Naperville Central sweeps pair from Naperville North
Naperville Central junior Jack First is hitting his stride at the ideal point of the season.
With the Redhawks struggling to win games all season, the 6-foot-5 First is starting to establish himself as a consistent contributor.
First continued his upward ascent on Friday, scoring a career-high 16 points and hauling 11 rebounds to spark Naperville Central to a shocking 47-39 upset win over Naperville North.
The Redhawks (7-17, 1-7 DuPage Valley) only attempted 26 shots, but made the most of their limited shots to avenge a 65-35 defeat to the Huskies (16-10, 5-3) on Dec. 16.
First led the way, with a dominating inside game. He scored most of his points within 4 feet of the basket, helping the Redhawks pull away to notch their first conference win of the season.
"I was looking forward to this game for a while after losing at their place," First said. "I knew I had to perform well to get the win at our house. I was focused all week, and coach drew up a great game plan for us and we were able to execute it and we got a lot of easy baskets down low. I got a lot of great passes from Ross (DeZur) and Simon (Krugliakovas)"
First, who had 13 points and 10 rebounds against St. Charles East to help the Redhawks snap a 9-game on Jan. 25, scored 10 points in the second half before fouling out.
"The middle was wide open and I knew they would help out up on Ross and it was a great job by my teammates finding me open and it was a credit to them," First said.
Naperville Central senior point guard Simon Krugliakovas led the offense with 19 points, including hitting 6 of 8 free-throw attempts in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Krugliakovas said it was a team victory, though he praised the play of the emerging First.
"It's a great feeling, especially since we got smoked the last time we played them," Krugliakovas said. "We knew we could win. We controlled it the whole game. Our big guys stepped it up. Jack was getting all those boards and when he's scoring, it's great for our team. Both of our big guys are young, and Ross played great. We know we're a good team. Hopefully, we can keep playing like this."
The Redhawks cherished their first conference victory. Solid defense to go with good ball movement and strong play from their post players equaled a big home win for Naperville Central.
"We executed the game plan and the kids were disciplined and we prepared all week," Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said. "I thought we were real patient with the ball…Ross and First were really good helping with the pressure. We were patient and wanted to make them play defense. Jack is getting better. He's rebounding the ball really well all year, but his offense is starting to come on."
The Huskies struggled finding any open spots against the Redhawks' active zone, plus combined with a general off-night shooting equaled a deflating defeat. Naperville North was held under double digits scoring in each of the first 3 quarters. Luke Williams scored a team-high 19 points and Jacob Nolen finished with 10.
"You have to give credit to Naperville Central," Naperville North coach Gene Nolan said. "They made shots, defended and rebounded. Credit to their defense. We could never get where we could go on a run. They played a great game. First played really well. He's a big kid, is strong and can finish around the rim. (Krugliakovas) is also a very talented player. They played a great game."
Naperville Central girls 59, Naperville North 46:
Trinity Jones is not afraid of the spotlight.
Before a near capacity crowd on Friday, the Naperville Central freshman guard was the last person introduced among the starters -- a spot normally reserved for an upperclassman.
Jones, though, is no ordinary player.
She's a rare generational talent, capable of defying her youth and often is the best player on the court.
Jones added another layer to her rapidly growing reputation in Chicagoland against rival Naperville North. She scored 19 points, grabbed 17 rebounds and blocked 3 shots in a 59-46 victory over the Huskies.
In fitting manner, Jones leaped high to grab a pass from a teammate to close out the victory. She immediately took a few steps toward the scorer's table, becoming the first player to line up for post-game handshakes.
In every aspect, Jones made her imprint in Friday's DuPage Valley Conference game to avenge an earlier regular season loss to the Huskies.
"It was a great win, a revenge," Jones said. "I felt energetic the whole game, but my shots weren't falling in the first half, so it was hard. I know defense wins games and so does energy, and offense will come."
Jones struggled from the field in the first half, missing several shots to end with 6 points as the Redhawks (19-10, 6-3) clung to a 21-20 lead. Late in the third quarter, Jones started taking over the game with an array of moves. She scored on a coast-to-coast lay-in, ending the highlight-reel play with a right-to-left Euro step. A few seconds later, on the next possession, Jones did the same Euro step move but in the halfcourt.
On the Redhawks' first fourth-quarter possession, Jones hit a short floater in the lane to pad the lead to 42-30. Just over a minute later, she snagged a defensive rebound, drove the length of the court for a layup in traffic.
In short, Jones did it all. She leaped high to snatch rebounds, triggered fast breaks, blocked shots and scored in a multitude of ways.
"After I got the first charge, I noticed my drives to the basket they were going to hold up and try and get a charge on me, so I know a simple Euro step or jump-stop would work," Jones said.
Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum, who coached WNBA superstar Candace Parker, said Jones oozes long-range potential.
"Trinity is a competitor and wants to win and makes all of our players better," Nussbaum said.
The Redhawks broke open the game to defeat the more experienced Huskies with a 9-0 run in the third quarter. Erin Hackett and Natalie Jordan both added 10 points and Callie Tumilty had 9 points to give the Redhawks their 11th consecutive win at home and 13th overall victory in their last 14 games.
Naperville North (19-10, 6-3) failed to sweep the season series due to a sluggish second half -- and Jones imposing her will on the game. Abby Drendel scored 14 points and Abby Homan, a Pomona College recruit, tallied 12 points and Peyton Fenner contributed 9.