Naperville North thwarts Glenbard North

 
By Stan Goff
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 3/2/2015 10:52 PM

Glenbard North zoned in on giving Naperville North a much tougher time this week than last, and the Panthers did just that. It wasn't quite enough to pull off the upset.

A three-win Panthers squad that was beaten by 21 points less than a week ago led 28-26 early in the third quarter on Monday following a 3-pointer from Nick Lavere. But Naperville North then countered with a 14-0 run that sent the favorites on their way to a 60-49 quarterfinal win in the Class 4A West Aurora regional.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

It was a patient attack on offense coupled with a zone defense that slowed the usually fast Huskies attack for one half. But Naperville North (16-10) picked up a trio of key 3-pointers from reserves Winston Elston, Chris Gajcak and Brian Dalton to stay close in the second quarter. Then it took off in the second half as starters Cam Hardy, Jelani McClain and Baylor Griffin came up big.

"I think what saved us was Gajcak, Dalton and Winston all coming in and hitting big 3s in the second quarter, keeping us close," said Naperville North coach Jeff Powers, whose hot team will face West Aurora in Wednesday's regional semifinals. "Then in the third quarter Cam got going, Jelani made some great plays and Griff, same old Griff … when we need baskets he figures out how to get it done."

Hardy hit a pair of 3s while scoring 8 points in the third quarter. McClain, who scored all 10 of his points in the second half, added a pair of baskets as the Huskies outscored Glenbard North 16-10 to take a 42-35 lead into the fourth quarter.

"In the first quarter the starters weren't really getting it done," McClain said. "We came out a little flat I would say. But we had a big boost off the bench from Brian, Chris Gajcak and Winston hitting those three 3s back, to back to back. That was a big uplift for us, and then in the second half we were able to get it done."

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Following the 3-pointer from Lavere -- who led all scorers with 18 points -- Naperville North fired back with a trio from Hardy, a put-back by Griffin, a steal and a layup from McClain and then a layup by Hardy. A pair of Panthers timeouts couldn't stop the surge. McClain added another steal and layup and Hardy hit another 3 off a drive and kick out by Mitch Lewis. Just like that the 14-0 run had the Huskies on top 40-28 with 2:25 left to play.

"As coach was saying we just turned the knife. We picked up the energy and got the job done," McClain said.

Panthers coach Joe Larson had no complaints about his team's game plan or its effort on the court.

"I thought the zone packing it in slowed their tempo down. That's a team that really wants to get up and down the floor," he said. "So I thought our guys executed really well tonight. I thought they played a good ballgame."

But Larson's team could only hold off the Huskies so long.

"They're a good team," he said of the No. 11-seeded Huskies. "They're a good team that could definitely win this regional for sure. They beat a lot of good teams this year and they've got some weapons that are dangerous. We wanted to try and slow them down; slow those weapons down as much as we could."

Griffin, who finished with 17 points and 2 steals, is looking forward to Wednesday's game with No. 6 West Aurora on the Blackhawks floor.

"This is their first year out of the (DuPage Valley) conference," the 6-foot-3 senior said. "We lost twice last year, so this is a perfect time to get them now."

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