As long as her players are healthy, Wheeling coach Julissa Hernandez doesn't mind sitting sideways behind the bench in sweats, with her leg propped on a chair.
"If I'm the one who is hurt, I'm fine with that. I'm taking one for the team," Hernandez laughed.
Hernandez had surgery on a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament on Monday. She injured herself while playing in a pick-up game with her team during preseason practices.
"I just made a jump stop and that was it, it blew out," said Hernandez, who will be on crutches for the next six weeks. "I waited until (Christmas break) to have the surgery because I knew I'd have some time away from school to recover. Right now, I've got to keep my leg up, so I can't really be on the sideline."
Hernandez, whose assistants stroll the sidelines to communicate with the players and refs, is still an active participant in every game. In fact, from her perch behind the bench, she was yelling instructions right down to the last second of Friday's Blue Devil Classic tournament game against host Warren.
The Wildcats had to come up with a last stand as Warren had the ball with five seconds left and was trying to tie the game with a bucket. But Wheeling forced the Blue Devils into an off-balanced shot and came away with a 33-31 win.
The Wildcats improve to 8-7 on the season. They are 3-1 in the tournament. Warren drops to 4-10 and is 1-3 in the tournament.
"We were just looking to stop the ball and play tough defense for those five seconds so that we could get the win," said Wheeling junior guard Deanna Kuzmanic, who scored a game-high 16 points, including three 3-pointers. "We helped each other on defense.
Kuzmanic, an Alabama-Birmingham recruit, helped Wheeling overcome a 16-11 first-quarter deficit with tough defense and patient offense. At one point in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats worked nearly three minutes off the clock. Then they knocked down some big 3-pointers.
In addition to Kuzmanic's three 3-pointers, guard Hannah Dobrowski drained four 3-pointers for Wheeling. She finished with 13 points and was the only other Wheeling player to score in double figures.
"We're confident in our (long-range) shots, so if it's open, we're willing to take it," said Kuzmanic, who also had 6 assists. "As long as it's a good shot, we're good to go. I was confident in it and I know my team has confidence in me to shoot. That's why Hannah and I shot a lot of threes today."
Overall, Wheeling shot 20 3-pointers. Warren wasn't shy from 3-point range either. The Blue Devils unloaded on 22 3-pointers.
"There's not a lot of size in the girls game right now, so there's not a lot of reason to pound the ball inside," Warren coach John Stanczykiewicz said. "A lot of teams don't have a size advantage inside so they create the shot they can and a lot of times that's a perimeter jumper. You see a lot of 3-point shooting right now.
"On a night when a team is shooting well, you're going to win. On a night when you're not, you're going to struggle."
Warren hit just 4 of its 22 3-pointers, an 18 percent clip.
Hailey Leinart hit two 3-pointers for Warren but was off on her attempt at the buzzer. She finished with a team-high 9 points.
"We got off to a good start, but we didn't finish like we wanted to because we got a little scrappy and we hesitated," Leinart said. "Our strength is shooting and we have a lot of 3-point shooters. But we were off. That's when it's bad, when we're off our shots. If we're on, we usually play pretty well."
Warren also got 6 points from Kristen O'Brien and 5 points from Sammi Jo Nixon.
Grayslake Central 61, Deerfield 41: Senior center Morgan Dahlstrom scored a game-high 25 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to lead Grayslake Central to a big win over Deerfield in the Blue Devil Classic at Warren.
Dahlstrom was a big reason Grayslake Central hit an efficient 52 percent of its shots from the field. She connected on 12-of-18 shots. She was also a force on the defensive end, rolling up 6 monster blocks.
The Rams also got big games out of Carson Sparkman and Maddy Miller. Sparkman had 11 points and 5 rebounds while Miller finished with 9 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists.
After allowing Deerfield to score 28 first-half points, Grayslake Central made its move after halftime, holding the Warriors to just 13 points over the entire second half.
Haley Greer led the Warriors with 17 points while teammate Margot Sylvan added 12 points.
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