Like their game three nights earlier against Class 3A state runner-up and conference-rival Vernon Hills, Wauconda's basketball girls experienced a loud locker room at halftime Friday.
"We were so excited at halftime just to be up," Wauconda center Dani Sturm said of Tuesday's upset of Vernon Hills, which trailed the Bulldogs by five. "There was a lot of screaming."
Added senior point guad Lauren Nee: "We were like, 'We got to keep this going. Why not go all the way?' "
Wauconda also held a slim lead at halftime Friday night against Lakes at Richmond-Burton in the Northern Illinois Holiday Classic. It wasn't a happy locker room, however. Bulldogs coach Jaime Dennis got loud.
"Halftime was a little rough," Nee said. "She expected a lot more from us."
Dennis got the effort she wanted in the second half. Wauconda built a double-digit lead by the middle of the fourth quarter and hung on for a 43-34 victory that stretched its winning streak to four games. The Bulldogs (6-4, 3-1 tournament) wrap up the tourney at 12:30 p.m. today against Marian Central in the second-place bracket back at R-B.
The 5-foot-1½ Nee led the way against Lakes (3-11, 2-2), scoring a career-high 20 points, including four 3-pointers. The three-year varsity starter also had 4 steals and 4 rebounds, as Wauconda matched its win total from last season.
"We were just so overwhelmed by how we did (against Vernon Hills)," Nee said. "We wanted to keep going, but we had to try even harder (against Lakes). We knew we could beat them."
Lakes, which got 10 points and 6 steals from Kelsey Kohler, was within 38-34 with less than a minute to play and had the ball. But the Eagles missed a shot, Sturm grabbed the rebound, was fouled and hit 2 free throws with 44 seconds to go.
Sturm then helped secure the Bulldogs' win by coming up with 2 steals in the final half minute. The 5-9 senior finished with 6 points and 3 rebounds.
"She's smart," Dennis said. "So she finds herself in the right spot at the right times."
"She said they were out-hustling us," Sturm said of her coach, "so I went out there and tried to hustle my best."
Sam Ney added 8 points for Lakes and her 18-footer with 3:48 left in the second quarter gave the Eagles their only lead at 18-17. Wauconda closed the half with a 5-0 run, as Anna Wisniewski scored on an offensive rebound, freshman Katie Rossetti (8 rebounds) sank a free throw and Nee finished a layup in transition.
The Bulldogs led only 22-18 halftime but eventually extended their advantage to 38-28 when Jackie Lung (7 points) hit a 14-footer with 3:51 left in the fourth.
Nee's 11 points (three 3s) had the Bulldogs ahead 13-11 after the first quarter.
"I halfway expected a little bit of a letdown," Dennis said. "We didn't talk about that, but it's hard to follow that (Vernon Hills win) up with the same intensity and energy.
"We told them at halftime that we needed to turn up the intensity, match (Lakes') hustle and want it more. We were much better the second half, hustling after the ball, playing better defense, executing our offense. We didn't do any of that in the first half."
Lakes received 10 rebounds apiece from junior Olivia Pawlak, freshman Natalie Pawlak and freshman Isabella Quaranta. Another freshman, Kaylee Lebron, was out ill.
The Eagles will play McHenry at 11 a.m. today.
"We're playing hard," Lakes coach Pete Schneider said. "If we keep playing hard like that, we're going to be just fine. We make some bad choices because we lack experience."