Naperville Central snaps 9-game skid with win at St. Charles East
Stuck in the throes of a 9-game losing streak, Naperville Central basketball coach Pete Kramer decided it was time to go off the grid so to speak.
"I went out last Saturday and ordered black shooting jerseys," said Kramer.
"I just said, 'we're in a dark place -- we're going to wear black the rest of the year.'"
The Redhawks (6-16) jumped out to a 14-2 lead through the first 4 minutes, built a 41-28 advantage after 3 quarters, and fought off a late challenge from St. Charles East on their way to a 56-49 nonconference victory Wednesday night in St. Charles.
"The kids were ready and we were prepared," said Kramer. "The biggest thing is these kids could have quit. We were in a long skid."
Thanks in part to a game-high 17 points from senior guard Simon Krugliakovas, and a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds from 6-3 senior forward/center Jackson First, the Redhawks posted their first victory of the 2023 calendar year.
"I think this win is going to help us down the road and we'll start winning more games," said Krugliakovas. "We started out strong tonight. We kept the energy up the whole game. We knew we could win this one. We stuck it out."
The Redhawks also received significant contributions from seniors Grady Cooperkawa (11 points, 5 rebounds, 5 steals), Jon Boomgarden (7 points, 3 rebounds), and Ivan Najdovski (6 points).
"I thought the kids executed on both ends, and they were active on both ends," said Kramer.
On the opposite side, the Saints (9-14) struggled in just about every category.
"The answers to all of your questions lie right up there (on the whiteboard)," said Saints coach Patrick Woods. "We had 17 turnovers, we got beat on the boards, we gave up 34 points in the first half, we shot 5-for-19 from 3 (point range), and we only got to the line nine times.
"Here's our problem -- we've been inconsistent all year. We haven't played a full 32 minutes very often this year."
The Saints made a few runs, including a 9-0 spurt that cut the 14-2 deficit to 14-11 late in the opening quarter.
Trailing by 11 at 48-37 with 3 minutes remaining, the Saints trimmed the margin to 50-44 following a putback by junior Jacob Vrankovich (10 points, 4 rebounds) with 1:33 left.
Boomgarden's layup off a feed from Ross DeZur (7 rebounds) on the next possession sealed the win for the Redhawks, who struggled to a 10-of-21 night at the free-throw line.
"That's kind of been our thing," said Kramer. "It was good to see us finish a game, especially on the road."
Steven Call had 10 points and 3 steals for the Saints, while Drew Clarke added 9 points and Eddie Herrera finished with 8 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
"We're not in attack mode enough," said Woods, "and we have to be tougher."
Naperville Central visits Neuqua Valley Friday before heading to Iowa Saturday.
"We're going to play against my high school, Waterloo Columbus (Catholic)," said Kramer. "We'll spend the night there and come back home Sunday."