Neuqua Valley's Wisner finds her range in win
Late in the third quarter of a tightly contested girls basketball, newly anointed Neuqua Valley point guard Ellie Wisner dribbled up the middle of the court and decided to fire up a long 3-pointer because no defenders were guarding her a good several feet beyond the arc.
The Wildcats junior knocked down the long-range shot and it helped the hosts take a 4-point lead after three quarters. Just as importantly it seemed to fire up Wisner and her teammates, who saved their best play for the fourth quarter. They went on to defeat Plainfield East 51-36 in a nonconference contest in Naperville.
The 1-6 Tigers hung tough with Neuqua Valley for three-plus quarters, but a hot finish by Wisner and her teammates powered the Wildcats to a 15-4 advantage over the final eight minutes of play. Wisner added 7 of her game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, including the fifth of her 3-pointers on the night.
"I saw they were playing zone. They didn't guard up on me so I took the shot," Wisner said of her bomb that gave the Wildcats a 36-29 lead with one and half minutes left in the third quarter. "It made everyone else step up. Once I made a few shots everyone did the same."
Midway through the fourth quarter, Wisner hit the Bengals with another dagger, stepping back in the corner to drain a 3 for a 45-36 lead as Neuqua Valley (4-2) was on its way to closing the game with a 13-0 run. After the big long shots Wisner, Jada Devine and center Claudia Gallegos had an easier time getting inside for critical points against a big, strong Bengals frontcourt.
"Once I started to hit some 3s they guarded up on me and I saw that and I read it and I started to drive to the basket," Wisner said. "It was great. It will definitely give us confidence for the next few games."
Plainfield East led 23-21 at the half as the Wildcats struggled with turnovers, missed shots and defensive lapses that allowed the Bengals to get in the paint for points. When the offense started to click in the second half, the defense did the same.
"It was a close game so we just had to stick with it," said Wisner, who had 8 points through two quarters. "We had to just regroup and come out strong at the half. Defensively, we just stepped up. We each started defending a little better and in the second half we were going after steals more."
Bengals coach Tony Waznonis has played more than a share of tight games this season, but all too often lately they come up just short. Wisner was the biggest culprit on this night.
"She had that one 3 that was like 10 feet behind the line. It's one of those things where you tilt your head back and go 'Oh, man,'" the Plainfield East coach said. "That's one where you get your confidence going. All of a sudden she's got a little extra swag in her step and she's attacking the basket.
"But there were some battles. It was a physical game ... later on they did a good job of crunching down on the inside and we didn't finish at the basket."