No matter how much better Naperville North's boys basketball team has played since late December, the Huskies still didn't have that signature win.
They sure got it on Saturday.
Naperville North stunned Evanston, the second-ranked team in Class 4A, edging the Wildkits 65-63 in overtime and handing them their first loss to an Illinois team at Glenbard East's When Sides Collide Shootout in Lombard.
The Huskies (13-4), winners of seven straight, broke a 60-60 tie by knocking down 5 of 6 free throws in the final 25 seconds. After sophomore Tom Welch split two free throws with 9.3 seconds left to make it 65-63, Evanston (15-3) couldn't get the equalizer.
"Coming into this game we knew we were the underdogs," said Huskies senior Youcef Merabet, who came off the bench to score 20 points. "We knew it'd be a tough battle, and we just had to step up. It was a team effort. We had heart."
Naperville North trailed the bulk of the game -- by 13 points with 6:25 left in the third quarter. The Huskies also endured a five-minute scoring drought in the second quarter.
After rallying to tie late in the third quarter, the Huskies fell behind by 7 early in the fourth. Again the Huskies rallied but couldn't get the lead despite numerous opportunities.
Naperville North led for the first time at 55-54 on a Merabet bucket, then led 56-54 with 19 seconds left when Mitch Lewis, who scored 18 points, split two free throws. Nojel Eastern, who led all scorers with 30 points, sent the game to overtime after making two free throws with two seconds left.
"We've been playing better every game," said Huskies coach Jeff Powers. "We really wanted a game like this. I'm proud of our kids."
Chris Johnson had 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks for Naperville North. Chris Hamil scored 14 points for Evanston.
"We just had to play our game and stick to it," Merabet said. "That's what we did in the second half and it carried us to victory."
Willowbrook 48, Glenbard East 33:
One quarter of near perfection cured three quarters of pure frustration.
A dominant fourth quarter paved the way for Willowbrook's 48-33 victory over Glenbard East in Saturday's final game at the When Sides Collide Shootout in Lombard.
Nursing a 32-30 lead after three quarters, Willowbrook (18-1) scored the first 16 points of the fourth quarter and held the Rams (1-19) scoreless in the period until a 3-pointer in the game's waning seconds. The Warriors rolled to their 11th straight victory despite shooting 24 percent from the field, including 1-of-16 first-quarter shooting.
"On the defensive end we just had to keep playing hard and adjusting our sets," said Willowbrook senior Iman Reynolds, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Glenbard East also shot 24 percent for the game, including 1-of-16 fourth-quarter shooting to bookend Willowbrook's first quarter. James Peterkin scored all his game-high 17 points in the first half.
"I thought we really battled for almost three quarters, and I don't know if we ran out ran out of gas," said Rams coach Scott Miller. "We couldn't put the ball in the basket. I thought we had some good looks."
Ethan Schuemer scored 9 points and pulled down 10 points for Willowbrook, which trailed by as much as 24-16 after Peterkin's 3-pointer in the final minute of the first half.
"(The offensive) side of the ball wasn't going for us early in the game," said Willowbrook coach Chris Perkins. "But that's going to happen sometimes. Like we told the guys, you're not going to come out hot every single time."
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