Having already pocketed a pair of double-digit victories over Metea Valley during the regular season, Naperville North's basketball team wasn't about to let the underdog Mustangs hang around Tuesday night.
Trailing 2-0 after Mustangs sophomore Ethan Helwig's steal and layup 13 seconds into the game, the fourth-seeded Huskies (22-5) responded with 16 unanswered points and grabbed a 20-5 first-quarter advantage.
From there Naperville North continued its dominance the rest of the way during a 76-34 Class 4A regional semifinal victory over 20th-seeded Metea Valley (10-20) in Batavia.
Senior guard Yousef Merabet and junior center Chris Johnson scored 6 points apiece during the Huskies' early 16-0 tear that featured stingy half-court defense.
"I was real proud of how our defense started out," said Huskies coach Jeff Powers. "Mitch (Lewis), Chris (Johnson) and Tom (Welch) -- our big three -- they got some easy baskets and got us off early."
Lewis, a senior guard, used his strong 6-foot-6 frame and reach to come up with three first-quarter steals that led to layups at the offensive end.
"I thought Mitch set the tone early on the defensive side," Powers said. "I think our kids were fired up to play some defense. We had 34 team deflections -- that's an awesome number. Our defensive touches were off the charts."
"We work on tracing the ball in practice and pressure defense," said Johnson, who finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. "If they do get by us, we've got help side so we're all working. Our chemistry is coming together more and more."
One night after rallying for an emotional 70-63 overtime regional quarterfinal triumph over host Batavia, Metea Valley struggled in nearly statistical category against the more experienced Huskies.
"We looked shellshocked," said Mustangs coach Matt Walpole, whose team shot just 32 percent from the field and committed 24 turnovers. "We looked confused and they took advantage of it early.
"The game got away from us pretty quick. I put that on myself in terms of preparation."
Metea Valley, which trailed 36-14 at halftime and 55-26 after three quarters, received just 9 points from its starting lineup. Sophomore sixth man Payton Thorne paced the Mustangs with 9 points.
"This was a tough one tonight," Walpole said. "There's no other way to put it."
Lewis led the Huskies with 12 points, while Welch and reserve guard Winston Elston each added 10 points. Merabet and Tyler Carlson chipped in with 9 and 7 points, respectively.
"That's what we do," Powers said of his team's balanced scoring.
Walpole remains impressed with the Huskies after his team's 0-3 finish against them this season.
"They don't have a whole lot of weaknesses," Walpole said. "They're a team that is hitting on all cylinders right now."
A winner of 15 of its last 16, Naperville North awaits either Addison Trail or Willowbrook in Friday's regional championship.
"We've been upset in the past so we just want to go get it here," Johnson said.