Kwilosz, Naperville North ride past Downers Grove South
Nikki Kwilosz is happy to be back on the basketball court again, and she's eager to make the most of it.
"It's so nice," said Kwilosz, who suffered a season-ending knee injury just over a year ago. "... But just to get that one last ride, I guess, just to play out there, it's so nice and just like heartwarming."
The senior guard is having fun now that she's back in the Naperville North lineup, and it showed in the Huskies' 52-39 nonconference victory Thursday night at Downers Grove South. Kwilosz hit three 3-pointers for the new-look Huskies (4-1).
"We're loving it and both new coaches (Erin Colletti and Molly Murray) are doing a really great job and really connecting with us," Kwilosz said. "Our team chemistry is amazing. Coach has really kind of brought us together."
The Huskies are off to a good start, but there is plenty of room for improvement as they continue to learn Colletti's system and expectations.
"I feel like we've really created a team chemistry," Colletti said. "It just takes time. This is only Game 5. I've got high expectations, of course. But I know we're going to make mistakes along the way. We've got a lot of youth, but we've also got some experience. It's kind of like on the opposite ends. But we're meshing. We're coming together."
Downers Grove South (2-4) had the hot hand at the start of the game, however, making all four of its 3-point shots to take a 19-17 lead at the end of the first quarter. But the Mustangs cooled off in the second quarter, with the Huskies outscoring them 19-4 in the second eight minutes.
"We lacked I think a little bit of focus defensively," Colletti said of the first quarter. "I called a quick timeout to (say) hey, remember the game plan. We haven't been in a gym that's been this loud, and I think it kind of just threw them off a little bit. But I think the second quarter, obviously we changed up our defensive focus. When we were missing baskets or stupid turnovers, we weren't able to do what we wanted to do.
"Once we started focusing, getting defensive stops, it was much easier to get buckets off of our defense."
Senior guard Bri Andresen led the Mustangs with 13 points, and junior guard Meghan Stapleton had 11, 9 of them in the first quarter.
"Bri and Meghan have been pretty hot lately," Mustangs coach Lyndsie Long said. "We told them going into the game, if you're open shoot the ball. We wanted to make sure we had good ball movement to start, which we did, but I think towards the end of the first quarter into the second, when we get tired. I mean, we get sloppy. I think turnovers cost us the game.
"But overall I'm super proud of our girls. We're starting to get it again. And we're rebuilding from last season. They're bringing energy and they're working their butts off. We just need to put four quarters together."
Downers Grove South scored the first 6 points of the third quarter to cut the Huskies' lead to single digits. But Naperville North responded quickly and kept the lead in double digits the rest of the way.
Junior Greta Kampschroeder led the Huskies with 18 points.