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Monday's season opener did not deliver a win for the Waubonsie Valley girls basketball team, but it did deliver plenty of hope.
Against a more experienced Oswego East squad, the young Warriors battled to the very end before falling 65-57 in Aurora in a long contest that featured 58 fouls and 50 turnovers.
"I told them I'm not happy we lost but I saw a lot of good things," Waubonsie Valley coach Dave Owles said. "We played hard and I was very proud of them."
With the officials calling the game tight, with an emphasis on hand checks, the first half took an hour to play and ended with Oswego East ahead 33-27 despite 17 fouls and three apiece by Nia Flowers and Venita Parson, a pair of Wolves' sharpshooters who had their minutes reduced due to foul trouble.
The Warriors had their share of fouls -- 28 for the night and a pair of players did eventually foul out -- but the hosts played tough defense all night, connected on 25 free throws and even grabbed a lead in the third quarter following back-to-back 3-pointers from freshman Janiece Thomas. Two other freshmen, guard Abbey Glavin and forward Katie D'Ouville, played big minutes in the tight contest.
Five-foot-11 sophomore Abby Phillips also came up big on Monday, tallying 8 points and 2 blocked shots before fouling out. It was a driving basket by Phillips that got Waubonsie within 47-45 after three quarters before Oswego East's Parson and Julianna Wadsworth proved to be just too much for the young hosts to handle down the stretch.
Parson hit a clutch three and two other baskets to score 7 of her game-high 18 points in the fourth quarter, and Wadsworth had 7 of her 17 points in the final quarter and also recorded a pair of steals late that kept the Warriors at bay.
"I think tonight out of anything we saw that our bench can help us stay in games," said Oswego East coach Abe Carretto, who saw Metea Valley transfer Flowers held to 10 points after she picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter and was limited to just a few minutes of playing time in the second half. "Our bench can stay consistent and do its part."
The Warriors also showed some depth, using 11 players and featuring a balanced attack that saw nine different players score. Kendall O'Sullivan made 7 of 11 free throws to finish with 11 points, while Andrea Colin added 9 points for the Warriors.
All told, 75 free throws were shot, with the Warriors going 25 for 43 and the Wolves making 16 of 32.
"I was real impressed with a lot of things I saw," Owles said. "We had three freshmen who played a ton and Abby Phillips, a sophomore, probably played the most minutes. Those girls worked their butts off."