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This was supposed to be a rebuilding year of sorts for the Naperville North basketball program, but the Huskies have appeared to picked up where they left off from a season ago — especially in DuPage Valley Conference play.
The Huskies, who are the reigning conference champions and graduated 11 seniors, remained unbeaten within DVC play thanks to a 59-51 road win at West Chicago on Friday night.
North (6-2, 3-0) led throughout and built an 18-point lead before the Wildcats made things interesting late.
“I don’t know how good of a basketball game we played,” Huskies coach Jeff Powers said. “We made some silly mistakes at the end of the game. I thought we fouled and didn’t utilize our guards there at the end. We almost gave it away after working pretty hard to get there.”
The Huskies, who are a perimeter-oriented team, managed to take a 30-17 halftime edge thanks to a dominating performance on the boards. North grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the first half alone and held an overall 21-9 edge on the glass at intermission.
North also received a boost from reserves Jayson Winick (four points), Brendan Herbstritt (five points) and JP Riley (nine points) as they helped the Huskies build their lead to as large as 40-22 with 3:47 remaining in the third quarter.
West Chicago (2-6, 0-3) slowly chipped away as the Wildcats stopped allowing second-chance opportunities and they started creating turnovers.
A John Konchar basket with 36 seconds remaining pulled the Wildcats within 55-50, but North junior guard Anthony Rehayem and senior forward Derek Westman each made a pair of free throws in the closing seconds to salt away the win.
“Once we stopped fouling, we were in much better shape,” Westman said. “We still have to learn how to finish. Tonight we committed some silly fouls, which allowed them chances to pull closer with the clocked stopped and we can’t do that.”
West Chicago coach Bill Recchia felt his squad missed chances at the free-throw line (11-of-22) and when it came to rebounding.
“You can only make so many good runs at a good basketball team and North is a good basketball team,” Recchia said. “We’re right there — with the exception of one game, we’ve been in every game. We can’t be satisfied with being right there, we have to learn how to get there. It’s just a matter of cleaning up the little things.”
Konchar led all scorers with 18 points as Mike Zajac added 10 points and Dean Pauley had 11.
Westman and Rehayem paced the Huskies with 12 points apiece as eight different Huskies scored.
North, winners of four straight, will get a better idea of where it stands after next weekend when the Huskies travel to Elmhurst to play York on Friday and host Glenbard East on Saturday.
“We’re playing really well right now, but we know two big challenges await, and we’re excited for them,” senior guard Bryan LoLordo said.