Rob Kroehnke's broken leg never hurt so good.
Back on the sidelines for the first time since fracturing his fibula over the holidays, Kroehnke's No. 3-ranked Wheaton Warrenville South Tigers provided a temporary tonic, taking it to No. 9 Wheaton North 57-42 in Saturday's matchup of DuPage Valley Conference leaders.
Kroehnke, sitting with his leg hiked up on the bench, could relax a bit as his team never trailed and built a 17-point halftime lead, which ballooned as big as 25 in the fourth quarter.
"I've been cooped up for about two weeks here. I haven't moved. I haven't even gone upstairs since last Wednesday," Kroehnke said. "(The recovery) is going to be slow, but when they play like this it feels good."
Neither side could remember the last time the two Wheatons were both undefeated in the DVC this late into the year, but visiting WW South (16-3, 7-0) left little doubt who is the class of the league at the halfway mark.
With a coach from DePaul in attendance, Meghan Waldron scored 20 points with 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals, and Sierra Bisso added 13 points. Waldron assisted a Bisso 3-pointer to start things, and Waldron's pullup jumper made it 12-2 four minutes in. Waldron's fadeaway as time expired made the margin 31-14 at half, and she later made a couple gorgeous passes to Olivia Linebarger and Allie Zappia for baskets.
"This week has been kind of pressureful," said Waldron, whose team had a 13-game win streak snapped Tuesday at Neuqua Valley. "I haven't even been playing like myself, which has been so frustrating, so tonight I just wanted to play how I usually play. Even with so many people out, we have so much heart. We all hate to lose."
The Tigers' dominance extended to all phases of the game. WW South pulled down 8 offensive rebounds in the first half and for the game outboarded Wheaton North 35-17 behind Melinda Franke's 10. And the Tigers' defense held Wheaton North 2 points shy of its season low -- needing a late flurry just to get there.
Wheaton North (13-6, 6-1) missed its first 11 3-point attempts, and leading scorer Mandy Traversa, averaging nearly 17 points a game, managed just 2 on 1-of-12 shooting.
"We definitely made sure we keyed on (Traversa)," Bisso said. "We were talking about how we had to get a hand up in her face, we can't let them shoot 3s, because we know she's shot so well."
"We always say that defense wins championships," Kroehnke said. "They're not going to hand us a trophy for winning today, but it's good to get this one now."
It just wasn't Wheaton North's week. The Falcons gave up 79 points on Tuesday in a 12-point home loss to Metea Valley and narrowly beat Glenbard North Thursday before Saturday's loss.
Afterward Falcons coach Dave Eaton noted that "every starting position is up for grabs," especially after watching his third-string group valiantly peel off a chunk of WW South's big lead late. Freshman Emmy Gryna, the starting JV point guard, scored 8 points. Chrissy Baird scored 12 to pace Wheaton North.
"We asked our kids at halftime to show a little bit more heart, and we didn't see what I was hoping for," Eaton said. "(But) I was really excited with how that last group played.
"We're hanging our heads a lot on the offensive end," Eaton added, "and all of a sudden we're worried about that and we're giving up layups at the defensive end. We can't have that. I'm looking forward to practice Monday because of the effort I saw from that group the last five minutes."
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