied to send the game to an extra session. With two minutes left in regulation Sarah Struebing rifled a pass down low to Johnson who scored to make the score 47-47.
Schmid's clutch shot and Stebbins' free throws then sent the game to overtime tied at 49. A fastbreak layup by Emame Thompson-Eja off a turnover provided the first points in extra time, and Lakstigala later hit three of four foul shots to produce the winning points.
"It was so exhilarating. It was such a close game," Schmid said. "They're a really good opponent. We're pretty evenly matched, and I just felt like we really kept with it and we kept pushing the intensity and trying to make the shots. It was a really good game overall for a lot of our players."
For Nussbaum, who has also recorded 600 wins as the Redhawks softball coach, Saturday's thriller will not soon be forgotten.
"Of the ones (victories) that end in double zero, that clearly was the most exciting," he said. "They're a very good team. This was a huge game. When you're playing someone that's competing with you (in the conference), it counts twice. You win and they lose."
Tigers coach Rob Kroehnke knows this was a key game that got away.
"It would have been great to get one on our home floor here because they're going to be tough the rest of the way," he said of the first-place Redhawks. "But it was fun. It's fun to coach games like that. These are fun games to be a part of, and we had our chances, obviously."
Johnson led the Tigers with 19 points and came within inches of winning the game in regulation when she took an inbounds pass with 0.6 of a second on the clock, caught the ball and shot it all in one motion and had the shot hit off the front of the rim.