For a young team learning how to win, a narrow victory can mean a lot.
Sophomore Laurel Pereira hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 9.5 seconds to play to give Naperville North a 47-46 victory at the Naperville North/Benet Holiday Tournament in Naperville.
"Tonight we're going to talk about that we finished it and we're going to celebrate that because these girls deserve it," Huskies coach Jason Dycus said.
Neither team led by more than 5 points in the game, with the lead changing hands four times in the final 4½ minutes. Hinsdale South (5-6) took a 1-point lead one last time with 1:20 left on a Sydney Kopp layup and made the score 46-44 on a Cassie Jensen free throw with 22.3 seconds to play.
That set up Pereira's game-winner for Naperville North (6-5).
"It's a play that we have in our program, and she executed it," Dycus said, "but to give the other girls credit makes a lot of sense too. There were two people that screened on that and got her wide open, and Caleigh (Corbett) made a great pass to her. It was a great team victory for us."
"I was really excited when coach called the play for me," Pereira said. "It was my chance to make something happen. I had been cold throughout the entire game shooting, but no matter what I always know keep shooting, keep shooting, because I can make those shots. It felt great going off my hand, so I was really excited when it went in."
Hornets coach Jen Belmonte warned her players the shot was coming.
"It's the same play everyone does," Belmonte said. "I was like, ladies, they're going to shoot the 3 from the top of the key. Be ready for it. We just get buried in a double screen there."
Pereira wasn't the only Huskie who felt her shooting touch abandoned her early in the game only to resurface late.
Junior Kayla Sharples scored 9 of the Huskies' 14 fourth-quarter points. She finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 5 steals, with 3 of those steals also coming in the fourth.
"The game was so close and we did not want to lose at all," Sharples said. "I wanted to do everything in my power so that we could win."
"Kayla's a competitor, and when we need someone to step up, she usually doesn't mind taking that role for us," Dycus added. "She struggled a little bit through three quarters, but just like we all know Kayla can do, she turned it on when she needed to."
Meanwhile, the Hornets dealt with another close defeat.
"It seems like we've been on the tough ones lately," Belmonte said. "We took Wheaton Academy down to one last Thursday, and OPRF last night was a close one, and now tonight. It's just preparing us, I guess, for conference."
Pereira finished with 12 points. Jensen and MacKenzie Kern each scored 10 points for the Hornets.
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