In the grand scheme of things, Tyler O'Brien's 3-point shot at the buzzer of the first quarter was not all that important. But it was a microcosm of the way things went Friday night at Naperville Central.
The shot rolled around the rim and eventually fell through to give the host Redhawks an 18-6 lead on Metea Valley. It was just one of many big plays turned in by the Redhawks on both sides of the floor in a dominating DuPage Valley Conference victory that was nowhere near as close as the 62-41 final score.
O'Brien finished with a game-high 23 points, knocking down three 3s but also making 12 of 14 free throws as Naperville Central improved to 6-1 on the year and 3-0 in the DVC. After that buzzer-beater capped a strong first quarter his team built leads of 33-11 at the half and 50-16 after three quarters before clearing the bench.
"I think the coaching in the first and second quarters was really good. They realized who had the hot hand and they were calling plays for both me and Cam (Dougherty) and they were letting us play," said O'Brien, a senior guard. "I've got my confidence going and teammates were encouraging me and my coaches were encouraging me and I got my shots to fall tonight."
Dougherty, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, also started quickly with a pair of 3s in the first quarter, when he combined with O'Brien to tally 16 of the Redhawks' 18 points. With the pair so hot, no one seemed to notice or care that center Ben Wolf didn't make a field goal in the first half.
But Dougherty, like coach Pete Kramer, was just as impressed with the team's defense.
"At the beginning of the season, Kramer told us we could score, like even in the summer," Dougherty said. "He said the big thing was, could we defend? Every game this season we've come out and really cracked down on defense, which has been pretty big because we can put up points."
Wolf got going with three baskets in the third quarter, including a big dunk off a feed from Nicholas Baskin that put his team up 43-12.
"We have a lot of shooters and then obviously you can throw it into Ben and get a bucket 85 percent of the time," Dougherty said.
For the Mustangs, Friday was rough from the get-go. The shots just would not fall -- Metea made 4 of 36 shots through three quarters -- and coach Matt Walpole also was not too thrilled with the team's defense.
"They beat us in every phase of the game," said Walpole, whose team dropped to 3-4, 1-2. "They came out just ready to roll, and we didn't. We weren't ready to compete tonight and I'm not sure why."
He did, however, like the way his bench played late. Ernest Neal paced the Mustangs with 9 points off the bench and fellow reserve Veonte Ballard added 7.
"I was darn proud of my guys that played the last 3-4 minutes. They showed some effort and heart but that was lacking most of the game," the Mustangs coach said.