When this season started, Willowbrook sophomore Josie Zabran was not even on the varsity roster, but my how the times have changed.
A combination of injuries and stellar play have moved the forward from the junior varsity to the varsity and on Thursday, into the Warriors' starting lineup in a key West Suburban Gold battle with Proviso East.
In her first varsity start all Zabran did was lead Willowbrook to a thrilling 61-57 win over the Pirates in Villa Park with game highs of 17 points and 12 rebounds. Thanks to her big game, the Warriors overcame some shaky foul shooting and injuries to stay perfect in the conference at 8-0 while improving to 18-3 overall.
"Oh, I was very nervous," said Zabran, who recorded 7 points and 7 rebounds as the Warriors built a 31-19 lead at the half. "My teammates were really nice and just calmed me down about it."
With senior Melissa Rader out due to a knee injury, Zabran got the starting nod and did plenty of dirty work under the boards against Proviso East, which was looking to avenge its only league loss to date, a heartbreaking home setback earlier this season in which it let a 12-point lead slip away to the Warriors.
Willowbrook coach Terry Harrell was not surprised to see his young post player use a variety of spin moves and twists and turns underneath the basket. He also was not surprised to see Zabran's teammates feed her the ball repeatedly.
"I told you she had that Crayola box of moves," Harrell joked. "And the one thing I will say about the girls … they're not girls who want to hold onto the ball. She was dropping it and they gave it to her."
The free throws didn't drop in very often for Willowbrook. If not for 10 missed free throws in the first half, their 12-point margin could have been more comfortable and they would have better sustained a Pirates rally in the second half. Proviso East went to a full-court press and erased the Warriors lead when Tia Barlow's basket gave the visitors a 52-51 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
But Willowbrook answered with a second-chance basket from Molly Krawczykowski and an inside score from Zabran and never trailed again.
"They played really hard as a team tonight," Harrell said of his squad, which rebounded well from Tuesday's lopsided loss to Glenbard South. "Everyone that came into the game gave us a lot of effort. We got a lot of effort off the bench."
With Krawczykowski plagued by foul trouble, the Warriors got big boosts from Olivia Domin and Lauren Carroll, who combined to score 21 points, and from Alyssa Ressinger, who had 5 points and 9 rebounds off the bench.