Naperville Central’s boys basketball team wasn’t about to end another week without a win.
Clawing back from a 9-point fourth-quarter deficit, the Redhawks rallied to a 69-64 overtime nonconference win over visiting Hinsdale Central to snap a two-game losing streak.
Two games isn’t much, but after spending the entire week stewing on the Glenbard East defeat and then losing Friday to West Aurora, Naperville Central (4-3) couldn’t stomach another long week waiting on a win.
“We struggled the last two games but give credit to them because they’re two good basketball teams,” said Redhawks junior guard Ryan Antony. “We’ve got to move forward as a team. We knew what we had to do, we’ve been practicing hard, and we got it done.”
It wasn’t easy. Hinsdale Central (3-3) led from midway through the first quarter until Naperville Central’s Matthew Bennett knocked down a stunning 3-pointer with 52 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 54. The Redhawks withstood a last-second shot from the Red Devils to force overtime.
Sparked by a Nicky Lopez 3-pointer and a three-point play from Austin Pauga, the Redhawks surged to a 61-54 lead in the opening two minutes of overtime. Now it was Hinsdale Central’s turn to rally.
Alec Hutcherson’s fourth 3-pointer of the night narrowed the gap to 61-59, and his fifth made it a 65-64 game with 1:23 left. The Red Devils had two chances to tie or take the lead but couldn’t do it.
Naperville Central scored the game’s final 4 points to seal the win. Ryan Antony, who scored 11 of his 15 points after the third quarter, made 5 of 6 overtime free throws.
“It came down to making some plays down the stretch and, unfortunately, they made more of them,” said Red Devils coach Nick Latorre. “The way they shoot it, I didn’t think a lead was safe at all. Once we started losing our guys we were at a disadvantage.”
The losses started when standout sophomore center Matt Rafferty fouled out with 1:14 left in regulation. Fellow starters Brian Owens and Rigas Pappas also fouled out in addition to key bench contributor Ian Bunting.
That just added to a frustrating night where Hinsdale Central watched an 11-point second-quarter lead evaporate to 2 points by the opening minute of the third quarter. The 9-point advantage was the Red Devils’ biggest of the second half.
Pauga led all scorers with 21 points while Nick Czarnowski added 12 despite playing with four fouls for the fourth quarter and overtime. Hutcherson’s 17 points paced Hinsdale Central. Rafferty had 13 points before fouling out.
“We’ve had an unbelievable stretch of games, and they’ve all been like this,” said Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer. “Just a slugfest. I couldn’t be more proud of our kids the way they handled themselves.”
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