Naperville Central finishes regular season with win at DeKalb
DEKALB -- In what has become a common occurrence at DeKalb High School, Barbs basketball players gritted their teeth and ground to a tight finish against Naperville.
Far less common, the Barbs were on the losing end, suffering a 45-39 defeat to the Redhawks on Wednesday in their regular-season finale.
The hosts led from their first shot, a 3-pointer by Zach Russell, to halftime. The opening jumper was just the first big shot by the senior guard in a game that needed more of them.
A 5-point lead at the end of the first quarter had dwindled to a 3-point lead at halftime, setting up a neck-and-neck race to the finish in the second half.
"In the first half, early on, it didn't look good," Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said. "We were kind of getting off to a slow start and everything else, but I thought we finished the half pretty positively."
It was Naperville Central (20-10, 6-4 DuPage Valley Conference) that came out of the break aggressively, getting up 13 shots in the third quarter while turnovers limited DeKalb to just nine attempts. The visitors made six of their shots, while the hosts made just three. At the end of the period, DeKalb (23-8, 8-2) trailed 32-27.
"We got disengaged defensively and I think they got some easy baskets," DeKalb coach Mike Reynolds said. "Which gave them confidence that got them rolling. Playing from behind is OK, but we could never get them sped up to the way we want."
Russell, the Barbs' leading scorer, was without a shot when the Redhawks went on their third-quarter run.
"In the first half they weren't really coming out as much on me," Russell said. "But in the second half they came out on me and forced me to drive and pass more, which I tried to get other guys shots."
A tight game led to some verbal exchanges down the stretch and heated dialogue from coaches, referees and fans.
"We've had three killer games," Reynolds said. "And that was a physical game and a rough game. And they were able to come on top of it this time."
Naperville Central forward Matthew Murphy caught a stray elbow from a DeKalb player in the third quarter, leading to a stoppage in play as staff members wiped blood off the floor. Murphy did not return to the game.
"I think his nose is broke," Kramer said. "I didn't even see him get hit, but yeah, it's busted. It's crooked."
Despite tonight's loss DeKalb finished atop the DuPage Valley Conference in the first year under Reynolds.
"We've played really, really hard," Reynolds said. "We have big goals. We've won a couple. We won the Chuck Dayton, we won the DVC, but that doesn't really matter now. We gotta go over and go into hostile territory."