Mitch Lewis knew all too well just how bad it feels to come up short in a boys basketball regional final, and he wanted no part of a repeat Friday night at Batavia.
So after Naperville North found itself trailing Addison Trail 29-27 at the half in the Class 4A regional title game, Lewis and his teammates knew the Huskies had to deliver a big second half. With Lewis leading the way, fourth-seeded Naperville North delivered big time, using a 26-8 dominance in the third quarter on the way to a 71-51 defeat of the Blazers.
Lewis, a three-year varsity regular, made sure the Huskies' season didn't end at the regional round like it had last year. The 6-foot-6 senior guard put on a show in the third quarter with a number of spinning moves to the rim, some of which ended with his own layups, while others were finished off by teammates given a quick pass under the basket.
"A couple of us have been on varsity since sophomore year so we felt what it was like to lose in this game," said Lewis, who finished the night with a video-game line of 21 points, 14 rebounds and 6 assists. "Going back to the locker room (at the half) that feeling kind of crept back up and we just washed it away. We knew we had to do something to not let that feeling come back."
Tyler Carlson helped the Huskies feel better by knocking down a pair of 3s in the huge third quarter, and Lewis came up big on both ends of the floor. But the 23-5 Huskies had plenty of other help, including big games from bigs Tom Welch and Chris Johnson, who combined for 27 points in the game, 17 of which came in the second half.
"I haven't been on varsity that long, but I have been staying with the program," said Welch, a sophomore who had 12 points, including a third-quarter dunk that put the Huskies up 51-37. "We've been to this game a couple times recently and to win one is great."
Friday's regional crown is Naperville North's first since 2006 and the first one for coach Jeff Powers at the school. With the win the Huskies earn another shot at DuPage Valley Conference champion Wheaton Warrenville South, which claimed the West Chicago regional crown.
"We were 2 for 14, a little tight from the 3s in the first half," Powers said. "But then Tyler hit one and opened up the door and then just Mitch's calmness, and his demeanor to take care of things. He took charge.
"Chris (Johnson) and Tommy (Welch) were pretty good and the defense tightened up. Good stuff from our boys."
For the Blazers, guard Jack Kalbas hit two of his trio of 3s as the underdogs led 19-15 after one quarter. The No. 12 seed then clung to a 29-27 lead at the half behind 9 points from Kalbas and 7 points and 5 rebounds from Breydon Hargrove. Colton Noel led the team with 13 points in the game and Michael Williams added 11, but Addison Trail just couldn't keep up with the Huskies in the second half.
"They have a lot of weapons, they're big, and they played big tonight," Blazers coach Brendan Lyons said after his season ended at 18-12. "I thought our start in the third quarter really hurt us. We had a couple turnovers, and once Lewis got going … and he's at his best when he's penetrating and distributing and you have to collapse so much on him … then Carlson shot it well, and they just wore us a down."