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Naperville North's Derek Westman goes up for a rebound against Romeoville during their regional matchup at Benet Academy on Monday, February 25, 2013. North would go on to win 51-44. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
All year long, Naperville North coach Jeff Powers has espoused his team's focus on "winning the day."
Little did it know how difficult that task would be on Monday.
With five days to stew over its lackluster performance during its regular-season finale at Glenbard North, 10th-seeded Naperville North pulled out a 51-44 victory over No. 23 Romeoville in the second quarterfinal of the Class 4A Benet Regional.
Securing its second 20-win season in four years under Powers' tutelage, Naperville North (20-8) didn't fully find much breathing room until a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter broke the game open.
With the lead exchanging hands four times pretty quickly in the fourth and the Spartans holding tenuously to a 27-26 lead, Derek Westman went to work for the Huskies.
Scoring nine straight points during the 14-0 run and 12 of his 14 points overall on the night in the fourth, Westman proved to be the catalyst yet again in sending he and his teammates into a rubber match with crosstown rival and seventh-seeded Naperville Central on Wednesday.
"Too close. I don’t know. It’s the fourth quarter right now. That’s been the only place I can be able to hit shots right now," said Westman, who had 10 of his 14 points in a 52-48 win over the Redhawks on Feb. 16 in the fourth quarter. “My teammates finally got me going in the fourth. Bryan (LoLordo) with that pass and the and-one set me up perfectly. Finally got me going.
“I gotta start knocking down the easy shots in the first few quarters, though. Because, playing Central, just playing the fourth isn’t going to work.”
With Rashad Steele keeping the Spartans in it, courtesy of a game-high 23 points, including hitting on seven three-pointers, Naperville North junior guard Anthony Rehayem did his best to answer.
Scoring 18 points to lead the Huskies’ cause, including hitting five treys, he was much of their offense until Westman finally got going in the fourth.
"Well, every game, somebody different gets hot, so we just have to find them," Rehayem said. “Luckily, we got it inside and out and I was left open, so I could knock down that shot.”
Coming into the game with just five victories as the lowest-seeded team in the Class 4A Bolingbrook Sectional, Romeoville (5-22) did its best to hang.
But the 14-0 punch to the gut finally ended any drama that still existed in regards to whether the Spartans could pull off a huge shocker.
"(Westman) is their leading scorer. We let him open there for two 3s. You know, we lost him. It was just a lack of communication," Romeoville coach Jeff Bambule said. “You can’t afford mistakes like that against a good team.”
The Huskies ended the first half on a 14-6 run, using an effective balance of going inside-out.
Attacking the Spartans early by getting inside and in the lane, the Huskies' perimeter game got going as Rehayem and J.P. Riley combined to connect on three threes in the first half en route to taking a 16-10 lead into halftime.