Less than a month after Naperville Central got the better of Wheaton North in Naperville, the Falcons hosted the Redhawks on Friday night with the DuPage Valley Conference play winding down. And the rematch had an entirely different complexion.
With Naperville Central big man Ben Wolf battling illness and missing his second consecutive game, Wheaton North took advantage by dominating inside on their way to a 47-35 victory.
After both teams came out shooting well in the opening period, Wheaton North (14-12, 9-6) settled in on both ends of the floor. At the end of the first quarter, Falcons guard Jacob Schauer hit an off-balance 15-footer from the left wing as time expired to give his team a 14-12 lead heading into the second quarter.
That's where Wheaton North truly took over, and everything the Falcons did at both ends was underscored by their complete dominance on the boards. The Falcons used 6-foot-7 senior Josh Sorenson and 6-7 junior Deng Reng to capitalize on the absence of the 6-8 Wolf by grabbing 17 rebounds to Naperville Central's 4 in the first half.
"I think we learned our lesson. We played Glenbard West (on Feb. 3) without their best player (Evan Taylor) and laid an egg," Wheaton North coach Dave Brackmann said. "It can alter your game plan a little bit. We thought, 'OK, we can really focus more inside.'
"But defensively it didn't change our game plan at all. Last time we played them we were a little tentative defensively and tonight we wanted to step it up and control the game a little bit more."
Brayden Anthony poured in 8 of his 13 points in the second quarter and helped give Wheaton North a 31-20 cushion heading into the half. The Falcons assisted 6 of their 9 made field goals in the opening half and also hit 10 of 12 from the free-throw line.
In the second half offense became a little bit more difficult for the Falcons to come by, but their defense guided them through. Wheaton North held Naperville Central to 20 percent shooting in the second half.
"(Wolf) is a big part of our team -- what we are and what we do," Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said. "We're not used to not having him and we've had to adjust. And I'm very surprised the way we shot the ball tonight."
Still, Naperville Central (18-9, 9-6) was got a late third-quarter layup from sophomore Cameron Dougherty and trailed just 35-27 as they entered the fourth quarter. Senior guard Tyler O'Brien paced the Redhawks with 13 points on the night and Dougherty managed 12.
Wheaton North got all the offense it needed early in the fourth quarter and used their defense and continued dominance on the glass to keep Naperville Central at arm's length the remainder of the night.
Sorenson finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds as Wheaton North won the battle on the boards 29-15 for the night. Reng also chipped in 8 rebounds and Anthony grabbed 5 more.
"That's what we've been preaching all year. We're trying to become a really good defensive team because if you are you can sustain shooting slumps and rough offensive patches," Brackmann said.
And with just two regular-season games remaining, Brackmann feels like the Falcons are trending in the right direction before the postseason.
"We're a 14 seed (in the Glenbard East sectional), but we're gonna be the kind of team that people don't want to play," he said. "We've had our ups and downs this year, but we've been playing well our last couple weeks and we just want to keep getting better."