Wheaton Warrenville South's senior boys basketball players could tell you exactly how long it's been since their junior season ended.
To the minute.
Saturday may not have been the playoffs, but the Tigers cleansed themselves of some of last year's demons by beating visiting Naperville North 39-36 to wrap up the first round of DuPage Valley Conference play.
The second round begins Tuesday with the Huskies (15-2, 7-1) and WW South (16-4, 7-1) tied for first, a game ahead of Naperville Central.
For the record, it's been more than 10 months since Naperville North edged WW South in the sectional semifinals, a loss that particularly stung the Tigers because of the 15 free throws they missed in a 5-point loss.
In Saturday's win the Tigers made 9 of 10 free throws to go along with their 10 field goals...all 3-pointers.
"What's in the past is in the past, but obviously we keep it in the back of our heads," said Tigers senior Jake Healy, who hit three 3-pointers and all four of his free-throw attempts to finish with 13 points. "It was good to get the win. There was a good chance it was going to come down to free throws, so we worked on that a lot during practice. When it came down to it, we hit them."
Naperville North came into the game severely short-handed without third-year starting post player Chris Johnson, who missed the game due to an injury suffered in Friday's win over Waubonsie Valley. Huskies coach Jeff Powers said Johnson will be in the concussion protocol.
The Huskies also had junior Tom Welch coming off the bench after a shoulder injury kept him out of practice all week and forced him to miss Friday's game.
Naperville North still rallied from a 7-point deficit to take a 28-24 lead after three quarters. The Huskies twice matched their largest lead of 4 points -- once on a Jack Hill 3-pointer near the end of the third quarter and again on a Jared McIntyre 3 near the start of the fourth.
The Huskies' backcourt stepped up to combine for 24 points with the post game limited, but the last 4-point edge disappeared on a 3-pointer by the Tigers' Matt Brodhead, who scored 9 points.
"Any time you don't have Chris Johnson, it's really going to hurt you," said Naperville North coach Jeff Powers. "But I'm really proud of our kids. Our kids played outstanding without their big monster leader in the middle."
Welch scored to tie it at 33 with 2:14 left in the game, but the Tigers went 6 of 6 from the line the rest of the way. McIntyre's 3-pointer was answered by a pair of Healy free throws that put the Tigers' advantage at 39-36 with 24 seconds left.
WW South used a flurry of available team fouls in the waning seconds to disrupt the Huskies' offense, and Naperville North couldn't get a decent shot to tie.
"It's been a difficult time after how last year ended, but I think our seniors really felt it," said Tigers coach Mike Healy. "Three of them (Healy, Chase Stebbins and Parker Robinson) played in that game last year. When a special season ends, and the way it ended, it hurts. And all three of them played great tonight."
Follow Kevin on Twitter