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Naperville Central's Shannon Ryan is fouled as she drives to the basket between three Oswego defenders on Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012. | Donnell Collins~For Sun-Times Media
Naperville Central’s girls basketball team came into Thursday’s Oswego Holiday Classic game against the host Panthers knowing a win would ensure a showdown with unbeaten and No. 15-ranked Neuqua Valley for the tournament title Saturday.
The No. 17 Redhawks showed how much they want that challenge.
Naperville Central never trailed and cruised to a 64-36 win to set up Saturday’s 6 p.m. showdown with Neuqua Valley (14-0). The Redhawks enter the game with an 11-1 mark, the lone blemish a narrow loss to Wheaton Warrenville South.
“We wanted to win this game so we could play Saturday’s game,” Naperville Central senior Jamie Cuny said. “That’s a big game for us. Neuqua is a great team. Last year we lost to them in a tough one. It’s going to be a really good game and we’re really excited for it. It will be fun.”
Oswego (7-5) hung around early, tying the game at 8-8 in the first quarter and cutting the lead to 16-13 on four Krissy Klingbeil free throws early in the second quarter. But a pair of Cuny jumpers fueled a 7-0 run that pushed the lead back out to 23-12 for the Redhawks. A 12-3 run in the third was keyed by two driving layups and a three-pointer from Cuny that pushed the lead to 38-22.
Cuny led all scorers with 18 points, shooting 8-of-12 from the field.
“I took it to the basket a lot, which I’m not normally doing,” Cuny said. “I just felt it, so I took it. I was hitting them, so I kept doing it.”
Oswego hit only four field goals in the first half and shot 10-of-36 from the field.
“We’re pretty disappointed because we’ve been playing a lot better up to this point,” Oswego coach Chad Pohlmann said. “The girls have to understand that the process of getting ready to play doesn’t just happen when the ball goes up in the air. I didn’t think we came out ready to play. We were tentative.”
Oswego faces Batavia in the third-place game at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Jordan Campbell led the Panthers with 12 points in the loss. Erin Sinnott added 10. Cierra Stanciel scored 14 for Central, with Shannon Ryan adding 10.
The Redhawks now prepare for one of their toughest challenges of the season.
“(Neuqua coach Mike Williams) is running the system that he’s run for years, but he’s got some really nice tools to work with,” Central coach Andy Nussbaum said. “They’re putting the ball in the basket a little more often. They’re a very good team. Should be a great game.”