It was understandable that Naperville Central might be a little winded at halftime of its boys water polo match with Lincoln-Way Central on Friday night, but it was no time to lose track of the basics.
Even with a 6-3 lead over the Knights after two quarters at the Best of the West tournament in Naperville, Redhawks coach Bill Salentine didn't think his team had played up to par. The Redhawks had knocked off rival Neuqua Valley the previous night and then bested Hinsdale Central 10-4 to open tourney play earlier Friday, so the Redhawks had a right to be a tad tired.
But after refocusing a bit during the intermission, the Redhawks (9-4) broke the game open with a 6-0 charge in the third quarter and went on to beat the Knights 13-4. Naperville Central used its speed in the pool for a quick-strike attack that often left the Lincoln-Way Central defenders in the dust.
"The third quarter we had a good explosion of offense, and that was really nice to see," said Salentine, whose team resumes play Saturday morning against Glenbrook South, and a win in that match could set up a tourney championshipshowdown with unbeaten Naperville North. "For whatever reason the first quarter, second quarter didn't go as planned."
Ryan Donahue scored early in the third quarter for Naperville Central off one of teammate Nick Walker's 4 assists. Walker then scored a goal in each of the third and fourth quarters as the hosts pulled away.
"It wasn't really much of a halftime speech other than I mentioned several times working on fundamentals," Salentine said. "Staying on our legs. When you get tired your chin is in the water and half of your arm is in the water. When I say stay on your legs I mean elevate and stay above the water, and that's a fundamental thing."
Walker, who also had a goal and 2 assists in the opener against Hinsdale Central, said the team has trained hard of late and is gearing up for a late season push.
"Our last two weeks have been like the hardest two weeks yet because we're trying to get ready for the end of the season. So if we can play tired now, at the end of the season when we are tired we can play through games," Walker said.
Walker credited the Redhawks' strong swimmers and the goalies' on-target outlet passes with enabling the team to run a strong fastbreak offense.
"Everything starts with our goalies and our defense because we're a swimming team," he said. "When our goalies get a stop we can swim down and get a counterattack. So when our goalies give us a good pass down the pool it starts our offense.
"That's our plan as we're a swimming-based team and most teams don't have as strict a swimming program as we do. A lot of our success is a result of our swim program."
Joe Bigenwald led a balanced Redhawks attack with 3 goals Friday night, while Adam Hunter, Christian May, Donahue and Walker each tallied 2. Joe Nussbaum and Joe Lawrence split the goaltending duties for Naperville Central and helped the offense with a number of sharp outlet passes.