Three months of focus ended in DuPage Valley Conference perfection for Wheaton Warrenville South's boys basketball team.
Don't expect the celebration to last too long, though. Shortly after Wednesday's 38-35 victory over visiting Naperville North in the regular-season finale, the Tigers already began focusing on the playoffs.
"It's always about grit and playing smart," said Tigers senior forward Dillon Durrett, who led his team with 12 points. "We're just trying to stay in the moment and not look too far ahead."
WW South (27-1, 16-0), winner of 14 straight, already wrapped up the outright DVC title but Wednesday's game was a terrific postseason tuneup for both teams. Naperville North (21-5, 13-3) saw its 15-game winning streak snapped, but the Huskies know there's little reason for concern.
If the top-seeded Tigers and No. 4 Naperville North meet in the Class 4A Hinsdale Central sectional semifinals, it'd be another doozy.
"Our mentality is game-by-game," said Huskies senior forward Mitch Lewis, who scored a game-high 15 points. "We're going to scout whoever we have and we're going to get a game plan."
WW South led virtually the entire game before sophomore Tom Welch tied it at 29 for Naperville North with 5:02 left in the fourth quarter. The Tigers extended the advantage to 34-29 on Chase Stebbins' 3-pointer and a bucket by Durrett, but the Huskies pulled within 36-35 on Lewis' three-point play and Youcef Merabet's 3-pointer.
Jake Healy, who scored 10 points, answered with a pair of free throws to boost the Tigers' advantage to 38-35 with 20.2 seconds left. The Huskies missed a 3-pointer in the final five seconds and could only manage a desperation heave at the buzzer following a pair of missed free throws by the Tigers.
"The last time we had this feeling was 15 games ago, and we don't like this feeling, so hopefully it'll be 15 more games before we get this feeling again," said Naperville North coach Jeff Powers. "The guys are confident they're going to come back."
WW South overcame 4-of-11 free-throw shooting while committing only 9 turnovers. The Tigers twice reached their biggest lead of 8 points in the third quarter, but the Huskies, who committed 6 turnovers, answered with an 8-0 run to tie it.
"I told them that they don't realize what they've done this year," said Tigers coach Mike Healy. "It's been special. And you know what, they don't care right now because they're ready to practice tomorrow and get ready for something else."
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