Naperville Central earns final berth
In a battle of heavyweights, Naperville Central found a way to hold on against a relentless Oswego team for a 65-63 win at the 92nd annual Chuck Dayton Holiday Classic in DeKalb.
The Redhawks put 6-foot-10 senior Chris Conway to work in the paint midway through the second quarter and turned what was a back-and-forth game up to that point into an 8-point lead on the heals of a 13-0 run.
During the run the Panthers' Connor McCance found himself in foul trouble early, and even the subs Oswego brought in were racking up fouls. Conway, who finished with 15 points, indicated the Redhawks (10-1) look to gain an edge in the paint either with easy buckets or running up the fouls for the opposing team.
"That (size advantage) was really huge for us tonight," Conway said. "We know that if we have that advantage it can really give teams trouble and potentially put them in foul trouble. I was working hard to get position and that's really my teammates finding me and knowing that we can rack up some fouls. One thing I really work on and take pride in is my passing and looking for the open guy when I'm double-teamed."
Redhawks coach Pete Kramer thought the team made some uncharacteristic mistakes early in the game but turned it up a notch at the end to seal the win.
"I'm just really proud of these guys," Kramer said. "These kids never gave up and found a way in the end to get the win. It took a great effort down the stretch to put us where we were. They all kept their composure and fortunately it led to a win. Two really good teams battled in a heavyweight fight."
Oswego (10-2) answered in the second half by double-teaming Conway, which along with senior Kobe Adams' hot hand, outscored Naperville Central 18-14 in the third quarter for a 2-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Adams scored 12 of his game-high 25 points in the third quarter.
The Redhawks then countered by double-teaming the Panthers sharpshooter, limiting Adams to just 2 points in the fourth quarter.
Redhawks senior captain Cameron Dougherty grabbed several key rebounds and added a layup late in the fourth quarter to put the Redhawks up for good.
"Coming in at halftime, we didn't feel we played our best, so being up by 2 really gave us some confidence," Dougherty said. "They're a really good team and we're a really good team, so it was a great win for us."
Naperville Central will play tournament host DeKalb on Monday night for the championship.
"We're looking forward to having a chance to playing Monday night," Dougherty said. "You really only get two or three times during the year to win a tournament, so having the opportunity to beat a really good team on their home court is huge."