Buzzer beater finish secures Redhawks first conference win


Courtesy of Scott Damge

Naperville Central senior forward James Jopes hits a game winner against Waubonsie Valley on Dec. 3 at home

Connor McHugh, Sports Editor

The Naperville Central boys basketball team is off to a hot start by starting off the season 6-1 with their first loss coming against Wheaton Warrenville South, who was also undefeated going into the Dec. 4 game. 

The Redhawks competed in their first DuPage Valley Conference game at home on Dec. 3 against the Waubonsie Valley Warriors. The Warriors were 3-1 going into the matchup. 

Head coach Pete Kramer turns the teams lack of height to his advantage by designing a game plan best suited for the teams’ strengths.

“We try to spread the floor and open up the lane to attack the basket that way,” Kramer said.

The Redhawks are becoming known for their ability to score and have put up 448 points in only seven games. This can largely be attributed to the team’s unique ability to be very consistent with the 3-point shot.

“A very big part of our arsenal is our 3-point shot because we are very capable of making 3-pointers,” said Kramer. “[For] some kids on this team, a 3-point is like a layup to them.”

Senior James Jopes is one of those players.

Jopes, who’s also a tight end and holder for the football team, is a third year player returning to the varsity team. 

Jopes had high expectations for the team’s offense going into their match against the Warriors.

“We knew that we were gonna be a force on offense,” Jopes said. “We are always good at moving the ball and getting open shots and knocking them down.” 

Jopes did exactly that.

Going into halftime, the Warriors were beating the Redhawks by seven points. After fighting an uphill battle the entire second half, the Redhawks tied the game 58-58 with less than a minute remaining. With high school basketball not having a shot clock, the team was able to move the ball around for the remaining time to open up a shot. 

Jopes delivered and hit the game-winning shot as time expired to give the Redhawks their first conference win.

“As soon as I shot it I knew it was in,” Jopes said.

Jopes was not the only one who contributed to the win against the Warriors.

Senior Jonah Hinton contributed a team high of 20 points. Hinton leads the team in points per game and is a lethal 3-point shooter.

Standing at 6 foot 5 inches, junior Mantas Zilys is the most physically dominant player on the Redhawks and leads the team in rebounds. By also being a dominant scorer, Zilys has solidified himself as one of the best players in the DVC alongside Hinton and Jopes.

Kramer noted players include Krugliakovas, Michael Boyce and Pambos Nicoloudes having different strengths that bring versatility to the team that make opponents have a hard time adjusting.

Kramer has high expectations for the team going forward into the season. 

“We obviously want to be conference champions, that is number one.” Kramer said.

The Redhawks will face Lockport in their next match after winter break  on Jan. 8.