West Chicago has become quite dependent of Laura Panicali this season, and Thursday night was no different.
It was Panicali who ended a long Wildcats drought when the hosts were in a dire need of a basket late with Glenbard East coming on strong. But West Chicago also did get a nice late lift from sophomore guard Mae Elizabeth Gimre to help fend off visiting Glenbard East 37-30 in DuPage Valley Conference action.
With Panicali -- one of the top scorers in the area at just less than 20 points a game -- scoring a game-high 15 points through two quarters, the Wildcats (6-17, 3-8) took a 26-16 lead at the half and then led by as many as 16 points at 32-16. But the Rams (2-19, 0-11) got back in the game with an 8-0 run to close the third quarter and then closed to within 32-30 following a three-point play by Kelly Eberle.
But that's when Panicali ended the nearly 10-minute dryspell by the Wildcats with a jumper that made it a 34-30 game with 1:34 left to play. A three-point play by Gimre later sealed the victory and closed out the game's scoring.
"We wanted to keep our composure and take charge again," said Panicali, who finished with 21 points and 6 rebounds. "We had to pick it back up and a lot of people stepped up on defense and on offense."
With Panicali scoring West Chicago's first 11 points, the Wildcats easily turned a 7-5 deficit after one quarter into a nice cushion at the break with a 21-9 advantage in the second quarter.
Then a pair of buckets from Panicali and a drive to the basket by Gimre made it 32-16 and the Wildcats appeared in control. But Tajanae Key and Teaira Miller sparked the Rams with strong nights on the boards, and Miller and Eberle combined for 12 second-half points as the visitors mounted a rally.
"They played their hearts. We just couldn't quite get over the hump," said Glenbard East coach Don Finnie, who added that the girls have fought hard all year despite not having great results to show for it. "We played three good quarters, but we had that little letdown in the second."
Gimre finished with 9 points and 4 rebounds while Natalie Warkins paced the hosts with 6 rebounds. Miller led the Rams with 10 points and 2 steals, Key had 8 rebounds, and Eberle scored 8 points before fouling out late.
"We played so well (while getting ahead 32-16), but we kind of went into a slumber their on offense," West Chicago coach Kim Wallner said. "Our shots I thought weren't bad. We just couldn't get anyone else who wanted to step up.
"Laura comes out and plays wonderful and of course we're going to rely on her, and yet I'm looking for these youngsters to step up a little bit."