Wheaton North found out first hand Thursday how much Downers Grove North has improved just since last season.
A nine-win team a year ago, the Trojans ran their record to 11-1 Thursday afternoon with a 68-57 victory against host Wheaton North at the Bill Neibch Falcon Classic, earning a semifinal appearance Friday against West Suburban Silver rival Hinsdale Central.
"They're going to be a tough team to deal with as the season comes down as long as they stay healthy," Falcons coach Dave Eaton said.
The Falcons learned just how tough the Trojans are right from the start. The Trojans forced turnovers on the Falcons' first four possessions of the game and jumped out to a 14-6 lead after Sarah Costello's steal and layup midway through the first quarter. The lead peaked at 13 points.
"You've got to give credit to their kids," Eaton said. "Obviously they're a good team. You could see that they wanted it. You could see that sort of excitement. We played them twice last year, once here and then once in the regional, and you could see that they were ready to go."
The Falcons (7-6) kept plugging away, however, several times cutting down on their turnovers and cutting the lead down to 4 points, even to 2, but each time Downers Grove North held firm.
"It's what they do," Trojans coach Stephan Bolt said. "They're a tough team, and they're a really tough team to play at home. They're a good team. They made some big shots. (Emani Jones) made some big shots. And they kept coming. We'd go up by 10, and they cut it to 2 at one point. We just played with a tremendous amount of toughness today to get through that, and kept our composure, got some good shots, some good looks, kept getting some stops. It's a nice win."
"They're a really tough team," Costello said of Wheaton North. "They've got a lot of threats, especially around the 3-point line."
A basket by Wheaton North senior Chrissy Baird with 4:47 left in the fourth quarter cut the Downers Grove North lead to 53-49, but again the Trojans refused to buckle. Jaida Green hit a 3-pointer, and after a Kelly Thornton basket, Costello hit another 3-pointer with 2:22 to play just after hitting the floor hard when being fouled.
"They go on a lot of runs and we knew that coming in, so we just had to keep our composure and adjust to their runs," Costello said. "If we just kept calm we could keep working on offense. We knew our defense could get some stops."
She followed that with another basket, and just like the Trojans' lead was back to double digits. Costello finished with a game-high 26 points, plus 7 rebounds and 4 steals.
"She's been doing it all year for us," Bolt said. "She stepped up big today and made some really, really big plays, big shots, big stops, big rebounds. Everything she did, she made some tremendous plays today. And that's what we expect out of her. A senior, she's been with us for four years as a starter and she's expected to do that. She really rose to the occasion tonight."
"Costello is good because she can handle the ball, she can shoot, she can drive," Eaton added.
Jones led the Falcons with 20 points, and Thornton added 17. Baird scored 10.
Green and Peyton Winters each had 12 points for Downers Grove North.
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