Naperville North's defense keys win over Downers Grove North

The Naperville North girls basketball team's ability to succeed on offense is well known. However, a team doesn't achieve a 23-2 mark without a strong defense.

That defense was evident on Tuesday night in Naperville as Downers Grove North, a 19-5 squad going in, managed just eight second-half points as the Huskies prevailed 58-31.

"They like to slow it down and wear you out into a lull defensively," said Naperville North coach Erin Colletti. "I stressed to our team to stay focused and communicate on defense. We forced them to take shots that they didn't really like."

The Huskies led 17-10 after the opening quarter and 31-23 at halftime.

Two free throws by North's Layla Henderson put her team up 28-15 in the second quarter. But the Trojans' Kate Gross, who led her team with 13 points, came through with five points and Margaret Fleming hit net for two to keep Downers North within eight at intermission.

Gross and Vanessa Linge scored the first two baskets of the third quarter and Naperville North finished out on a 19-0 run to lead 50-27 at the end of 24 minutes.

The Huskies' Abby Drendel picked up two quick fouls in the game's opening minutes and missed quite a bit of the first half. But she came on to score all 12 of her points in the third quarter.

The Naperville North defense did not let up until the game's conclusion.

"The key defensively is just to get our rotations right and understand who we need to get out to," Drendel said.

There are players on a basketball team that contributed in a big way, but it might not be reflected in the box score. Colletti praised the efforts of senior Hope Aniceto, who was the first player off the bench on Tuesday.

"Hope is always a spark of energy. She takes on any job and executes the offense well," said the North coach. "Everyone on this team has a role and purpose."

Anicedo missed last season due to injury after transferring from Montini.

"It doesn't matter if I start or come off the bench. I'll do what it takes to help the team," said the 5-foot-3 guard, who will play at the State University of New York at Canton, an NCAA Division III school, located in the upper part of the state.

Kenzie Hare led Naperville North with 16 points and nine rebounds. Henderson and Sarah Crossett each had 10 points.

"This is a great team on and off the court. We have high expectations and want to accomplish as much as we can," Anicedo said.

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