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West Aurora's Kyler Robinson eyes a basket against Naperville Central at West Aurora High School in Aurora, Ill., on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013. | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media

From either team’s perspective, the third quarter was decisive in Naperville Central’s 48-40 DuPage Valley Conference victory Saturday at West Aurora.

Central coach Andy Nussbaum cited better defense as the reason why the No. 16 Redhawks (21-3, 7-2) turned a three-point halftime deficit into a five-point lead heading into the final eight minutes.

From the opposite bench, Blackhawk coach Connie Siljendahl admitted the inability to get the ball in the basket meant West Aurora (9-11, 4-6) also missed a chance at leveling its records.

“I really thought we won the game at the defensive end, especially in the third quarter,” Nussbaum said. “We played more like a team in the second half. Emily (Kraft) got hot and when they came out on her, then Victoria (Trowbridge) and Jamie (Cuny) had openings inside, plus we could capitalize on Cierra’s (Stanciel) speed.”

The visiting Redhawks opened with a 5-0 lead, only to have West Aurora scored 10 unanswered points before the initial quarter ended with the hosts ahead 10-9.

Alexis Wiggins drove to the bucket and added a free throw for the old-fashioned three-point play, while teammate Abriya Zeitz snared a rebound and scored on a five-foot putback to beat the buzzer for the Blackhawks’ 25-20 intermission edge.

Central’s Kraft opened and finished the third quarter with the last two of her four three-point bombs as part of a 12-point performance which was second only to 13 from Trowbridge, while Cuny and Stanciel added eight and seven, respectively.

“It’s always nice when my teammates set me up for open shots, but I also like to look inside for Victoria or anyone else for a better shot,” said Kraft, who added five assists. “It depends a little on if I’m guarded on a three, but truthfully assists always make me happy.”

In between Kraft’s triples, Trowbridge had a three-point play. Cuny added a basket inside, and Stanciel made a steal and drove the length of the floor for a bucket. In contrast, West Aurora finally had a drought of five minutes, nine seconds snapped when Erin Jacobsen hit a nine-foot banker. The Blackhawks’ only other bucket for the third quarter was a Wiggins top-of-key three in the final seconds.

“Outside of that one bank shot, our defense was really solid and that three was somewhat my fault because I told Emily to back off on defense,” Nussbaum said.

Unfortunately for West Aurora, that nightmare was all too familiar.

“Once again we were right up with them for the first half, but we just can’t seem to play a good third quarter,” Zeitz said.

The junior matched Wiggins in scoring with 11 points, but tallied a career-best 18 rebounds. For West, Kyler Robinson return to action for the second contest since the loss of scoring and rebounding leader Elizabeth Skaggs.

“Because of that I knew it was important to step up my game, but athleticism can only take you so far,” Zeitz said. “You’ve got to add even more hustle and heart, plus we need two or more others step up as well.”

With a 33-28 edge prior to the fourth, Central outscored West 15-12 to close out the win.

“We got a little winded and struggled some on offense,” Siljendahl said. “But that’s when you have to drive the ball more, look to set someone up, or play even tougher defense and stop them when your offense isn’t there. Obviously we need to get Abriya more touches.”

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