Naperville rivals provided a thriller worth remembering
Even when you cover about 120 high school sports events a year, some games just stay with you.
The 2018 Class 4A Naperville Central girls basketball regional final is one of those games.
Two archrivals going head-to-head for a regional plaque. A great player on each side. The game-winning basket in the final seconds. All told, it held more suspense than a John Grisham novel.
Final score: No. 2-seeded Naperville Central 65, No. 7 Naperville North 63, three overtimes.
For neutral observers it was more exciting than anything the local NBA team has done since Michael Jordan retired.
"The game felt like it was going on for like five hours maybe," Naperville Central senior Mia Lakstigala said at the time. "It was back and forth. We never had a lead for probably more than two minutes."
Lakstigala is the second-leading scorer in Redhawks history behind only Candace Parker. She is a 5-foot-11 guard now playing at Penn. But that night the Huskies held her to 12 points.
With the Naperville North defense focused on Lakstigala, junior forward Lucy Schmid went off for 27 points. Sophomore Katlyn Allen came off the bench to deliver a pair of clutch free throws to send the game to the second overtime.
Naperville North showed why it would win the next two DuPage Valley Conference championships. Led by then-freshman Greta Kampschroeder, now a two-time all-stater, the Huskies almost won in regulation and the first overtime, but each time the Redhawks hit game-tying free throws.
Naperville Central seemed ready to win in the second overtime, but Kampschroeder, now being recruited by Big Ten and Pac-12 teams, hit a pair of 3-pointers to send the game to a third overtime.
Kampschroeder finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds.
Despite being held below her average, Lakstigala scored in the final seconds to give the Redhawks a memorable win.
"What a great game if you didn't care who won," Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum said last weekend, reminiscing about the game.
It was the Redhawks' third victory against the Huskies that season, giving them their first regional since 2013. The Redhawks went on to beat No. 13 Lockport 58-43 in the sectional semifinal, then lost to top-seeded Bolingbrook 54-39 in the Neuqua Valley sectional final.
As good as that victory was, however, it was the last time the Redhawks defeated their crosstown rivals, going 0 for 4 since. It also was the last time the Redhawks won a game in a regional.
"For good reasons and maybe not-so-good reasons," said Nussbaum, the Redhawks' coach for 32 seasons, "I think about that game quite a bit."