Less than three minutes had elapsed and Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer was already starting to lose his voice.
Kramer was unhappy with his team’s energy level and early deficit against Glenbard East, so he burned a timeout and exhorted his team to do better.
Matt Bennett and his teammates weren’t worried, but they did listen to Kramer, erasing a five-point deficit and rolling to a 59-37 DuPage Valley Conference victory in Lombard.
“He loses his voice every game,” Bennett said with a chuckle. “We just came out to a little bit of a slow start. He’s been telling us the one thing we can control is our effort and I feel like we really turned up our effort in that second quarter.”
In the beginning it was host Glenbard East that had the better energy. Freshman forward Michael Finley showcased nice athleticism, scoring six of his 13 points and grabbing two offensive rebounds in the first quarter.
Finley’s second three-pointer gave the Rams (4-17, 0-9) a 17-12 lead late in that quarter, but Naperville Central (16-6, 7-2) responded with a 28-6 burst to take a 40-23 halftime lead. The Redhawks, who have won seven straight, were never threatened after that.
“Just the intensity [was lacking],” Kramer said. “[We were] on the road on a Tuesday night. We knew they were going to come after us early and try to keep it close.
“I thought once we settled down and played our game and played our inside-outside game, our high-low game, I thought they just had a difficult time with that.”
Indeed, after big men Patrick Maloney and Nick Czarnowski ended the first quarter with layups, the Redhawks seemed to take turns in scoring first inside and then outside.
Maloney put the Redhawks up 18-17 with a turnaround jumper early in the second quarter and then Bennett and fellow senior guard Ryan Antony started lighting it up from the perimeter.
Bennett scored all nine of his points in the first half, all on three-pointers. Two of them came during the run, while Antony also drained a pair of treys and tallied all of his eight points before intermission. The pair also combined for seven assists, with Bennett adding three steals.
“I thought Ryan Antony and Matt Bennett really played well at the two guard spots, just defended well and then offensively just got us in our sets and ran things, shot the ball well,” Kramer said. “So they did a lot of good things and Maloney and Czar just handled things inside like they have all year.”
Maloney finished with a game-high 14 points to go with seven rebounds and two assists, while the 6-9 Czarnowski had 13 points and three blocks. Most of that production came in the first half and neither played in the final five minutes.
“We really moved the ball well,” Bennett said. “We were getting it inside and they couldn’t stop our big guys. When they kept doubling down, they just kicked it out to me and [Taylor Zelinski] and Ryan and we were knocking down our shots.”
They also prevented the Rams from knocking down many shots. Glenbard East leading scorer Jaron Hall was held to eight points on 3-for-16 shooting. No other player scored more than five points for the Rams.
“We knew [Hall] was a good player and we were just doing our best to limit his shots and try to keep it out of his hands,” Bennett said. “[Finley] played really well.”
Alex Pomeroy added five points, two blocks and a game-high 10 rebounds for the Redhawks.