Great defense and some great shooting helped a bunch, but the most impressive thing about West Aurora's fourth-quarter effort at Wheaton North may very well have been on the mental side.
The Blackhawks had lost by double digits to the Falcons earlier this season and then found themselves staring at a 17-point deficit late in the third quarter Thursday night before rallying to stun Wheaton North 71-65 in Wheaton.
Forward Abriya Zeitz scored a personal-best 28 points, guard Taylor Jacobsen had four 3-pointers on the night and Alexis Wiggins and Carly Frauenhoff each had clutch 3s during a 31-point fourth-quarter that lifted the Blackhawks while delivering a lethal blow to the Falcons' DuPage Valley Conference title hopes.
"The first time we played them we lost by quite a lot," said Zeitz, who tallied 16 points in the second half as West Aurora (15-7, 5-4) erased a 31-23 deficit after two quarters. "For being down the first half you know, we just kind of thought, do you want to go through this again or do we want to finally play our game?"
But even a determined Blackhawks squad saw the Falcons' lead grow in the third quarter as Emmy Gryna bombed in four shots from beyond the arc and Kelly Thornton and Chrissy Baird also added 3s. But Wheaton North's 53-36 lead was not enough as the Blackhawks got hot on offense and then used some full-court pressure to help force 14 second-half turnovers.
"I could feel it before the game started. They wanted this game and they wanted it bad," West Aurora coach Connie Siljendahl said. "When you get seniors that are ready to play and put everything on the court. … Zeitz had such an amazing game. So did (Elizabeth) Skaggs, and with Taylor hitting those 3s and Alexis getting a big steal and 3s late, and Ashley Williams' defense on (Emari Jones) was big. It was a team effort. They all played together. I'm extremely proud of them."
Frauenhoff's 3-pointer midway through the fourth gave West Aurora a 61-60 lead -- its first lead since early in the second quarter -- and from there the game was tied at 61 and 64 before Wiggins knocked down the eventual game-winning three with 32 seconds.
"I think their defense is a credit to the 31 points (in the fourth quarter) more than their offense. They got some steals and they rebounded really, really well. Their kids played great," Falcons coach Dave Eaton said after his team dropped to 15-9, 8-3.
"It comes back to defense. We've got to do a better job deciding to play defense. We've got to figure out how to buy in on the defensive end. You can't give up 31 in the fourth quarter."