Unselfish Wheeling tops Vernon Hills

By Bill Esbrook
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 1/21/2019 7:01 PM

Nosa Igiehon and her Wheeling teammates put on a dazzling display of unselfish, share-the-ball team play Monday afternoon against visiting Vernon Hills.

Igiehon, a 6-foot senior, led the way for the Wildcats with 18 points, 11 rebounds, 2 blocked shots and 5 assists as Wheeling scored a 42-28 nonconference girls basketball victory.

"We were passing the ball inside the lane and out," said Igiehon, "back and forth, to the 3-point line and back, and we were getting good shots whether it was 3-pointers or in the paint.

"Our team bond is stronger than it's every been," added the multisport athlete. "We're the definition of a team. We're really together and there's no cliques -- everyone communicates with everyone."

Senior forward Maddie Riehm led the Cougars, who have been hurt by the injury bug, with 9 points. Vernon Hills played Monday without the injured DePaul-bound Kayla Caudle.

"We've been banged up but we've been hanging tough and doing all right," said VH coach Paul Brettner. "They (Wheeling) got us on the boards. We didn't shoot the ball well."

Wheeling owned a 35-16 rebounding advantage in the game, as junior guard Sophia Stanke had 7 boards to go along with 8 points.

"We just come ready to play every time out," said Stanke. "We're always trying to be consistent throughout all four quarters and in this game we really focused on that and did it.

"We had to play our game, not theirs."

Wheeling opened up a 9-point first-quarter lead when junior guard Chloe Drozdz hit a 3-pointer, then followed up with a steal and a feed to Igiehon for a layup.

The Wildcats took a double-digit advantage before halftime on a bucket from senior guard Tommy Helms, then added on after intermission as Igiehon scored 4 more in the paint and Stanke connected for two 3-pointers.

Wheeling (10-13) led 36-14 after three periods, but Riehm led a VH fourth-quarter charge as the Cougars (12-10) got back into the game by tallying the first 8 points of the final period.

"At that point we needed to slow the tempo down," said Stanke, "and concentrate on our passing instead of looking for the quick shot."

"I liked our intensity coming back," said Brettner, "and making it something that maybe could have had a chance. But there were some issues on the defensive end where we couldn't get an extra possession here or there."

Coming out of a timeout with less than 4 minutes left, Wheeling frosh Sam Janulis had a steal and found Igiehon for a basket that helped silence the Cougars' rally.

Then Stanke helped close the game out at the free throw line for the Wildcats.

Lauren Shores scored 6 points for VH while Piper Bedell added 5.

Drozdz finished with 7 points for the Wildcats, and keyed a strong Wheeling defensive effort as the home team held VH to just 3-of-23 from 3-point range.

"We did a good job of being able to share the basketball," said Wildcats coach Matt Weber. "I thought when we had opportunities inside we took advantage and when we had the opportunity to kick it out, we were able to take advantage of that too.

"We didn't give them many second chance points. Tommy Helms did a great job of blocking out today and so did Nosa."

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