Naperville Central is one of the teams just bubbling under the area’s Super 25. All of the Redhawks’ losses have been to ranked teams: Benet, Hinsdale Central, West Aurora, Fremd and Glenbard North.
Peter Kramer, Naperville Central’s coach, thinks 6-6 senior Patrick Maloney could be the key to the Redhawks getting over the hump and beating the ranked squads.
“The first thing is we have to be stronger with the ball against those type teams,” Kramer said. “But Maloney has improved so much since the beginning of the year. That’s a big factor.”
Maloney’s recent surge was on full display Tuesday in Plainfield. He scored 18 points and grabbed 10 boards to lead the Redhawks in a 67-54 win over Plainfield East.
“I think I’ve been a lot less tentative on offense,” Maloney said. “Just more aggressive and comfortable. Teams can’t guard me and [6-8 center Nick Czarnowski].”
Czarnowski scored 16, all in the second half, and grabbed nine rebounds.
Naperville Central (12-5) lit up the Bengals (9-7) from outside in the first half, draining six three-pointers to lead 33-19. The Redhawks focused on pounding the ball into the post in the second half.
Plainfield East star Aaron Jordan, an Illinois recruit, came to life in the third quarter. He scored 10 of his game-high 22 points in the third. His two free throws with 5:12 to play in the game cut Naperville Central’s lead down to just 50-44.
“Aaron Jordan is a hell of a player,” Kramer said. “One of the best we’ve played against. I thought we did a great job defending him but he was hitting shots with a man in his face.”
The Redhawks responded with a 7-0 run to take control. They shot 5-for-6 from the free-throw line during the run.
“We’ve been struggling from the free-throw line so that was huge,” Kramer said.
Point guard Ryan Antony scored nine and dished off six assists for Naperville Central, several with flash.
“He is what he is, a great high school point guard,” Kramer said. “He does so many things for us that go unnoticed.”
The Redhawks were routed by Benet back in November, losing 71-47. The loss is still on Maloney’s mind.
“We think we can win a regional and do well in the sectional,” Maloney said. “That’s going to mean playing better against Benet and I think we can. I think if we play like we did tonight we can beat them.”