‘It was great to be back’ Parker Brown, Wheaton Warrenville South win long-awaited opener

Tigers hold off late Naperville North rally for 51-43 victory

WHEATON – Naperville North senior guard Peter Krebs started the season Friday night with a pass to teammate Liam Kim — from the halfcourt out of bounds marker.

Yes, this was no ordinary opener.

With the coronavirus pandemic delaying the start of the basketball season by nearly three months, there was expected to be some odd sights in the opener between Naperville North and Wheaton Warrenville South.

But the matchup between the DuKane and DuPage Valley titans featured some of the old staples of past storied meeting — good ball movement, tenacious defense and solid perimeter shooting.

In the end, the Tigers buried six free throws in the final 78 seconds to hold off a furious rally by the Huskies to secure a hard-fought 51-43 victory in Wheaton.

The Tigers (1-0) were glad to be back on the court, and to gain a season-opening victory in the start of a rugged three games in three days against quality opponents — St. Joseph on Saturday and Benet on Sunday.

“We were happy to be playing” WW South coach Mike Healy said. “It was obviously a strange game but once we all got going, it was normal. We will try and fix a couple of things and have a great challenge on Saturday and Sunday.”

Friday’s opener was a welcome relief for the players and coaches, but featured some odd changes.

All the players were required to wear masks, and there was no jump ball. An occasional cold breeze throughout the gym was another indicator of a new but hopefully temporary time. The Huskies also only dressed eight players.

There were 90-second mask timeout breaks in each quarter, with the Tigers electing to spend the timeout in the hallway.

Still, even with all the changes, it was another quality matchup between the two rivals.

WW South senior guard Parker Brown’s energy and 3-point shooting proved to be a catalyst in the victory. Brown drained a pair of crucial 3-pointers in the third quarter to finish with 11 points. Tyler Fawcett hit two late free throws and added a steal to go with 11 points.

Brown said he missed the normal festivities for a Friday night home game, but he cherished the start of the season.

“It was great to be back on the court,” Brown said. “We waited so long. This was a big step to get the win. It was crazy, and louder in the gym than I thought. One of our main goals was to get the bench going.”

The Huskies (0-1) showed the effects of a long postseason, not scoring their first points until nearly three minutes into the opener. Whereas the Tigers (1-0) were able to string together baskets and take care of the ball, the Huskies struggled with both aspects in the first half

The Huskies scored just two points in the first quarter to fall into a 15-2 deficit, and didn’t cross over double digits until Williams’ three free throws with 3:11 left until halftime.

The Huskies managed to mount a comeback late in the third quarter, and missed two 3s an for an opportunity to take the lead in the final minutes. Senior forward Grant Johnson drilled two fourth-quarter 3s to lead the Huskies with 16 points. Zeke Williams and Jacob Scharm both added 10.