Naperville North edges Benet for 3rd at Morton

After missing a chance to play Benet last week due to a snowstorm, Naperville North cherished an unexpected opportunity to battle their local rivals on Friday.

The Huskies had motivation on their side after losing to the Redwings in a Class 4A sectional title game last season - falling short to win the program's first sectional championship since 1996.

Also, the Huskies' seniors - Layla Henderson, Abby Drendel, Peyton Fenner and Abby Homan - had never beaten the Redwings in their four-year varsity career.

Behind a furious third-quarter comeback, the Huskies gained a small measure of redemption with a 47-43 victory over the Redwings in the third-place game of the 2nd Annual Morton College Girls Basketball Christmas Tournament on Friday night.

Drendel and Fenner both scored 15 points and Homan added 13 to knock off the Redwings. Henderson celebrated the victory by seeking her longtime teammates for hugs and low-fives.

Fenner sparked the comeback win with three key shots in the fourth quarter, including a lefty, off-balanced 11-footer in the lane with the 35-second shot clock dwindling down with 70 seconds left for a 43-41 lead. Drendel hit two free throws with 28.7 left and Homan sealed the win with two more at the 8.2-second mark.

"We were supposed to play (Benet) last week, so this game just worked out for us," Naperville North coach Erin Colletti said. "It's been a long four years playing them and not coming out on top, so this win feels so good because of lot of these girls have been playing varsity since their freshman year."

Fenner credited her left-handed shot to practicing it on a regular basis. The game-turning field goal was in the middle of a span of the Huskies (11-6) scoring points on seven of their last eight possessions.

"I actually take those shots all the time, then kind of stopped and started practicing them again," Fenner said. "The shot clock was running out, so I thought I could make it. I had never beaten Benet until tonight. It was a really big game for us. It wasn't the championship, but it felt great."

Drendel fueled the comeback with five straight points late in the third, including burying a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 33-32.

"There was just so much energy because after losing to them over the years, there was so much built up," Drendel said. "I think this will help us keep our energy up throughout the rest of the season, just knowing we can play these big teams and win."

The Redwings (11-4) ran out of energy in the second half after playing four tough games in four days, according to coach Joe Kilbride. The Redwings led 21-9 early in the second quarter and 33-25 midway through the third after a 3-pointer by Allison Treacy. Senior point guard Lenee Beaumont, an Indiana signee, paced the Redwings with 11 points.

"This is a step in the process," Kilbride said of his team's goal for a return trip to state. "We have a long way to go. My goal is to never to be great in Christmas, but to be great in the first week of March. This is a good group of kids. This is hopefully a little bit of a wake-up call for us."

  Naperville North's Layla Henderson, pictured with Geneva's Leah Palmer on Thursday in the Morton College tournament semifinals, and her teammates beat Benet on Friday in the third-place game. John Starks/
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