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Naperville North's Zack Tuxhorn (left) and St. Charles East's Cole Gentry battle for a loose ball Saturday. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media
Naperville North guard Bryan LoLordo relishes having the ball in hands with the game on the line, especially when the clock is stopped.
That was the case time and again Saturday night as LoLordo made eight straight free throws down the stretch to help lift the host Huskies to a 63-59 victory over St. Charles East.
“I love being in that position because I’m the decider of what happens,” LoLordo said. “I love just knocking down the free throws and putting our team in a good spot to win.”
It is clear that the charity stripe is a good spot for the Huskies. They made 27 of 33 free-throw attempts, including 12 of their last 14. LoLordo, who was playing with an illness, and Derek Westman both went 9-for-9 from the line, while Justin Winick was 4-for-4.
“We shoot so many free throws in practice it just [becomes] natural,” LoLordo said. “We have so many great free-throw shooters on the team. Anyone can be in that position and they’d do the same as us. We were just fortunate to knock them down today.”
In a battle of teams looking to snap two-game losing streaks, Naperville North (11-6) led for most of the contest and was up 41-31 at the start of the fourth quarter.
But the Saints (10-7) rallied behind the play of sophomore Cole Gentry, who erupted for 20 of his career-high 31 points in the final period, including a pair of foul shots that gave the visitors a 47-46 lead with 4:50 to go.
A layup by Westman put the Huskies back in front, but Dom Adduci drained a three-point to give St. Charles East a 50-48 edge. But Adduci missed another three-point try that would have extended the lead and Westman tied it with two free throws at the 3:30 mark.
LoLordo, who scored all of his 13 points in the second half, put the Huskies in front with two foul shots before Gentry tied it 52-52 on a layup.
LoLordo then fed Anthony Rehayem for a go-ahead three-pointer from the right wing with 1:39 left and the Saints never got closer than two points after that. LoLordo sank six free throws while Rafee Mahmud and Rehayem each had one in the final minute.
“We did not play hard enough from the beginning,” St. Charles East coach Patrick Woods said. “We weren’t ready to play once again, so we talked about that. I don’t know if we’re thinking we’re better than we are in the locker room, so that’s on the players.
“But credit [the Saints] for making a good effort to come back and put us in a position to be up 52-50 and then we took a really bad shot.”
Gentry, who surpassed his previous career high of 30 set in last week’s win over Evanston, made his last six shots from the field eight of his last nine. Like LoLordo and Westman, he also was 9-for-9 from the line. Adduci added 16 points but no other player scored more than two for St. Charles East.
In contrast, the Huskies were balanced, with Westman leading the way with 17 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals. Rehayem and freshman point guard Jelani McClain both had nine points and four boards and JP Riley chipped in eight points off the bench on 3-for-3 shooting.
“We didn’t want to come out in the new year and lose three games in a row, so it’s great getting a win,” LoLordo said. “It looks like we’re going to be on the right road that we want to be on.”