Neuqua Valley overcomes Naperville Central
Saturday afternoon's 44-34 victory by the Neuqua Valley girls basketball team over host Naperville Central featured three outstanding individual performances among two young teams.
The Wildcats (5-2, 2-0 in the DuPage Valley Conference) were led by their two starting guards Myia Starks and Kai Moon in Neuqua's first battle against the Redhawks (4-3, 1-1) as a member of the DVC.
Starks had 15 points and 6 rebounds with Moon putting through 10 points and 7 rebounds against defending DVC champ Naperville Central.
"This is a really big confidence boost. We're excited about what the season can be," Starks said.
Neuqua led 10-8 after the first quarter and built up a 6-point lead on a putback from Starks that made it 19-13 midway through the second quarter. Then senior Redhawks guard Hannah Swarm found her shooting touch, scoring 8 points in the final 2:49 of the first half and Neuqua led just 23-19 at halftime.
"Their guards are good and a whole lot better close up," said Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum. "We tried to limit their guards. They're just good players."
Swarm finished with a game-high 19 points and 7 rebounds.
"Hannah played tremendous and they were trying to limit her. She deserves a lot of credit," Nussbaum said.
Makinzie DeHaan, who led all rebounders with 10, hit net early in the third quarter to put the Wildcats up 27-19. The Redhawks responded with a 5-0 run that was capped by Swarm's 3-point basket to pull her team to within 27-24.
However that momentum could not be sustained. DeHaan and Jada Harvey hit net back-to-back to push Neuqua back up 31-24 with Nussbaum then calling a timeout with 3:10 remaining in the quarter. The Wildcats led 33-27 at the end of 24 minutes.
Harvey, a sophomore, went in all alone for a layup and Starks turned a steal into a layup and Neuqua had a 10-point advantage 1:13 into the fourth. Harvey came off the bench to score 6 points in the second half after missing last season with a torn ACL.
"I'm fully healthy, but it's been tough," she said.
The Redhawks pulled to within 6 with 3:30 left in the game, but the Wildcats took several trips to the free-throw line in the remaining time to go home with a double-digit victory.
Neuqua coach Mike Williams said his team has a lot of upside but needs to show a better level of consistency. He said, though, that will come in time.
"We're a team of young players and we might not play at the level we need to two games in a row," he said.
Sara Teteak had 6 points for Naperville Central and Kate McBain pulled down 7 rebounds.
"We still had our chances (late). It was 39-32. We missed some shots we could have made," Nussbaum said. "We have one returning starter, one girl returned with significant varsity playing time and the rest are playing their seventh varsity game.
"I'm pretty encouraged. We need to get better. I would just like to get better a little faster," he said.