Trailing by as many 9 points in the first half, Schaumburg's girls basketball team had an uphill battle against a team that was all about winning.
Visiting Westminster Christian came into Saturday's nonconference matinee with a sparkling 19-2 record.
"It was nerve-wracking," said Schaumburg guard Brittany Reinhart. "I'm still shaking."
But the 5-foot-7 junior looked calm as could be when she stood at the free throw line with her team leading by 1 point and 29.3 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
Reinhart sank 2 free throws which proved to be the decisive points in the Saxons' 50-49 triumph over the Warriors, a Class 2A team which advanced to the Elite Eight of the 1A state tourney a year ago.
"They are really good," said Reinhart, who scored 6 points in last year's 74-60 win over the Westminster. "We really needed a win like this to keep getting momentum and to move forward. These positive vibes are what we needed."
After trailing 17-10 after one quarter, the defensive vibes were becoming positive for the Saxons (6-17), who gave up only 8 points in the next 13 minutes.
"Obviously, I was thrilled with how we came out and played in the first quarter," said Warriors coach Ken Flickinger, whose team's only losses are to Hinckley-Big Rock and Cuba City, the No. 2 ranked team in Wisconsin's Class 2A (of five classes). "But Schaumburg then kind of lit up on defense."
Offensively, the Saxons were led by freshman Laura O'Connell (14 points) and junior Tatiana Doroskin (12).
Reinhart chipped in 11 points and had a big assist when she lobbed a pass into Doroskin for an 8-footer that gave Schaumburg a 36-32 lead with 6:16 left in the third quarter.
Senior Claire Speweik's 3-pointer got the Warriors to within a point but Reinhart went to work again, hitting a 3-pointer to stretch the lead to 39-35.
"Brittany has been playing well all season," said Schaumburg first-year coach Curtis Goodwin. "She has kind of found her niche and knows what she can do and she is also a leader on the team.
"She has been 'Miss Consistency' this season and we can always count on her to play well."
Goodwin was also able to count on Doroskin and O'Connell for points on Saturday.
"Tatiana (Doroskin) was just active around the basket," Goodwin said. "The more active she is, the more the ball finds her.
"Laura (O'Connell) has size and length but she can put the ball on the ground and go to the basket. That's a rare skill and she will get even better as she gets older."
The visitors got to within 48-47 on a free throw by senior McKaila Hays with 33 seconds left in the game.
But Reinhart quickly drew a foul at the other end of the floor and made her two crucial free throws.
"Uncharacteristically, we missed some free throw at the end that didn't help," Flickinger said. "But I wasn't complaining about our shot selection at all.
"We had a lot of nice shots but the rims were not being kind to us. And we really needed a big play down the stretch but we didn't get it."
The Warriors got double-figure scoring from Hays (14 points), Speweik (11) and sophomore Maddie Versluys (10), who also led the team with 7 rebounds. Senior Kinsley Donahue led with 6 steals while Liz Meschewski had 5. Hays, who now has 990 career points, made a team-high 4 steals.
"We wilted a bit after we got that lead in the first quarter and it took us a while to get our confidence back," Flickinger added.
"Last year we played the same type of game with them. We came out great and then kind of slowed down a bit in the middle. After last year's game we said we wanted to come back.
"We are going to talk to them about keeping the series going. This gets us ready for regionals. I don't like losing but it's a good game for us to play."
The Saxon's game currently revolves around youth.
"We're young but we'll only keep getting better," said Goodwin, whose team also received 7 points from freshman Mallory Gerber. "It's a growing process for the girls but it's nice to see them get a positive result."
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