Starting junior guard Daina Riser recently missed five Lake Park girls basketball games recovering from a sprained ankle.
"I kept telling myself, I'm coming back stronger than I left," Riser said.
Wheaton Warrenville South became the first victim Thursday.
In her first start since returning, Riser had personal highs of 24 points and five 3-pointers as the Lancers pulled out a gritty 40-37 DuPage Valley Conference road victory in Wheaton.
Lake Park (6-14, 5-5) scored the final six points for its third DVC victory by three points or fewer. Riser's final 3-pointer tied the game at 37 with 1:11 left.
"I think this (victory) is really big for us. We're showing who we actually are," said Riser, who was 5 for 11 from 3-point range and 8 for 15 overall. "I just felt it and I didn't want to stop. I've always been told (to shoot)."
The Lancers' Camryn James had 9 points. Emily Golab and Riser each had 10 rebounds and Golab and Carson Vance each had 3 assists.
The Tigers (12-8, 6-3) received 13 points and 8 rebounds from Jayla Johnson and 10 points from Sarah Struebing. Mackenzie Stebbins had 4 points and 3 assists.
There was lots of defense. Only five players had multiple field goals. Even Riser's biggest play may have been defensively.
After James drove and scored to put Lake Park ahead 39-37 with 29.9 seconds. The Tigers called a timeout with 19.9 seconds and were working the ball in the upper left part of the three-point circle.
Riser deflected a pass that James recovered.
"I just didn't want to lose so I watched her eyes and she passed exactly where she was looking," Riser said.
Three fouls later, Vance made a one-and-bonus free throw with 3.3 seconds but missed the second attempt. The Tigers quickly advanced the basketball but their last-second 3 from just past the scorer's table fell short.
"We knew that the whole idea going into this game was it was going to be a grinding game. Any time we play them we know it's going to be one of those," Lake Park coach Brian Rupp said. "I think that we played smart enough to win the game."
The Tigers, who won their first meeting 49-36 Dec. 3, were denied a four-game winning streak for the third time this season. They were in the bonus the final six minutes but failed to convert their first two chances.
"It was very disappointing. We got outworked," WW South coach Rob Kroehnke said. "The bottom line -- you get outworked in anything in life and things aren't going to work out the way you want them to. It was a lesson we didn't want to have, but it was put upon us and we have to figure out what we want to do from here."
Riser had limited reserve action in Saturday's loss to Naperville Central but still scored 10 points. Against the Tigers, she and the Lancers maintained patience facing a 3-2 zone defense -- even after 1-for-11 shooting in the first quarter and falling behind 16-8 in the second.
They tied the game on Riser's three-point play off a press break, but the Tigers answered with a last-second 3 from Struebing to lead 23-20 at the half.
Lake Park opened the third quarter with an 8-0 run on Riser 3s around a James bucket inside.
"We knew we would have to hit 3s tonight. They're very good at not fouling you in the paint," Rupp said. "We kept our poise. We hit free throws. We outrebounded them. We're happy to get a win against a really good team."
The Lancers continue to grow after losing freshman standout Darrione Rogers to an torn ACL in her knee during the first quarter of the season opener.
"We were trying to figure out how to score. Like Daina (tonight), people are stepping up," Rupp said. "For the most part, our defense has been there all year and keeping us in games. And now we're winning them."