Naperville North narrowly escapes Glenbard North

A little sluggish in its return to the court after a runner-up finish at the Jack Tosh boys basketball tournament, Naperville North was on the brink of being upset Friday night.

But the Huskies' sophomore center wouldn't let them lose.

Scoring 10 points in the fourth quarter, including the game-winning three-point play with 10 seconds remaining, Chris Johnson led Naperville North to a 44-42 victory over Glenbard North in the DuPage Valley Conference contest.

On the final play the visitors, who held the ball for more than a minute, inbounded to Mitch Lewis, who drove and made a nice drop pass to Johnson for the layup and foul.

“It was a bit of a broken play,” said Johnson after tallying 21 points and 6 rebounds. “We threw it in to Mitch. He took it in and dished it off; he has a special ability to dish it off when he is driving in.”

Johnson had scored with 1:40 on the clock to to help his team close within 42-41. Naperville North coach Jeff Powers said he talked to his sophomore at halftime about being more aggressive.

“He started taking it through contact and making shots,” Powers said. “And he hit clutch free throws. If we didn't have him today, we probably would have lost by 20. For a sophomore on the road to do that, it's really impressive.”

Up until the closing seconds, it appeared that the Panthers were going to secure the signature win. Trailing by four heading into the final eight minutes, the home team went on an 8-0 run, taking the lead on a three-point play by Tee White. Naperville North came back to the the score at 39 before Michael Matkovic gave Glenbard North the lead with a 3-pointer at the 3:20 mark.

“Give (the Huskies) credit, they made a great play at the end to put them up,” Glenbard North coach Joe Larson said. “But I was very proud of our effort all night. Our guys were ready to play and our guys executed and did what we asked them to do. And I thought we played a sound game defensively.”

Nick LaVere led the Panthers (4-8) with 13 points, 7 rebounds and 2 steals. Matkovic had 8 points and 3 steals and White finished with 7 points. Winston Elston contributed 7 points for Naperville North (10-3) and Lewis added 6 points and 6 rebounds.

“Here's the thing, Mitch, Cameron (Hardy) and Winston were up as sophomores last year,” Powers said. “On the floor at the end of the game, we had one senior. So we are still babies, we are still young. But last year we would have lost that game. Now we end up getting the victory.”

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