Nothing seems to come easy these days for Naperville Central.
At least coach Andy Nussbaum and the Redhawks could rest a little easier Saturday.
Trailing most of the game at Naperville North, No. 8 Naperville Central rallied for a 43-40 win to snap a three-game losing streak.
Laura Dierking rebounded an air-balled 3-point attempt and laid in the go-ahead score with 55 seconds left to make it 40-38, and Naperville Central (22-6, 8-5 DuPage Valley Conference) held on.
"It's been a challenge for us the last few weeks," said Dierking, who scored 12 points with 10 rebounds. "This game hopefully gets us moving in the right direction."
Scoring has been quite a struggle of late for the Redhawks, and Saturday was no different.
Naperville Central went a seven-minute scoreless stretch in the first half when Naperville North surged ahead 13-6, the Redhawks missed their first 11 3-point tries and were just 7 of 19 from the free-throw line, with 5 misses in the final minute.
It's been a tale of two seasons. During its 16-1 start, Naperville Central scored 50 or more points in 12 of 17 games. The Redhawks have scored 48 or fewer in four of their last five games during a tough second go around the DVC.
"If I could explain how easy it was in November and December and how difficult it's been in January and now February, I could probably write a book and make a million dollars," Nussbaum said. "I guess we were a little spoiled. The second round of conference has just been incredibly tough."
Zoe Swift led all scorers with 20 points, her 3 with 7:31 left giving Naperville North a 37-31 lead.
It would be the Huskies' last made field goal, as they managed just 3 free throws the rest of the way, their three-game win streak coming to an end. Naperville North (12-13, 5-8) missed 5 free throws in the fourth quarter, two of them front ends of 1-and-1s.
Swift missed a pair of contested layups in the final minute, and a Huskies' 3 for the tie misfired as time expired.
"We had a lot of opportunities," Naperville North coach Jacquie Discipio said. "We do games in practice to get the girls ready, but no matter what you do it's hard to translate to a big game against your cross-town rivals. We did a lot of things right, but in the fourth quarter we just didn't execute."
Swift's 8 first-quarter points sparked Naperville North to an early 16-9 lead, it was 23-19 at half and 34-31 after three quarters. Jamie Cuny, who struggled from 3 for Naperville Central, gave the Redhawks their first lead since the first quarter with a pump-fake and drive to go ahead 38-37 with 3:25 left.
On a day when made shots were few and far between, rebounds were huge.
Naperville Central grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, with Victoria Trowbridge pulling down a personal-high 19 to go with her 11 points.
"She just does a great job for us," Nussbaum said. "We have to have her in the game."
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