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Naperville Central riding high after winning title

12/20/2012, 6:30pm CST
By NEIL SHALIN

Naperville Central is on a six-game winning streak by playing team basketball the way coach Andy Nussbaum wants them to play.

Naperville Central is on a six-game winning streak since dropping a 64-39 decision to Wheaton Warrenville South on Dec. 4.

The Redhawks (13-1), who earned a 48-47 win over Neuqua Valley in the finals of the Oswego Holiday Tournament last week, are hitting their stride by playing team basketball the way coach Andy Nussbaum wants them to play.

“We’re playing smart and really like a team,” said Nussbaum. “The girls know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They’re doing a great job of executing and get the ball to the right people. That’s how they beat Neuqua in the finals by getting the ball inside to Victoria Trowbridge at the end of the game. One of the greatest things about our play in the tournament was that we limited our turnovers.”

Trowbridge was selected as the tournament’s MVP while Jamie Cuny and Shannon Ryan were chosen for the all-tournament team.

Nussbaum is especially pleased with the development of Ryan, who is emerging as one of the best point guards in the area.

“Shannon has made dramatic improvement since last year,” said Nussbaum. “She’s fast, she can handle the ball and run the offense and she’s a very good shooter.”

Nussbaum said the team is quick and deceptively good defensively.

“We’re always a little better defensively than the other team expects,” Nussbaum said. “We’re tall and we’re quick. I think we surprise them a little with our defensive ability.”

Nussbaum also likes the way the girls are taking ownership of the team.

Neuqua rebounds

If ever something positive came out of a defeat, it was the attitude of the Neuqua Valley players after the disappointing last-second loss to Naperville Central in the finals of last week’s Oswego tournament.

“Everyone on the team was holding themselves accountable,” said Neuqua coach Mike Williams. “When we walked out of there I was excited that the players didn’t let the loss get them down. Instead, they all acknowledged their own responsibilities and mistakes. That’s got to be a good sign for the future.”

It was the Wildcats first loss of the season after 14 straight victories.

“We lost to a good team,” said Williams. “But, we realize that we’ve made some positive impressions this year, because everyone is fired up to play us. The kids have to have experiences like this and I’m confident they’ll learn from this game.”

In the Naperville Central game, point guard Malia Smith hit her head on the floor and was held out of the rest of the game as a precaution. Defensive catalyst and top rebounder Allison Hedrick fouled out early in the game, but the rest of the Wildcats kept right on battling.

Williams praised Lauren Deveikis for her clutch shooting, Bryce Menendez for picking up the rebounding workload after Hedrick went out, freshman Myia Starks, who took over the point guard duties, and Najee Smith, who, due to the two personnel losses, took on multiple roles and “really did phenomenal” down the stretch.

“Thirteen of our first 15 games were on the road,” said Williams.

“And if you can win that many games in that situation, that’s pretty good.”

Starks, Hedrick and Malia Smith all made the all-tournament team.

Huskies seeking consistency

There’s nothing wrong with the Naperville North Huskies that a little consistency wouldn’t cure.

While their record is below .500 at 5-7, the Huskies have been challenging stronger opponents in recent games and just have to find the formula for executing over an entire game.

“We’ve had some good losses in the past few weeks,” said coach Jacquie Discipio. “We’ve played good defense and we’ve been running nicely on the fast break. But, we’re just not executing on offense. We have to be able to capitalize on our strong defense and score more points. And we haven’t been able to finish games. We haven’t had everyone playing well at the same time.”

The Huskies are quick and athletic. In fact, they have three players who are members of Naperville North state championship teams in other sports. Guard Jenny Smith was a member of last spring’s state champ in cross country, and Zoe Swift and Kayla Sharples were teammates on the state champion Naperville North soccer team.

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