No matter how Naperville Central fares over the holidays, it will still have its unblemished DuPage Valley Conference girls basketball mark to fall back on in January.
The Redhawks are 5-0 in the DVC after holding off a Metea Valley comeback bid for a 51-41 victory Tuesday in Aurora.
"The 5-0, I mean that's really huge," said Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum, whose final 11 games of the season will be in the league. "You don't have to worry about what the rest of the league is doing as long as you have a zero on the right-hand side of the ledger. We don't play a conference game for another 23 days. Win or lose we had to sit on this one for a while. It wasn't pretty, but we got the win."
The Redhawks (8-2, 5-0) looked like they might run away with the game. They scored the first eight points of the game and led by as many as 12 in the first half before the Mustangs cut the lead to 25-19 at halftime.
"The longer I do this the more I realize it's about matchups," said Nussbaum, who collected his 601st career basketball win Tuesday. "I just don't like our matchup against Metea. We're pretty long. Well they're a little longer. We probably don't press them as well as other teams press them. There was a point in the first half where we were kind of letting them dictate."
The Redhawks again looked like they had the win signed, sealed and delivered when they went ahead 44-29 to start the fourth quarter. But that prompted a 12-1 Metea Valley run, with the Mustangs pulling to within 4 points on Janiece Thomas' basket with 3:56 to play.
"Naperville Central's a good team, got some good guard play," Metea Valley coach Cedric Williams said. "We had our spurts. We're trying to figure out how we can put four good quarters together."
"They came out stronger than we thought they were," Redhawks senior guard Erin Moran added of the Mustangs' comeback attempt. "We knew they were going to be bigger than us. In the fourth quarter they brought it and we just had to level up to them."
Moran helped the Redhawks level up to the Mustangs (3-8, 1-3) by hitting both ends of a 1-and-1 at the free-throw line to make the score 47-41.
"I just had to relax and pray that they went in," Moran said on an unusually poor free-throw shooting night for the Redhawks, who finished 11 of 25.
Junior point guard Mia Lakstigala followed with a basket and a free throw of her own, and Moran made one more free throw with 34.9 seconds to go to put the game away for good.
"Erin is athletic and shoots the ball well. I like her game off the dribble," Nussbaum said.
Lakstigala finished with 19 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Moran added 15 points, and sophomore forward Lucy Schmid had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Thomas and Ashley Konkle each scored 9 to lead Metea Valley.
"After these close games it's good to sit down and still remember that we're 5-0," Moran said.
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