Naperville Central handles Elk Grove
It was the third quarter, and the Naperville Central boys basketball team just so happened to be counting by threes.
In a nonconference game at Elk Grove on Saturday night, the Redhawks broke open a close game by starting the third quarter with four straight 3-pointers.
That paved the way to a breezy 57-39 victory for Naperville Central, which hit a total of five 3-pointers overall. The Redhawks improved to 12-3 while Elk Grove dropped to 2-14.
"We just wanted to get open looks and for us, that just happened to be three-pointers," Naperville Central guard Kyle Baskin said. "I got hot and a couple of other guys knocked down shots and we kind of blew the game open."
Baskin, who tied teammate Chris Conway with a game-high 18 points, hit back-to-back 3-pointers to start the third quarter and then the Redhawks got 3-pointers out of Matthew Murphy and Cameron Dougherty.
That turned Naperville Central's 7-point halftime lead (24-17) into a 14-point cushion (36-22) midway through the third quarter.
A half-court trapping press also helped the Redhawks, slowing Elk Grove and providing a tedious hurdle every time down the court.
"It was mentally fatiguing," Elk Grove senior forward Jordan Miller, who scored a team-high 13 points, said of Naperville Central's press. "We just needed to stay in it mentally and we would have been ok with the pressure."
Naperville Central's press caused only 5 second-half turnovers by Elk Grove, but that wasn't really the point.
The Redhawks want to slow opponents and get them thinking more about the press than running their sets comfortably.
"We just felt we needed to bring more energy to the floor," said Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer, explaining why he called for the press in the second half.
"We needed to make them get uncomfortable and do things they didn't want to do, and it worked. I thought the pressure was real good tonight. The kids worked hard."
The Redhawks also worked hard inside, behind the 6-foot-10 Conway, who has committed to Division I Oakland in Michigan, and the 6-foot-6 Dougherty, who finished with 16 points. Dougherty, also a strong water polo player, will be attending Harvard next year.
"They are really good," Elk Grove coach Nick Oraham said of Conway and Dougherty. "We focused on collapsing down low and trying to take that away. We felt like if they were going to beat us from the outside then they were going to beat us."
Elk Grove opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from guard Devin McKinney (10 points) to cut its deficit to 10 points (40-30), but that's as close as the Grens would get the rest of the way.