With not one but two big, talented post players, Naperville North opponents are going to need to collapse down low whenever the basketball makes it into the paint.
But what the Huskies proved on Monday night is that their bigs can also find an open teammate. That's what 6-foot-7 Chris Johnson and 6-6 Tom Welch did almost as much damage passing the ball in their opener with Hinsdale Central as they did finishing around the rim.
The two posts combined for 33 points but also paired up for 9 assists as Naperville North picked up a 63-50 win on the first day of the Hoops For Healing tourney in Naperville.
"I was pleased for the first game, with our energy and the way we moved the ball against a very tough defensive team," Huskies coach Jeff Powers said. "Yeah, I was pleased."
Naperville North jumped off to a 14-3 lead as Jared McIntyre and Jack Hill knocked down 3-pointers. The Red Devils made a couple runs of their own to keep the game close from there, but just could not contain Johnson, Welch and the big guys' strong supporting cast.
"That was a good game to get our confidence up," said Welch, who tallied a game-high 20 points but also recorded 6 assists and 2 blocked shots. "We knew that me and Chris had an advantage down low so we took advantage of that. Everything kind of went our way today and got our confidence up."
The Huskies led 17-11 after one quarter, 30-18 at the half and had a comfortable 50-31 advantage entering the fourth quarter. Johnson, who didn't even attempt a shot in the first quarter and made his first field goal midway through the second quarter, finished the night with 13 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks and some nice assists of his own.
But the guy who ran the offense much of the night was Hill, a senior point guard. He hit a pair of 3s in the first half, keyed a pressure defense along with McIntyre that caused problems for Hinsdale Central, and also 6 assists.
"For a first game we ran it pretty smoothly," Hill said. "Sometimes we did struggle, we didn't move the ball as well as we wanted to. But when we did move the ball we got wide open shots so that was good."
Hill knows that getting the ball inside usually results in something good for the Huskies.
"If we get it to them they either score or find the open man. They're good passers as well," he said.
Matt Rush paced the Red Devils with 11 points, while Charlie Lyne added 8 points off the bench. On defense the inexperienced squad had its hands full all night dealing with Naperville North's size.
"They're very good. Their bigs are very experienced and talented and skilled. I was proud of the fact that I thought we had a couple opportunities to give up and we continued to fight," Hinsdale Central coach Nick Latorre said. "We made a few runs, but it was tough. Once they got the ball down there we didn't have enough to be able to hang with their size inside.
"It was not the kind of team you wanted to chase because when they needed runs they pounded it inside."