Naperville North bows out to Bolingbrook
DeKALB -- You'd have to drag Mitch Lewis off the basketball court, but at some point it had to end.
Naperville North's dream season came to a halt with Tuesday's 83-57 loss to Bolingbrook in the Class 4A Northern Illinois University supersectional in DeKalb, but not before an all-out effort from the Huskies to somehow narrow the gap.
Lewis and the other regulars ultimately left the game with about two minutes to play, leaving behind a legacy that was 19 years in the making. The last time the Huskies (25-6) won a sectional title was in 1998, and this year's squad rightfully takes its place among the best in program history.
On one of the state's premier stages for prep basketball, the Huskies -- especially their nine seniors -- deserved their final bow.
"You're playing in a college arena against the No. 2 team in the state," said Lewis, a senior three-year starter. "If you don't have nerves, you're not ready."
There was simply too much Bolingbrook (29-1) on Tuesday. Too much athleticism, too much transition, too much relentless attacking from all five players on the court.
Naperville North led twice late in the first quarter after Bolingbrook's first run, but the Raiders just kept coming. A 13-2 run spanning the second and third quarters boosted Bolingbrook's lead to 45-28, and the Huskies couldn't shrink it to single digits the rest of the game.
"Coach kept telling us 'score, stop, score,' so every time we scored we had to get back on defense and get a stop," said Raiders senior Malik Binns, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds. "We just tried to continue that throughout the game."
Naperville North's Tyler Carlson, Youcef Merabet and Tabo Tarun knocked down early 3-pointers, but for the game the Huskies made only 6 of 25 perimeter shots. Seven of the Huskies' 16 turnovers, meanwhile, came in the third quarter as the Raiders pushed the lead to 20 points.
Bolingbrook made 21 of 34 free-throw attempts, allowing four starters to hit double-figure scoring. Even with Nebraska-bound Nana Akenten scoring only 9 points, the Raiders still had their offense rolling.
"They have a lot of weapons and they're very explosive," said Huskies coach Jeff Powers. "Their quickness surprised us."
The Huskies came a victory shy of matching the program record of 26 wins in a season, but next season's team now has the motivation to make a run at it. Six-foot-seven junior Chris Johnson and 6-6 sophomore Tom Welch return as starters, and several juniors you'll get to know quickly also return.
"I got the privilege of playing with Mitch, Winston (Elston) and Cam (Hardy) these last two years and they've taught me so much about leadership and everything," Johnson said. "I'm just going to try to take all of that and bring it over to next year."
Johnson scored 13 points to lead the Huskies while Lewis and Welch had 12 points apiece. Kaleb Thornton scored 20 points, Tyler Cochran 18 and Joseph Yesufu 10 points for Bolingbrook.
Bolingbrook advances to play Simeon (29-3), a 76-64 winner over Edwardsville, in the Class 4A semifinals at 7:15 p.m. Friday at Peoria's Carver Arena. It's the Raiders' second trip to Peoria in three years after finishing third in 4A in 2015.
"Obviously (Simeon is) the most storied program in the state of Illinois," said Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost. "We're honored to be there, but we don't just want to be there. When you get to the dance you want to stay for more than one song."
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