Winning start for Naperville Central
Over the past three years, Naperville Central's boys basketball team has grown accustomed to going home with some hardware at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic.
The Redhawks took away third-place trophies the past two season, and in 2011 they walked away with the championship.
This year's edition started off on the right foot in the 37th annual tournament, as Naperville Central ousted the host Wildcats 54-39 Monday night.
"It's always hard to win the first game of the tournament on your opponent's home floor," said Redhawks coach Pete Kramer. "But we got the win and we're in the winners bracket."
One big reason was the dominant play of 6-foot 7 junior center Harrison Hallstrom. He scored 23 points, going 7-for-11 from the field and 9-for-13 from the free throw line along with corralling 11 rebounds.
"He was a factor in this game, " said Kramer. "He's been stringing together some pretty good games for us."
Alex Pomeroy added 9 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Nate Dahl also added 9 points and Michael Meier was 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
"Meier did a real nice job of handling the offense and finding open players," said Kramer.
With the game tied at 10 after the first quarter, Hallstrom went to work in the second. He scored the first three baskets of the quarter for Redhawks (9-4), including a tip-in. Then he assisted on basket by Dahl to make it 18-13 in favor of Naperville Central.
A basket by Hallstrom with 2:00 left in the first half increased the lead to 27-19. Wheeling (3-6) closed the gap to 27-24 at the half on a 3-point basket by Ryan Caulfield (13 points) and a basket by Ola Arogundade, who also scored 13 for the Wildcats.
Naperville led 34-26 and kept the Wildcats at arm's length the rest of the quarter to keep a 40-33 lead.
Arogundade scored all of Wheeling's 6 points in the fourth quarter, his last coming at the 2:20 mark on a basket to make the score 45-39 in favor of the Redhawks.
Naperville Central closed out the game with a 9-0 run. The Redhawks connected on 24 of 36 free throws and went 10 of 13 in the fourth quarter.
"We were a bit sloppy with the ball (13 turnovers) at times but when we had to made plays and hit our free throws," said Kramer.
Hallstrom made 5 of 6 foul shots in the fourth quarter.
"A lot of the time I was doubled-teamed," said Hallstrom. "Since the beginning of the season my shot has improved and my defense is getting better day by day. As a team we have to improve on our man defense. Our 1-2-2 zone is pretty good. We usually can keep teams in the 40s."
The Wildcats did not fare well from the field, shooting 16 of 45, and also comitted 16 turnovers. The Redhawks connected on 15 of 33 shots.
"Hallstrom just dominated us inside," said Wheeling coach Anthony Como. "They controlled the boards (25-19) and got to the free throw line, they made them. You can't play like that and expect to move into the winner's bracket. We lacked emotion and had just too many breakdowns."