Neuqua Valley bounces back to beat Joliet Catholic
A lot of young players would get discouraged after a blowout loss to a girls basketball conference rival.
Neuqua Valley's Claudia Gallegos isn't one of them.
Two days after the Wildcats lost by 33 points to Waubonsie Valley, Gallegos helped get her team back on track. The 6-foot-1 sophomore center led all players with 13 points and 9 rebounds Monday night as Neuqua knocked off Joliet Catholic 50-25 in Naperville in a nonconference game.
"You have to have that mentality that there's going to be those days where not everyone plays at the top level," Gallegos said. "We know that we have good athletes, at least, and we're ready to adapt to any situation that comes."
The Wildcats (11-8) bounced back in impressive fashion on Senior Night.
Senior Kelly Vonnahme tallied all 6 of her points and all but one of her 7 rebounds in the first quarter to stake her team to a 12-5 lead. She then opened the second quarter by feeding Gallegos for an inside bucket, and Jessica Sun followed with a 3-pointer to boost the lead to 17-7.
"I think it's really important to start off the game with that type of intensity so hopefully throughout the game we can keep it up," Vonnahme said. "We changed a lot of things that we should have been doing in the Waubonsie game, like talking on defense, getting out on the shooters, just playing as a team better."
That effort flustered Joliet Catholic (7-12) into an awful offensive performance. The Angels trailed 22-14 at halftime, but the Wildcats roared in the third quarter, allowing a mere 4 points.
Neuqua scored the first 7 points of the third period to take control. Gallegos set up Stephanie Bellis's 3-pointer, and then Bellis, who finished with 9 points, passed to senior Ashley Ishman, who sank a jumper before Gallegos buried a jumper of her own.
Joliet Catholic, meanwhile, missed its first 20 shots of the second half. Charlie Kinsella's layup with 2:53 left in the fourth quarter was the visitors' first basket after halftime.
"I think we were getting our steals, which we practice in practice," Vonnahme said. "So we've been communicating better on defense than we have been, especially in that Waubonsie game."
The Wildcats forced 25 turnovers, 15 of which came on steals. Senior point guard Sofia Medina had 3 steals, while Bellis, Ishman, Ellie Wisner, Kara Vonnahme and Jada Devine all had 2.
Mia Bertino led the Angels with 9 points.
With six sophomores on his roster, Neuqua Valley coach Mike Williams is mindful of helping the Wildcats build for the future.
"We have some good senior leadership," Williams said. "Kelly is a good senior. Ashley is a good senior.
"But there's a lot of kids that haven't played (varsity). We've got the talent to do things, so we're fine."
The future is particularly rosy for Wisner and Gallegos, who is developing into a solid force in the post.
"I think (Gallegos) gained a lot of confidence this year," Kelly Vonnahme said. "She improved a lot over the summer, especially with her AAU team, so I think she's (made) a really good contribution."