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Huskies win first regional title since ’06, battle conference foe Wheaton-Warrenville South in sectionals

The+Regional+champs+pose+with+their+championship+plaque.%0A%0APhoto+courtesy+of+Coach+Jeff+Powers+on+Twitter%2F%40JeffJpowers
The Regional champs pose with their championship plaque.

Photo courtesy of Coach Jeff Powers on Twitter/@JeffJpowers

The Regional champs pose with their championship plaque. Photo courtesy of Coach Jeff Powers on Twitter/@JeffJpowers

The Regional champs pose with their championship plaque. Photo courtesy of Coach Jeff Powers on Twitter/@JeffJpowers

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The Naperville North boys basketball team had been here before.  Last year, the team was down 29-27 at half in the regional championship against York. They ended up losing 47-40.  This year, they flipped the script. Down 29-27 at the half against Addison Trail, The Huskies roared back to come away with a 71-51 victory. The blowout victory gives the Huskies their first regional championship since 2006 and the first of Head Coach Jeff Powers’s time at Naperville North.

In the first half, the Blazers of Addison Trail came ready to play, leading 19-15 at the end of the first quarter. The Huskies tightened things up in the second quarter but were still down 29-27 at the half.

“We were two for 14 from the three, so that made it hard,” said Powers.

In the second half, the Huskies played like an entirely different team. A good combo of threes and points in the paint resulted in a 24-10 run in the third quarter.

“Going into the locker room, we just told ourselves that we have to slow down, play our game and get our bigs some touches,” said senior guard Youcef Merabet.

Going into the fourth quarter up 53-37, Naperville North did not let up. The Huskies once again outscored the Blazers 18-14 to grab the 20 point victory, thanks to outstanding efforts by the big men.

“We know we’ve got the three-headed monster of Tom Welch, Chris Johnson, and Mitch Lewis that finish through almost any contact,” said Merabet.

The so-called “Three-Headed Monster” saw all of its towering members finish in double figures and combined for 48 points on the night. Mitch Lewis led the way for the Huskies with 21.

“[Mitch Lewis] got us in rhythm and got our energy up and he was able to suck the defense in so we could kick it out to our shooters,” said junior Chris Johnson.

After the victory, Coach Powers mixed in a Walter Payton mantra to talk about his team’s toughness against adversity.

“On the back of their warmup shirts it says “Never Die Easy” and that’s our motto,” said Powers.

Up next for the Huskies will be the Tigers of Wheaton Warrenville-South at Hinsdale Central on Tuesday night. In the regular season, Wheaton Warrenville-South swept the Huskies and won the DVC, losing only one game the entire season. Although the Tigers are the 1 seed in this bracket, Naperville North has given them all they can handle as the last two games between the two were determined by a combined total of four points. Wheaton Warrenville South’s strategy is to hold the ball as long as they can to prevent the other team from having the ball. This has led to them allowing less than 30 points eight times, including last Friday in their  30-28 regional championship victory over Hinsdale Central.

“We might have some surprises for them,” said Powers, “They are a really good team, we will play hard, do our thing and see what happens.”

Naperville North will have to have a performance similar to their 3rd quarter scoring outburst against Addison Trail, but for most of the game. This time, the Huskies can’t be sluggish or else the Tigers will consume the clock. But as they say, third time’s a charm.

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Huskies win first regional title since ’06, battle conference foe Wheaton-Warrenville South in sectionals