With the season winding to a close, teams are preparing for the postseason, trying to get one last game in to see what can be worked on in practice.
For Cary-Grove's girls basketball team and head coach Rod Saffert, those tuneups are already in effect.
Holding Hampshire to a season low in points, Cary-Grove was able to come out on top with a 51-23 Fox Valley Conference crossover victory Friday night, spoiling Senior Night for the Whip-Purs.
Before Friday's game, the Trojans (16-11) had five days of practice to get ready for not just this game, but their Class 4A regional matchup at home against Grant on Monday.
"Everybody is trying to build momentum for the regional. We wanted to go in on a little bit of an upswing," Saffert said. "We had five hard days of practice and we scrimmaged a lot to get ready (for both games)."
With buckets in the first quarter hard to come by -- the teams combined for just 4 baskets -- Cary-Grove trailed 8-7 before an Abby Glaysher (8 points) basket gave the Trojans the lead for good late in the first. After trading baskets to open the second quarter, the Trojan defense came alive and shut the Whips down. Hampshire was held scoreless for the rest of the second quarter and 2 minutes into the third before Sara Finn (7 points) finally broke through with back-to-back buckets, but the damage was already done.
"I think mentally we were just going too fast," Whip-Purs coach Mike Featherly said about the drought. "That's what Cary-Grove does to you; good teams will get you going at a pace that you don't want to play at."
Cary-Grove never led by less than 15 after the second quarter, allowing for better shot selection and more patient play from its big scoring threat, Katie Barker.
Finishing the regular season close to the way she started it, when she dropped 21 against Hampshire back in November, Barker finished with a game-high 16 points. She also grabbed 5 rebounds and dished out 4 assists, something that Saffert knows will have to continue if the Trojans want to make a deep run in the playoffs.
"Everybody knows she's our go-to scorer. To win a regional we'll have to get everyone involved," Saffert said
Barker agreed that she would have to become more dynamic for her team to succeed.
"I know that I'm going to get double-teamed, so my team has to step up and make me more a screener, and when I get my opportunities I have to make the most of it," Barker said. "But it's not about the scoring for me, winning the games is what is important to me."
With every Trojan who played scoring at least a point, Barker had plenty of help. Abby Jakubicek (7 points), Candace Cunningham (6 points) and Karisa Wilczynski were all able to help Barker get to her spots and be there for an open basket.
Hampshire (11-14) was riding a 4-game winning streak coming into Friday's game, trying to carry over that momentum into its regional opener against Aurora Central Catholic, but could not get its shots to fall.
"That wasn't us, that wasn't Hampshire basketball," Featherly said. "We talked about how we were able to win those four games, through defense and taking care of the ball, and tonight it was not there. Credit Cary-Grove, we knew they were going to pressure us and they did, we just didn't handle it as well as we should have."
While seniors Becky Dumoulin, Hannah Detiveaux and Finn were all taken out in the fourth to ovations from the home crowd, sophomore Emma Benoit provided the highlights for the Whips. Benoit led the team with a double-double, snagging 11 rebounds while netting 11 points, something Featherly hopes he can see more of in coming years.
"She is starting to get a little bit of range, which is great. Once she starts moving a little bit quicker she's going to be very dangerous," Featherly said of Benoit. "Teams are already keying in on her and she's still getting points. She just keeps working at it and enjoys the process. She's a gym rat; she's always there shooting and growing."