Wheaton North junior Emari Jones liked the big number teammate Kelly Thornton put up Thursday night in Roselle.
"My shooter," the 6-foot-1 point guard said of Thornton. "When I see she's open, she's getting the ball and I just know it's going in. Our shooter."
Thornton hit three 3-pointers and scored a personal-best 20 points and the Falcons defeated host Lake Park 61-50 in the teams' first DuPage Valley Conference girls basketball meeting since the Lancers joined the conference.
The Lancers (3-6, 1-2) took the lead early, going in front by as much as five points.
"It was good to see, because we weren't starting the way we wanted to," Lancers coach Brian Rupp said. "It was good to see that we could hang with a good team like that right off the bat."
But Wheaton North (6-5, 3-1) fought back toward the end of the first quarter, leading 20-17 when Thornton hit a 3-pointer just seconds before the period ended. That 3-pointer set the stage for an even better second quarter for the Falcons, who scored the first 10 points of the second.
By halftime they had 43 points on the scoreboard and led by 13. It was the kind of frenetic pace the Falcons aspire to every game.
"Love to," Falcons coach Dave Eaton said. "With Emari being as athletic as she is, Kelly can shoot it, Chrissy (Baird) is quote-unquote a post. So is Emily Barry. They're really not post players. They're not a true 6-foot-5 kid. They're just the taller kids we've got. They're so fast and athletic they can run the floor as well. It just helps us out. That's the tempo we would like to play at."
The Falcons cooled a little offensively in the third quarter, but not defensively. They held Lake Park scoreless until 35 seconds remained in the third when Abbie Zastawny banked in a 3-pointer, with their lead peaking at 25 points.
"We had great defense," Jones said. "Coming out in that 1-3-1 trap we really shut them down."
"It was one of those things where youth kind of caught up with us, we couldn't keep up with them," Rupp said. "They're a fast team up and down the floor and they play good defense."
Jones and Baird added 13 points apiece for the Falcons, and Baird had 9 rebounds.
Sophomore Jen Warfield scored 11 for the Lancers, and junior Emily Duckhorn added 10. Lake Park outscored Wheaton North 12-2 in the fourth quarter to narrow the final margin.
"Coming from the season that some of these girls had last year on a one-win team, the growth that we've made here in the first nine games, I'm proud of them," Rupp said. "This is just a learning process. We've got young players. we don't start a senior. We've got a lot of young talent that's learning how to play at this speed."
"They've got a nice group here," Eaton added. "Their kids are athletic. (Duckhorn) can shoot it. She does a good job of making you stretch your defense a little bit. And (Jakeiya Morgan) is very quick. And they shoot the ball really well. That's a good team right there."
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