Naperville Central continues hot streak with win vs. Metea Valley
The day after Christmas, Naperville Central lost a fourth straight game to even its record at 8-8.
Just over a month later, things have completely turned around.
Putting on a long distance show on Senior Night, the Redhawks won for the 10th time in their last 11 girls basketball games, defeating Metea Valley 76-63 Friday.
With six players reaching double figures, four of whom are seniors, Naperville Central (18-9, 5-1) stayed in the hunt for the top spot in the DuPage Valley Conference.
"It's nice on Senior Night to have four seniors in double figures," said Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum, whose team also beat the Mustangs 46-43 on the road during this stretch. "I thought we played really well from the get-go. It was a great night.
"We've just played so much better. I'm really proud of where we are at. It's strange to say we only have four (regular season) games to go but there is so much in the season that hasn't been written yet."
The home team jumped out to a 26-5 lead after the opening quarter, spurred on by eight points from Katlyn Allen. She finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and five steals. As a team, the Redhawks forced 27 turnovers, 18 of which came in the opening half.
"I've always been told since I was a kid that defense wins championships," Allen said. "If you get a big stop on defense, it's easier to go down on offense. When we are playing good defense, we feel we can come out and get the win."
Gabi Melby, who earlier this week surpassed the 1,000-point mark, hit a pair of 3-pointers in the second quarter to make the margin 39-18 at half.
The junior finished with four 3s and a game-high 16 points. Grace Wenzel and Karly Maida also knocked down four 3s apiece and scored 12 points. Sara Opalka and Lauren Umbright each added 10 points.
"Our seniors are the glue of the team," Melby said. "They really help us out. They show us the way to go, they are natural born leaders. Tonight that really showed. With so many in double figures and Grace hitting those 3s, this was a really fun game for every single one of us.
"This whole stretch has been fun. We are just really playing for one another. There are not many games left with these seniors. We are just going out and playing with all our heart. We are playing for the seniors and for Coach Nussbaum."
Metea Valley (8-13, 1-5) made things interesting in the fourth quarter, slicing a 25-point deficit to as few as 10 late. Jada Samuels topped the team with 12 points and Amelia Szczesny had 10.