Sophomore Nikki Baird and her Wheaton North girls basketball teammates were ready for a faster pace from Metea Valley on Thursday.
"We just try to play our style, our game. We try not to let the other team dictate what we're going to do," Baird said. "We knew that they might have a little bit of speed on us, but we're a pretty deep team."
With their usual combination of tough defense, outside shooting and depth, the Falcons enjoyed a higher-scoring and hard-fought 67-53 victory in Wheaton to remain undefeated in the DuPage Valley Conference.
Baird finished with 22 points on 9-for-11 shooting, 5 assists, 4 steals and 4 of the eight 3-pointers by the Falcons (4-3, 3-0). Junior Hannah Swider had 19 points and sophomore Sarah Topps 10 with two 3s apiece.
"I'm just so happy that we won. My whole team played so well," Baird said. "I think I just had so much adrenaline because we were playing so well. (The pace) doesn't really matter. Our practices are made to be harder than our games, so I think we're really-well prepared."
Wheaton North used a 13-0 run in the final four minutes of the first half to turn a 2-point deficit into a 35-26 halftime lead. Baird then had a 13-point third quarter with three 3s in a 21-point third quarter for a 56-40 advantage.
Before Thursday the Falcons hadn't finished with more than 56 points in any game since 60 in the season opener. Metea (2-7, 1-2) exceeded 50 points for the sixth time.
"I thought 18-18 at the end of the first quarter was not how I wanted to draw it up," said Wheaton North coach Dave Eaton with a smile.
"I thought we did a great job in that second half of really starting to defend the way we do. It was a matchup of speed versus size. Early they were sort of dictating the tempo and running what they wanted to. (Then) I thought our defense allowed our offense to sort of set the tone."
Metea also had three players in double figures -- sophomore Ashley Konkle with 16, and seniors Brianna Hall with 14 and Janiece Thomas 13.
The Mustangs ended the first half with 1-for-10 shooting after a 9-for-19 start. They opened the second half with a 1-3-1 zone and double-teaming to force back-to-back turnovers but never could get closer than 7 points.
"We tried to make some adjustments and it just didn't fall our way. They're a good team. We've just got to go back to the drawing board," Metea coach Cedric Williams said. "We have our moments. We've got to figure out how to put all four quarters together. Also to understand how to play without the basketball. Sometimes you just have to improvise."
This was the second straight 20-point game for Baird, but Eaton said he was most proud of the true team effort needed to prevail.
Baird sat part of the second quarter with two fouls, but solid play from reserves Topps, sophomore Jenna Kortenhoeven and junior Maggie Bonga kept the Falcons in charge.
During the 13-0 run Topps hit a big 3 off a kickout pass by Swider. Kortenhoeven was 4 for 4 from the free-throw line in the quarter en route to 6 points on free throws after scoring 15 points in the preceding junior varsity game.
Wheaton North non-starters outscored Metea 12-2 in the first half and 19-6 overall.
"My teammates are the ones that gave me the ball so I was able to go up," Kortenhoeven said. "It's a really big team effort. We're all ready on the bench. It never really matters how much I play."
"That's my girl. I've played with (Kortenhoeven) my whole life and I'm so proud of her. She just played so awesome," Baird added. "That's why we're having success because everyone is able to come in and step up any given time."