Like telling someone not to think of an elephant -- knowing full well that it then becomes impossible not to -- the Naperville North basketball players have tried to keep Feb. 21 from overwhelming their thoughts.
But after posting a 53-37 DuPage Valley Conference victory at Waubonsie Valley on Friday, the Huskies know they can turn their full attention to next Wednesday, when they will host Wheaton Warrenville South with the winner claiming the DVC title.
"We've had to be careful about that," Naperville North coach Jeff Powers said about looking too far ahead. "I told the guys that tonight we got a share of the conference, but I don't want to share it."
Friday's contest was a classic trap game for the Huskies (23-2, 14-1). It not only came in advance of the WW South showdown but three days after they defeated archrival Naperville Central. That appeared apparent in a first half in which they scored only 21 points and their best offense was the missed shot; Jack Barry, Tom Welch and Kevin Lang converted offensive rebounds into baskets.
That was the difference when the Huskies still held a 21-14 lead at halftime with the Warriors (12-17, 6-9) doing themselves no favors by not only being lax on the boards, but also missing 4 of 6 free throws over the first two quarters. That helped explain why the closest they could get to the Huskies was 13-10 on Derrien Porter's free throw despite Naperville North missing 4 shots and committing 3 turnovers in going the first five minutes of the second period scoreless.
"Giving up offensive rebounds is part of playing defense, so if we don't want to block out, we don't want to win," said Waubonsie coach Jason Mead. "(Naperville North) is big and disciplined, they do what they're told, they've got a couple shooters, and we're small and not disciplined, which makes it hard for us. We also didn't execute our offense at all; we kind of lost our minds a bit."
After their early struggles, the Huskies kicked it into overdrive in the third quarter, making 8 of 12 shots from the field and scoring 22 points in less than seven minutes after needing 16 to score 21 in the first half. Barry led the barrage with 10 points as Naperville North opened a 43-24 lead after three periods.
Now it's on to the DVC showdown, with Powers feeling very good about how his team is playing and happy that Chris Johnson -- who had 13 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists -- is rounding into shape after missing six games with a concussion, including Naperville North's 39-36 loss at WW South on Jan. 20.
"He's a warrior and starting to get it back, there's nothing like game play to get going," Powers said. "Wheaton Warrenville South is a good team, they know how to run their stuff, but we know what we have to do to stop them."