It wasn't easy by any stretch, but Wheaton Warrenville South survived a tough week and now the Tigers are in position to take a shot at a repeat title of the Naperville North/Benet Holiday Tournament.
Having played DuPage Valley Conference rival Naperville North on Tuesday and two rounds of tourney games on Thursday and Friday, the 9-1 Tigers outlasted host Benet 51-47 Saturday night in Lisle to improve to 3-0 in the holiday event, which they won in 2012.
The game was tight throughout, and even after Wheaton Warrenville South took a 37-26 lead in the third quarter following a three-point play from Meghan Waldron, the Redwings drew even at 39-39 after three quarters. A pair of 3s from Emily Eshoo and a fastbreak basket by Kathleen Doyle at the buzzer followed a rare turnover by the Tigers to tie the score.
"It's fun but it's a challenge," said Waldron, who led all scorers with 30 points after making 8 free throws in the fourth quarter. "We just had games Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and then you end up with Benet. It's like, oh my gosh."
The Redwings (9-4) had a similarly busy week and also entered Saturday's contest 2-0 in the tourney after escaping an overtime battle with Kenwood Academy on Friday. They had three players score in double figures and put down some timely 3s, but in the end they sent Waldron to the free-throw line too many times and the talented senior made them pay by making 13 of 15 foul shots.
Tigers coach Rob Kroehnke was not at all surprised to see Benet use a 15-2 run to take a 41-39 lead early in the fourth quarter. He has faced veteran coach Peter Paul many times over the years and never expects wins to come easy against the Redwings. Paul is retiring after the season.
"That was a big stretch for us with four games in five days, and the girls passed the test with flying colors," said Kroehnke, whose team resumes tourney play next Friday. "This (tough battle) is what you get playing Benet. I have the utmost respect for Peter. He's a class act and it will be different without him next year."
The Tigers jumped ahead 10-3 on Saturday but led just 17-15 after one quarter as Emily Schramek hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 8 of her 11 points in the opening quarter. Wheaton Warrenville South then led 27-22 at the half and opened the third quarter with a run to take that 11-point lead, but Eshoo scored 8 of her 13 points late in the third quarter as the hosts drew even.
The fourth quarter went back and forth but Waldron hit her foul shots and the Tigers took care of the ball well to close out Benet. Doyle, who had 12 points for the Redwings, fouled out in the final minute, but even so Benet trailed just 50-47 and had the ball with 15 seconds to play before a turnover allowed the Tigers to hang on.
"We just let it slip away at the end," Doyle said. "A couple plays made the difference."