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Naperville North guard Stephen Clinton has spent much of the season parked on the bench, bothered by a sore wrist and buried on the depth chart of a talented team.
So when the senior was called on to make his first career start Saturday night, he was more than ready, for more than one reason.
Clinton buried a pair of three-pointers in the early going and that jump-started the host Huskies to a 69-58 victory over Plainfield East in Naperville.
That Clinton was given his first start against the Bengals was especially appropriate because Clinton transferred over the summer from Plainfield East, where he did not make the team last year.
“[That] makes it way better,” Clinton said. “I haven’t played that much at all, but they let me start tonight and I had to go out there and prove a point.
“It was amazing. I was so excited.”
Clinton played only eight minutes, including the first six of the game, but it was enough for him to make his mark. His second three-pointer gave Naperville North an 11-4 lead and his shooting touch proved contagious as the Huskies (17-6) combined to make 26 of 46 shots from the floor en route to their sixth straight win.
“He came out strong here today and he showed us what he was made of, knocking down two threes early,” Naperville North senior Bryan LoLordo said. “He puts in the work and he’s doing great for us.
“He’s always on fire, so whenever he starts hitting we’re all open and we start hitting. So it’s props to him that we got off on a good foot.”
Naperville North’s hot shooting was needed because Plainfield East (9-12) didn’t exactly run and hide under the barrage. The visitors kept the deficit in single digits until back-to-back layups by LoLordo and freshman Jelani McClain at the end of the third quarter triggered a 15-4 run that extended the Huskies’ cushion to 61-40.
LoLordo and junior Anthony Rehayem were both facilitators and finishers as each tallied 15 points to tie McClain for team-high scoring honors. LoLordo added eight assists and Rehayem had six assists to go with 4-for-5 shooting from the floor and a 6-for-6 effort from the line.
McClain made all seven of his shots, mostly fast-break layups, and now has made his last 10 shots. Derek Westman added 11 points and five boards for the Huskies, while Clinton finished with six points and JP Riley had five points.
“Everything was rolling,” LoLordo said. “We were knocking down shots, getting good breaks, playing some tight ‘D’ and our man Steve here, coming out hot early, that helped so much more.”
Aaron Jordan tallied a game-high 19 points, including four treys, to lead the Bengals, while Kentwan Steptore added 14 points and Nick Novak had 11 points, including a trio of threes.