Mandy Traversa and Wheaton North's midseason swoon?
It's so over.
Traversa scored 17 points, and surging No. 7 Wheaton North won its fifth straight, beating No. 8 Naperville Central 64-52 on Thursday in Wheaton.
"I think it all comes down to our defense," Traversa said. "Our defense has stepped up. The offense flows from our defense."
Traversa, as hot as any shooter going throughout December, cooled off when the calendar flipped over to January. Her slump appears over, as she hit 4 of Wheaton North's eight 3-pointers.
"It's always frustrating as a shooter getting in those slumps," said Traversa, who also had 9 rebounds and 3 assists. "I try to figure out how to help my team in other ways. I'm just glad to have the feel back."
The win kept the Falcons (18-6, 10-1 DuPage Valley Conference) a game back of Wheaton Warrenville South in the DVC race -- the two teams meet next Thursday. On top of that, Wheaton North swept the season series with Naperville Central (21-6, 7-5) for what is believed to be the first time in at least 22 years, possibly back to 1986.
Wheaton North needed a late rally to beat Naperville Central in the first meeting in Naperville. No such dramatics required this time.
Tied 27-27, the Falcons hit the Redhawks with a 19-2 run spanning the end of the second quarter into the third. Jessica Beamon, who scored 8 first-half points, started things with a stickback basket, and Traversa's deep 3-pointer from the top of the key gave Wheaton North a 36-27 lead at the break.
Traversa and Brooke Schanowski hit 3s to start the second half, and Cassidy Graham's transition basket off a Traversa feed made it 46-29.
Naperville Central went just more than six minutes without a made field goal.
"We switched in and out of a couple defenses," Falcons coach Dave Eaton said, "had a couple half-court traps, sort of took them out of their rhythm."
Not coincidentally, Wheaton North's run started when Redhawks senior Victoria Trowbridge went to the bench with two minutes left in the first half with 3 fouls. Trowbridge picked it up with 4:33 left, and Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum rolled the dice for a couple minutes, leaving her in before subbing her out.
But Nussbaum also gave credit where credit was due.
"(The Falcons), they're pretty relentless the way they come at you," Nussbaum said. "Victoria getting in foul trouble hurt, but I don't think it was as much of a factor."
Trowbridge had 16 points and 9 rebounds and Emily Kraft 13 points, Kraft's fourth 3 pulling the Redhawks within 58-52. They never got closer, dropping their third straight game. On the plus side Naperville Central seemed to rediscover its offense, scoring its most points since Jan. 12 against West Chicago.
"To tell you the truth, that's as good as we've played in two weeks," Nussbaum said.
Reilly Stewart added 11 points and 4 assists, Chrissy Baird 6 points and 10 rebounds and Kelly Thornton 8 points for Wheaton North.
"Kids that don't normally hit from the outside stepped up and made shots when we needed them," Eaton said. "Our kids played great team basketball."
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