Sarah Mazurek said that in the past she "wasn't able to rebound the ball all that well."
That sure has changed.
The Conant junior muscled her way for 5 quick first-quarter boards to stake the Cougars to a hot start en route to a 53-28 Mid-Suburban West girls basketball victory over host Palatine.
Classmate Lexi Zades added 9 first-quarter points as the Cougars outscored the Pirates 19-5 in the first quarter to set the tone.
"A good start can set you up for the whole game," said Zades. "This was our first conference game, so we knew that if we lost we'd be in last place instead of first.
"That made us play as hard as we could."
Mazurek's second 3-pointer of the contest gave Conant (3-4, 1-0) a commanding 21-point advantage with three minutes left in the second quarter, but it wasn't just all offense for the visitors.
A stifling Cougars "D" didn't allow Palatine (3-4, 0-1) to reach double digits until 2 free throws from Bridget Ryan with 2:15 remaining in the half.
"Our coaches stress defense," said Zades. "We're a defensive minded team, and I have to thank our team for the great defense tonight."
Another 3-pointer, this one by senior forward Dee Dee Durr, extended the Cougars' lead to 22 late in the third quarter and put the game out of reach.
Conant hit 8 three pointers on the evening, led by 3 from Jorri Wachal who come off the bench to score a team-high 12 points.
Zades finished with 11, while Sami Heuertz scored a game-high 13 for Palatine, including sinking 9 of 11 from the free-throw line.
Despite the strong effort of Mazurek, Palatine recovered to win the battle of the boards 30-25 as 5-11 Pirates junior Anna Wozniak had a game high 8 rebounds.
Morgan Radtke added 5 points for Palatine, while Durr scored 8 for the Cougars.
"We had some hard practices this week," said Mazurek. "Coming off our loss Tuesday (to Prospect), we came out with something to prove."