Wheaton North junior Hannah Swider spends a lot of time practicing her shooting at Wheaton College, where her father, Mike, is the football coach.
The 5-foot-9 guard even showed up there after Thanksgiving dinner.
"I'm in there all the time," Swider said. "It's tough to come after a practice because I can't overdo it on my body, but Sundays I'm in there and Saturdays if it's not a super-hard practice, I'm still in there putting up those shots just trying to get (better)."
All that repetition is paying off. Swider poured in a personal-high 30 points on Saturday, including four 3-pointers, as the visiting Falcons edged Metea Valley 57-52.
"Hannah is a great shooter and a lot of that is just through work," Wheaton North coach Dave Eaton said. "She's very determined in everything she does. She's relentless in her work ethic, and it shows."
Swider tallied the first 8 points for the Falcons (15-4, 9-0 DuPage Valley Conference) and shot 8 for 15 from the floor and 9 for 10 from the free-throw line. Her team needed every bit of that effort.
"Welcome to the DVC," Eaton said. "Every game is going to be a grind. It was a fun game, and we're just glad that we were able to tough it out down the stretch."
Swider scored 20 points in the first half, but the Falcons led only 30-24 at the break. They led by 9 in the third quarter, only to see Metea pull within 49-48 on a three-point play by sophomore Ashley Konkle with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter.
Konkle had 14 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 assists for the Mustangs (9-13, 5-7), who used a balanced attack to stay in contention. Bri Hall had 11 points, while Skye Lane added 9 points and 7 boards and guards Janiece Thomas and Jamairrah Woods each scored 8.
"We were hoping for that," Konkle said. "It showed in the way we played. I've never been more proud of our team because I think this was the best game we've played all year."
Ultimately, it wasn't enough because the Falcons sank 15 of 20 foul shots in the fourth quarter. They scored 6 straight points, all at the line, after Konkle cut it to 1.
Falcons junior guard Sophie Ahlberg accounted for 5 of those points. She went 6 for 8 from the free-throw line and finished with 9 points and 5 assists.
"Sophie is an amazing point guard, and we're really lucky to have her," Swider said. "She's quick and you can't underestimate her."
The 5-4 Ahlberg may be undersized, but her confidence is not.
"I knew I had to hit them and my team helped me a lot because they just give me confidence to know I can make it," Ahlberg said. "I've been practicing a lot so I felt good about it.
"We knew size was their advantage, but I think our speed, athleticism and our shooters are our advantage, so we just played our game."
Indeed, the Falcons are used to playing tight games and did not turn the ball over in the final three minutes.
"We just stayed calm," Swider said. "We could have panicked and been throwing passes all over the place, but we knew what we needed to do and we settled down."