Homan, Henderson spark Naperville North past rival

Naperville North senior guard Layla Henderson wanted to make a statement on Wednesday night.

After playing her first three seasons behind two high-volume, Division I players - Greta Kampschroeder and Kenzie Hare - Henderson was looking forward to putting her own personal stamp on the twice-a-year regular season battle of Naperville.

She wasted very little time going to work against Naperville Central.

Henderson set the tone with a strong first quarter, scoring 9 of her 19 points to power Naperville North to a 62-53 home victory before a large and boisterous crowd. Naperville North senior forward Abby Homan played strong inside and outside, finishing with a team-high 21 points for the Huskies (6-5, 2-1). Freshman forward Trinity Jones sparked the Redhawks (4-6. 0-3) with 27 points.

As the Huskies walked off the crowd while "Celebration" by Kool & The Gang blared over the speakers, Henderson, a John Hopkins recruit, and her teammates reveled in beating their DuPage Conference rivals. Henderson was all over the court, hitting 2 first-quarter 3-pointers, sparking the defense with steals for fast-break baskets to give the Huskies leads of 9-0, 13-4 and 20-6 in the first quarter.

"We came into this game knowing it was a big game," Henderson said. "The energy from the bench and crowd helped us. We have very good chemistry and it showed on the court. I was having a lot of fun out there. These games bring out the best in everybody."

A four-year varsity player, Homan said the Huskies rode a strong start and a solid defensive effort. Her effort on the boards, especially for second-chance efforts, was a key to the win.

"We came into this game knowing it was a big game, and we improved," Homan said. "We were focused and finished strong. We played together. We all know our roles, and everybody pushes each other."

Naperville North led from start to finish despite the visitors making a few runs, mostly centered around offensive explosions by the multidimensional Jones. The Redhawks trailed by double digits for most of the game until slicing the deficit to 8 points late in the third quarter before the Huskies reeled off an 8-0 run to gain control of the game.

"I thought we played even with them the last three quarters, but it's a four-quarter game," Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum said. "We weren't patient. We dribbled into traps, and they were happy to take the ball away from us. Trinity is the best player in the town. I thought she showed that. (Naperville North) tried to stop her, but she still got 27 points."

Naperville North fourth-year coach Erin Colletti said her team has a balanced squad, which showed in Wednesday's game.

"We had effort, energy and intensity from the get-go," Colletti said. "We kept a solid lead that we built. We maintained the energy and effort. We don't have that one player who can take over a game. But we're team that's hard to guard because we have so many threats. We're asking our four senior captains - Abby Homan, Abby Drendel, Peyton Fenner and Layla Henderson - to all step up. They all have to be on their "A" game.

"Layla is super versatile, and getting so much better at finishing with contact, knowing when to take the three and reading the defense. Her defense also gives her confidence and she brings it to her offense."

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