Wheeling hangs on to down Palatine
Despite leading by 12 points with 14 minutes left, things got tense for Wheeling's girls basketball team.
Host Palatine got to within 25-21 early in the fourth quarter and was within 31-26 when Olivia Radtke fired home a 3-pointer with 1:35 left.
"I think we all just needed to settle down because we got a little wound up," said Wildcats junior playmaker Chloe Drozdz. "We knew they would foul us so we had to make our free throws."
And it was Drozdz who converted 4-of-5 in the final minute to help Wheeling secure a 39-26 triumph in the Mid-Suburban League crossover.
"We just stayed composed and it ended up working out for us," said Drozdz (game-high 13 points) who worked hard to keep the Wildcats' in tune on offense.
"We want the ball in her hands for the majority of the game and she did a great job being a leader out there," said Wheeling coach Matt Weber. "She took control when things got tense and when they applied a lot of pressure. She just remained calm and called out our offense. She did a nice job remaining calm the entire game."
Drozdz' two 3-pointers in the second quarter helped pushed the Wildcats' lead to 17-4 with 1:05 left in the half.
Pirates junior Rhiann Dick fired home a 3-pointer on her 17th birthday to make it 17-7 at the break.
When Melanie Simon went coast to coast for a layup, Palatine trailed 25-21.
But the Wildcats refused to let the Pirates any closer and went on to even their record.
"It feels great," Drozdz said. "This was one of our goals as a team and it feels real god when you hit it."
As usual, Nosa Igiehon (9 points, all in the second half) and Morgan Collar (8 points) hit the boards for Wheeling.
Wildcats senior Tommy Helms (6 points) had a big 17-footer in the third quarter and 2 big free throws with 1:08 left in the game. Junior Sophia Stanke added 3 points.
"It's a good way to start the new year," Weber added. "We talked before the game about playing consistent basketball, playing the exact same way for four quarters and we showed we are capable of that,"
Radtke, who had Palatine's only 2-point field goal in the first half, and freshman Madisen Stark led Palatine (4-13) with 7 points apiece.
Pirates senior Amy Vitulli had all 5 of her points in second half.
"You saw how hard these girls play," said Palatine coach Mark Johnson. "They've improved a ton from where we were a month ago and I feel we're going to have good games going forward.
"We just didn't make a few shots tonight and Wheeling made some clutch free throws down the stretch. But the thing about these girls is that they don't quit. And they are going to continue to work hard which is exactly what we need them to do. These are building blocks. We have a lot to learn still and we are going to keep after it and keep them going."
In terms of points allowed, it was Wheeling's top effort of the season.
"We were all on the same page, working together, limiting second shots and that's what we are capable of doing every night defensively," Weber said. "So it was good to see."