Buffalo Grove handles Naperville Central
Buffalo Grove's boys basketball team likes to think it has bonded, and from the way it plays, you can tell that's true.
Missed shot? No worries. Kam Craft, Nate Cole or Tom Trieb is there to clean it up. Opposition pressing? Hello Mike Nowakowski, polished point guard who can break a press as slickly as he can make his way to the basket. Or hit a key free throw down the stretch in the clutch.
He was 4-of-4 in the fourth quarter of a Bison Classic game Friday night in which only 8 free throws were even attempted as Buffalo Grove used Craft's all-around game (28 points), Nowakoski's ability to stay cool under pressure and key contributions from Matthew Brunelli and Tyler Kipley in a 54-43 win over a young, stubborn Naperville Central team that refused to go away after BG (2-1) opened what would be its final margin in the first quarter.
Craft hit his first 8 shots, three of them deep 3-pointers as BG sprinted out ahead against a Redhawks team that couldn't get a handle on him in its man defense. He had 21 of his game-high 28 in the first half.
"He's such an exceptional scorer. He's a great teammate," BG coach Keith Peterson said of his slick-shooting 6-foot-4 freshman.
By the time Naperville Central got a handle on Craft, switching to a zone in the second half to try to limit his touches, it was too late. The Redhawks got within 9 twice on the scoring of Cameron Dougherty, Chris Conway and Payton Thorne, but no closer and head coach Pete Kramer knows why.
"We just couldn't knock down shots," he said after his team went 22-of-51 from the floor, many of them open looks after BG switched to a zone to force the Redhawks into perimeter shooting and help the athletic Trieb remain effective without fouling out.
Trieb finished with 7 key points, including putbacks of his own misses and Craft's. BG outrebounded the taller Redhawks, 30-19.
The Redhawks got 15 points from Dougherty, who showed no fear inside against Cole, Trieb and Craft, but as a team, only hit 3-of-15 3-point attempts. Kramer's tall but young squad has only one starter back.
"We're playing hard," he said.
Nowakowski, meanwhile, handled Naperville Central's switching pressure defenses and knocked down his free throws.
"He's been a great leader so far," said Peterson.
Just the same way Craft, the freshman, has blended in.
"We've really bonded as a team," Trieb said, calling Craft "easy" to get along with. "We just all hang together, even off the court."
Peterson is just glad to have Trieb back from a football injury.
"It's great he's playing at the caliber he's at," the coach said.
The Bison will look to maintain that caliber Saturday night in their Bison Classic finale against Glenbrook South. Naperville Central (1-2) takes on talented Zion-Benton.