Great basketball? Not so much.
Exciting basketball? Absolutely.
In one of the more entertaining cross-town games in recent years, Naperville North held on for Friday's 44-42 DuPage Valley Conference victory over visiting Naperville Central.
The Huskies' Jack Hill split a pair of free throws with 11 seconds left, setting up a last chance for Naperville Central. Tyler O'Brien got a good look, but his 3-pointer went off the front of the rim.
Naperville North battled for the rebound and Tom Welch raced down the court with the ball to end the game and keep the Huskies (14-1, 6-0) as the DVC's lone unbeaten team.
While the Huskies survived 9-of-19 free-throw shooting, Naperville Central nearly rallied despite 30 percent shooting from the field.
"We started to make some mental mistakes, you could see it with the turnovers and the lack of concentration," said Huskies senior center Chris Johnson, who scored all 12 of his points in the first half. "We just knew we had to keep our composure. We had our lead. Just take a breath and keep going."
Ryan Laurenzo scored late in the third quarter to give the Huskies a 36-24 lead, and then Naperville North led 41-31 with 3:53 left in the fourth quarter on a Kevin Lang basket. Naperville Central (11-3, 4-2) still almost came all the way back.
A 9-0 run featured a putback by sophomore Cameron Dougherty, three free throws by Dillon Kane and a pair of misses on the front end of 1-and-1s by the Huskies. When Ben Wolf made a pair of free throws with 36 seconds left, the Redhawks were within 41-40.
"I'm extremely proud of the way our kids fought in the second half," said Redhawks coach Pete Kramer. "I'm not sure if we've played a worse game this year. But they gave us a chance to win the game, and that's all you can ask."
Lang and O'Brien traded baskets in the final half minute, setting the stage for the thrilling finale.
Johnson, who grabbed 8 rebounds and blocked 3 shots, led all scorers. Laurenzo scored 7 of his 9 points in the third quarter. Daniel Raab had 8 points off the bench for Naperville Central, and five other players tallied 6 points for the Redhawks.
"It was just a game of wills and our kids came out at the end with some good defense," said Huskies coach Jeff Powers. "Our defense was spectacular today. Our defense won that game."
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