Building leads hasn't been an issue for Waubonsie Valley. Closing out games has been another story.
Waubonsie Valley may have turned the corner Friday, however. After watching Naperville Central trim their lead from 13 points early in the fourth quarter to 51-45 with a little more than three minutes remaining, the Warriors put the brakes on the Redhawks' run and pulled away for a 59-47 victory.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the Warriors and gave first-year coach Jason Mead his first DuPage Valley Conference victory.
"The good news is we got a lead and we held it," said Mead, a Hoffman Estates product who came over after coaching at Dixon the previous five years. "When they made a run, we held them off and executed well enough to make some shots. We didn't go crazy when we were up by 8, 10 points late in the game."
"We had a couple of times when we drove into No. 44 (Naperville Central's 6-foot-8 junior Benjamin Wolf) and shot one-footed layups and he swatted us out of the gym, but for the most part we were really disciplined in the third and fourth quarters and we didn't rush anything unless it was there."
A three-point play by three-year varsity starter Brian Phillips gave Waubonsie Valley (4-5, 1-3) its biggest lead of the game at 45-32 with 6:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, but back-to-back 3-pointers by Naperville Central's Thomas Dahl got the hosts within 6 points.
That was as close as the Redhawks would get, however. Luke Gregorio, Phillips and sophomore Eric Cannon combined to make six consecutive free throws while the Warriors were limiting Naperville Central to a floater in the lane by Nick Kramer.
"The difference was we made our free throws tonight," said Phillips, who contributed three makes without a miss while the Warriors were going 10 of 11 from the free-throw line over the final eight minutes. "That was huge for us.
"Also, we just slowed down the game mentally," he added. "We were able to run our sets and execute. Bottom line, that was it."
Six-foot-3 junior Blake Blanzy came off the bench to lead Waubonsie Valley with 15 points, including three 3-pointers. Phillips added 14 points, Gregorio had 12 points and 4 assists, and junior Chuck Robinson collected 8 rebounds to go with his 8 points.
Kramer had 16 points and Wolf and Noah Swope each added 10 points for Naperville Central (3-7, 0-4).
"I think we're better than our record," Phillips said. "We're finally getting on the same page and communicating on and off the court. We're finally piecing everything together, so I think it's only on the way up from here."