Wheaton Warrenville South's girls basketball team had no control over how conference front-runner Naperville Central fared in its game with Lake Park.
All the Tigers could do on Thursday was take care of their own business at Naperville North and as has been the case for a few weeks now, they had little trouble accomplishing that task. The Tigers rolled over the Huskies 60-39 for a 12th straight win and finished 14-2 in the DuPage Valley Conference, one game behind the Redhawks, who claimed the title outright by beating Lake Park.
"Obviously, it would have been really nice to get first, but this is still really special to us," junior Mackenzie Stebbins said after helping the Tigers close the regular season at 24-3. "Through every single game we thought this is the most important game. So that was our mindset in each and every game."
Stebbins said this run has been extra special since the Tigers are not all that tall and the roster is not loaded with stars.
"People look at us and we're short and they look at us like misfits," she said. "And people don't expect us to have that run. But this feels really good."
Thursday's regular-season finale followed a win over Lake Park earlier this week and sends WW South into the postseason on a high note.
"Just to finish out this week against Lake Park and Naperville North, you got two of the better players in the conference as far as I'm concerned with (sophomore Darrione) Rogers at Lake Park and (Naperville North freshman Greta) Kampschroeder is so good … she's really good," Tigers coach Rob Kroehnke said. "So to finish up this week was a challenge and it was really nice to get both wins, and just finish it out and get ready for the playoffs."
Naperville North (15-11, 10-6), which was on a hot streak of its own, was tied at 13-13 after one quarter after Lauren Platou hit a long 3-pointer just inside midcourt at the buzzer. The hosts drew even again at 19 following a 3-pointer from Nikki Kwilosz late in the second quarter.
But the Tigers, who had four players score in double figures coupled with a turnover-happy defense, closed the first half with an 8-0 run and led 40-19 in the third quarter before a Kwilosz 3 finally put an end to a 21-0 Tigers run.
"I just think it comes down to confidence in each other. We can't do it without all of us in it together," said the Tigers' Kylie Ruggles, who finished with 15 points and 4 assists. "We really just focus on keeping our composure the whole entire game and not cracking."
For the Huskies, Kwilosz scored all 10 of her team's points in the third quarter and finished the night with 16, but it was too little against the red-hot Tigers.
"They're a great team and Coach Kroehnke does a great job," Naperville North coach Jason Dycus said. "They move the ball so well and we didn't hit shots tonight. Against their zone you have to hit shots and you have to attack their zone. We didn't make that happen tonight."
Kroehnke, like his players, would have liked a shot at a share of the DVC crown, yet he has no complaints about how well his team has played the second half of this season.
"I'll tell you what, 24-3, you don't need a conference championship to justify that," he said. "The kids played great. We moved the ball well, we shot 60 percent, and we made all our free throws."