Naperville Central gets back on track against West Chicago
Naperville Central's pregame Senior Night ceremony left at least a few of the six Redhawks seniors in tears.
The team's touching postgame program — when each senior took a turn addressing their families, friends and teammates — brought more tears mixed with plenty of laughter.
The 32 minutes in between gave Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum hope that his team is prepared for a Class 4A playoff run as the Redhawks rolled to a 67-37 DuPage Valley Conference victory over West Chicago in Thursday night's regular-season finale.
Four-year varsity player Victoria Trowbridge — blessed with a 7-inch height advantage over every West Chicago regular — led the way with a personal-high 25 points to go with 12 rebounds and 4 blocks.
Jamie Cuny, another four-year letterwinner, added 13 points, 5 blocks and 4 assists as the Redhawks (23-6, 9-5) eclipsed the 60-point mark for the first time in a month.
Naperville Central, the No. 3 seed in the Class 4A Oswego sectional, will play at 6 p.m. Tuesday in a Benet regional semifinal against the winner of Monday's game between 13th-seeded East Aurora and 19th-seeded Plainfield Central.
"It feels nice to put points on the board again," Nussbaum said. "I got a little bit of a feeling that this is the team that we had in November and December."
Nussbaum went exclusively with his seniors in the first quarter as Naperville Central claimed an 11-9 lead.
When junior point guard Shannon Ryan and sophomore Cierra Stanciel entered the fray in the second quarter, the Redhawks started pressing full-court and getting easy looks at the basket.
Ryan handed out three assists in the first 68 seconds — one apiece to seniors Trowbridge, Cuny and Laura Dierking — and wound up with six in the quarter as the Redhawks pushed their lead to 37-18 by halftime.
West Chicago senior Laura Panicali, who became the program's first player to crack the 500-point mark for a season, poured in 10 of her 22 points in the third quarter to try to rally the Wildcats (7-19, 4-10).
Panicali sat out the fourth quarter, though, as West Chicago coach Kim Wallner cleared her bench and refocused the team's attention on the state tournament.
West Chicago, the No. 18 seed in the Class 4A Bartlett sectional, opens postseason play at 7:30 p.m. Monday against Glenbard North at Schaumburg High School.
Though the Panthers are a fellow DVC school, West Chicago played its final DVC game on Thursday; the Wildcats will play in the Upstate Eight Conference next year. Nussbaum and the Redhawks honored Wallner before the game for her 27 years coaching in the league.
While listing Wallner's many accomplishments, Naperville Central made sure to note Wallner's teams were the only ones in the DVC to defeat the Redhawks' Candace Parker-era teams more than once.
"Andy and I go way back — even in softball, too," Wallner said. "That was a really nice thing for him to do. It was humbling. I've enjoyed the battles we've had. I will definitely miss the DVC. There's no doubt."
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