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Mandy Traversa could shoot the ball from the first day she showed up at Wheaton North.
Few 6-footers in the girls high school game have her touch.
She's never scored quite like this, though.
With an expanded offensive game the Falcons senior is putting up huge numbers for one of the area's highest-scoring offenses.
It started with a conversation Traversa had with Wheaton North coach Dave Eaton after last year, when she averaged a respectable 9.2 points and shot 34 percent from 3-point range.
"If somebody didn't scout us, she'd go off," Eaton said, "but if somebody did scout us she'd just sit outside and catch and shoot. I told her, 'People know you're a shooter; you need to become a scorer.' Now she can score inside the arc and it's made a major difference."
Indeed Traversa is averaging 17.6 points a game and has made 36 3s at a 43 percent rate. Inside the 3-point line she's making a ridiculous 67 percent of her shots.
It starts with a quick release that even leaves Eaton and assistant Mike Pribaz shaking their head on occasion.
"She took one shot coming off a screen, nowhere near set, fading right — and it was nothing but net," Eaton said. "With her release and how quick it is she does not have to be set. It looks like she is getting wide-open looks because she gets the ball off so quick."
Traversa's likely college choice will come down to Division III Illinois Wesleyan or Hope College. She is getting Division-I looks but prefers to play for a program that can win a championship.
That competitive streak probably starts in the driveway where she shoots around with younger brother Nick, a sophomore and one of the better shooters in the boys program.
Eaton has witnessed that side of Traversa since freshman year.
"I remember when she was a freshman I told her at a timeout, 'You can smile,'" Eaton recalled, "and she said, 'We got a game to win here.' She is so competitive and so composed."
Traversa is also getting a big boost from fellow senior Reilly Stewart.
A kid Eaton calls the best point guard he's had at Wheaton North — "Ta (Fantasia Vine), she was our best athlete," Stewart is averaging 8.5 points and 4 assists per game for a 7-3 team scoring 57.3 a game.
"As well as Mandy is playing, Reilly is who is making us go," Eaton said. "She pushes it well in transition, makes great decisions and teams have to collapse on her because she finishes so well around the basket."
St. Francis feeling good:
St. Francis is surely in better spirits these days.
Winners of four of their last five games, the 4-6 Spartans have already surpassed last year's win total. Even in the only loss in the current stretch, 43-37 last Saturday to Glenbard South, St. Francis held a 2-point lead after three quarters.
"They're starting to believe that if they work together as a team we can win some games," Spartans coach Mike Phillips said. "As a group, once they won a couple games they started to believe in themselves."
An experienced senior guard duo of Kate Slattery and Aly Germanos helps. Slattery scored 17 points in St. Francis' first win, over Wheaton Academy, and they scored 19 and 18, respectively, in a win over Marian Central. The Spartans are also getting good contributions from freshmen Leah Riccolo and Reagan Sproat and juniors Abby Winkler and Sophie Koslowski.
Defense has picked up as well; the Spartans have held their last five opponents under 50 points after giving up 56 or more in each of their first four games.
The Spartans will get a nice little barometer next week at the Riverside-Brookfield Tournament. Sectional opponents R-B and Nazareth are both in the field. St. Francis tips on Dec. 26 against McHenry.
Needless to say, the mood around the team is much brighter these days.
"Winning cures a lot," Phillips said. "If you're not winning and coach is getting on you in practice every day that can be difficult. Success makes people believe in what you're doing."
WW South winning with new look:
Wheaton Warrenville South coach Rob Kroehnke got a dose of needed good news Monday when MRI results on Kelly Langlas' knee came back with a sprained MCL and bone bruise. Thankfully, no tear and Langlas could return in a few weeks.
Still, down Langlas and Maggie Dansdill it's a different Tigers team. Less quick, perhaps a little more post-oriented.
Two kids who could factor in huge now are junior Melinda Franke and sophomore Olivia Linebarger. Those two got their first taste of significant varsity action last year around this time. Now they're both starters.
Both fit WW South's aggressive mindset well. Linebarger had 11 points and 9 rebounds in a win over Benet, and Franke pulled down double-digit rebounds against both Glenbard West and Providence.
"They're very similar type players as Maggie; they're just not as quick and fast," Kroehnke said. "They're both strong, work around the basket really well and get after it on defense."
Another girl who could play a much more important role offensively is Diamond Thompson. It's no coincidence that with Dansdill out, WW South made a concerted effort last week to pound the ball inside to the 6-foot-4 transfer from Montini. Kroehnke knows he can expect big numbers from Meghan Waldron on the perimeter, but he needs to keep defenses honest.
"We need to get Diamond touches," Kroehnke said. "We'll definitely be looking to go inside more, depending on the matchups."
Warriors looking for first win:
Starting from scratch this year, first-year Waubonsie Valley coach Dave Owles can't really judge his group by wins and losses.
Obviously, the 0-11 Warriors are looking for their first win, but Owles has seen signs of progress. Waubonsie nearly won at Bartlett 10 days ago but blew a late 7-point lead. Waubonsie took a step back Friday in a 33-19 loss to East Aurora but played better the next day against Metea Valley.
Hard-working senior Morgan Grastorf, who played sparingly a year ago, is Waubonsie's top scorer at this point.
"We just got to keep a positive attitude and keep working at it," Owles said.
Owles gave his kids the day off from practice Monday, then will go at it hard for three days before a Friday matchup at Lake Park. Both teams are 0-11, hard to believe coming from two respectable programs.
"I can't complain. For the most part the effort has been good," Owles said. "They play well in spurts. I've told the girls that they can be disappointed, but don't get discouraged."
Follow Josh on Twitter @jwelge96