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Naperville Central's Mike Blaszczyk connects on a layup over Plainfield East's Tristen Esker (10) on Tuesday, January 15, 2013 at Naperville Central High School in Naperville IL. | Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Thanks to the way it consistently shot the ball on Tuesday night, Plainfield East came away with a 58-56 victory over Naperville Central in Naperville.
“I thought they [Plainfield East] shot the ball really well, but I don’t think we defended very well. Right now, it’s a roller-coaster ride,” Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said. “We play real well sometimes and other times, we don’t play so well. I think it’s a mental thing and we just got to come back [Friday at West Chicago].”
Plainfield East (6-9) had eight different players score, led by senior Nick Novak and sophomore Aaron Jordan scoring 20 points apiece in a game that Bengals coach Brendan Adkins called arguably their best of the year.
Novak helped keep Plainfield East in control during a 12-point third quarter that saw him hit on four of his six three-pointers on the night to help turn a 28-28 game at the half into a 45-43 Plainfield East advantage going into the fourth.
“My team just started driving to the bucket and then when things didn’t open up for them—the defense sunk in on them—they kicked it out to me and we just made things happen [offensively],” Novak said.
With the game tied 56-56 and with the Bengals inbounding the ball with 17 seconds left, Jordan was sent to the line with 7.9 left and promptly sank both free throws to put the Bengals up for good.
“Aaron’s a big-time player. He hit a big shot on Friday night to beat our rival [Plainfield North] at a last second,” Adkins said of Jordan. “The ball has got to be in his hands a lot of times. He’s that good of a player, in my opinion. He’s only a sophomore, but we’re going to put him in [late-game] situations. We get [in a game] like this, the ball has got to be in his hands.
“I love him at the free throw line. He’s a 90 percent shooter. I feel confident every time and we wouldn’t change anything with him.”
With Kramer asking for a timeout and failing to get one, the best the Redhawks could do to answer Jordan’s two free throws was Ryan Antony firing up a contested three-pointer with about five seconds left that misfired.
Trailing for much of the game, but staying within shouting distance of the young Bengals, Naperville Central (11-6) started to get some much-needed momentum late in the third and early in the fourth by going inside to junior center Nick Czarnowski.
Czarnowski, who had a second straight double-double by recording 17 points and 12 rebounds, scored 10 of 12 Redhawk points during a stretch that spanned the end of the third to the start of the fourth and gave the Redhawks their final lead of 46-45.
Jordan answered by scoring Plainfield East’s next five points to help counter Czarnowski and Plainfield East never trailed again.
“Czarnowski’s a big kid. We had to be aware of him,” said Jordan, who had nine of his 20 in the fourth. “But I think we took his punches and we punched right back. We didn’t give up. Yeah, he was scoring. But we came down, put it right back at him.”
Six different Bengals scored in the first half as the teams went into halftime tied 28-28.
Behind Jordan’s nine first-half points, the Bengals built a lead as big as seven points in the first half following a Jordan triple to open the scoring in the second.
Senior Mike Blaszczyk added nine of his 16 points in the first half to keep the Redhawks afloat, along with Czarnowski chipping in with six points.