Asked about her physical condition, Meghan Waldron minced no words.
"I'm beat up," said the Wheaton Warrenville South junior. "We're all beat up."
Beat up, but not beaten.
Waldron's short runner with seconds left in regulation forced overtime, where the No. 3 Tigers shut out DeKalb for a gritty 39-32 win in Friday's final of the Naperville North/Benet Holiday Tournament.
WW South (13-2), down two injured girls, dressed just seven varsity players for Friday's game. Still, the Tigers won their 12th straight. Six of those wins have come in this most recent grueling nine-day stretch
Waldron, one of the healthy Tigers, took a shot to the mouth in Thursday's win over Geneva and was banged around on more than one occasion by a physical DeKalb bunch. She still scored 18 points, pulled down a huge 15 rebounds and hit three free throws in overtime.
"Physically, mentally, this is a hard tournament," Waldron said. "Three days in a row last week, two in a row this week against two tough teams. The fact that we went 5-0 without two of our best players is a huge accomplishment. Shout out to our whole team."
WW South coach Rob Kroehnke is giving his girls time off until Dec. 31, and they earned it. The Tigers have lost players at every level of their program to torn ACLs the last few weeks, notably junior Maggie Dansdill.
The shortened bench and tired legs prevented the Tigers from pressing to force tempo Friday, but they beat DeKalb (15-2) at its own methodical, grind-it-out game. The Barbs' only previous loss came to Whitney Young.
"To get through these last few weeks, it's amazing," Kroehnke said. "Just an outstanding effort by these kids. I'm sure they have nothing left to give."
DeKalb led 18-17 at half, but WW South surged ahead out of the break, holding the Barbs scoreless until the final minute of the third quarter. Waldron muscled a score up in transition to give the Tigers their biggest lead at 25-18. A pair of Courtney Patrick 3-pointers tied it 26-26, a third Patrick 3 nudged the Barbs ahead 31-30 with 1:42 left.
Freshman Brittney Patrick split two free throws with 26.8 seconds left, but at the other end Waldron drove right and knocked down a tying runner from 10 feet out with six seconds left. DeKalb had a shot for the win in regulation, but Madelyne Johnson's short turnaround was too hard off the glass.
In overtime Olivia Linebarger hit four free throws, and WW South's defense made it stand.
The defense of quick guard Courtney Patrick made life difficult on Waldron, and DeKalb's pace wasn't what WW South prefers. Still, Waldron and her teammates made plays late.
"They were small, they were quick, they were well-coached," Waldron said, "and they played slow. That was kind of frustrating. They play a lot different than us, different than any team we've played all year."
Diamond Thompson was once again a big presence defensively for WW South with 4 blocks and a few alters, to go along with 7 points and 4 rebounds.
"We're in any game if we just buckle down and play defense," Thompson said. "(DeKalb), they like to play in slow motion. We just had to stay focused, stay matched up, protect the basket and stay disciplined."
Courtney Patrick scored 14 points for DeKalb. Intense Barbs coach Chris Davenport doesn't seem the type who cares for losing, but he appreciated how his kids played in defeat.
"We pride ourselves on playing defense," Davenport said. "It was a fight, that's what I'm happy about. Wheaton's a good team."