Naperville Central regrets one that got away
Naperville Central players weren't focused on how well they played against a talented, much taller Homewood-Flossmoor girls basketball team Friday afternoon.
They also were thinking they should have won the Tip-Off Tournament game in Lisle instead of losing 51-49.
"It's a bummer we couldn't get the win, but I think everybody played really well," said Redhawks senior forward Lauren Umbright.
"We want to say we did some things pretty well," Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum added. "We played pretty well in some areas. And then at the same time losing's not OK."
Homewood-Flossmoor (4-1) had an obvious size advantage, but the Redhawks found a way to combat it with effort. Take for instance the play guard Katlyn Allen made in the second quarter, sprawling across midcourt for a loose ball, then from her back passing to teammate Aditi Prasad for a layup to cut the Homewood-Flossmoor lead to 14-13.
"We took advantage of (the size advantage) some," Vikings coach Tony Smith said. "I wish we could have made a couple more easy ones down there.
"But they play hard. Naperville Central plays hard. Nussbaum, he's a veteran coach, he's been doing it a long time. He had the kids ready to go. They were scrappy, feisty, they got offensive boards (even though) we had about 4 or 5 inches above them."
The 5-8 Umbright did her best work on the boards, snagging 14 rebounds, half of them on the offensive end.
"She can get up in the air," Nussbaum said. "She's learned that if I'm going to get a rebound or two I'd better box somebody out. She's played great for us. The only reason she ever comes out is because she's tired."
Naperville Central (3-1) reached halftime with a 30-24 lead, but the Vikings took it back for good in the third quarter. Homewood-Flossmoor went ahead by 9 in the fourth quarter, but junior guard Gabi Melby hit a 3-pointer, made three free throws after being fouled on another 3 attempt, and senior Sara Opalka made two more free throws to cut the Homewood-Flossmoor lead to 45-44.
Opalka made a 3 off an Allen pass with 39.5 seconds to go to make it a 2-point game, but the Redhawks couldn't pull even.
"We had several shots in the last two minutes that ordinarily go in and didn't go in," Nussbaum said. "Some of that might be early-season conditioning. Some of it might be this is a really good team that we played and they get after it defensively."
Senior Isis Fitch led all scorers with 20 points for the Vikings, who played without top junior Grace Hall. Melby led Naperville Central with 17 points and Opalka scored 9.
"I'm not discouraged, but this is a game we could have won," Nussbaum said. "I would say overall for the four games I'm pretty pleased with where we're at. But we'd better move along."