Wheaton Warrenville South almost never has a size advantage, but Thursday's girls basketball game against Downers Grove South gave the Tigers an especially tough test.
It wasn't quite with flying colors, but the Tigers passed the nonconference test with a 48-45 victory in Wheaton.
"I think we did pretty well," Tigers senior Kennedy Youngblood said. "We've played against a couple of teams with a lot of height on us as well, so it forces us to be more aggressive. It's good for our team."
The Tigers (17-3) took the lead in the first quarter, ending the period with an 8-0 run, and never let it go. They led 26-16 at halftime after forcing 13 Mustangs turnovers and beating Downers South on the boards, grabbing 7 offensive rebounds in the second quarter alone.
"We just need to learn that every possession matters," Mustangs coach Lyndsie Long said. "I just think that we get lax sometimes when we get a little tired, then we start making turnovers and then we start making bad decisions and taking breaks on defense."
The Tigers held the Mustangs' Jen Masello, a 6-foot-1 senior, to 7 points, in part due to early foul trouble. Masello also grabbed 10 rebounds, dished 3 assists and blocked 2 shots. Holly Lueken, a 6-foot junior, scored 17 and blocked 6 shots.
"Getting Jen in foul trouble right off the get-go didn't help, but she played through and got back in and finished the game for us very strongly.
You do that the whole game better things are going to happen," Long said.
The Mustangs (10-8) rallied late in the game but ran out of time. The Tigers let the clock run out after a Lindsay Morton 3-pointer with four seconds to go brought the Mustangs as close as they'd been since the first quarter.
The Tigers liked how they reacted to the Downers South rally.
"Actually, a lot calmer than we thought we would," Youngblood said. "We were talking about that after the game. I thought we all did really well keeping our composure on and off the court."
It helped that the Tigers made 16 of 19 free throws, 10 of 12 in the final quarter.
"It's a lot easier when you can hit a lot of your shots," said Tigers coach Rob Kroehnke, whose team made just 15 of 54, "but when you struggle from the field you've got to find a way to win and I thought the kids did a great job tonight and found a way to win. Hit free throws when they needed to. Made stops when they needed to."