Kickel, Naperville North stop Hinsdale Central
Naperville North junior Allison Kickel never forgets how hard she worked to return this basketball season from a torn meniscus in her left knee in June.
The forward's passion shows on the court.
"I'm very prone to injury so I always play each game with everything that I have because I never know what will happen," Kickel said. "My determination to get back whenever I have an injury just pushes me to do better. Every time I get an injury or a setback, I work hard to get better than what I was."
Kickel again excelled off the bench Tuesday. She fueled a strong third quarter for the Huskies to pull away in their 52-36 nonconference victory at Hinsdale Central.
Naperville North (12-4) saw a double-digit lead cut to 27-22 on the Red Devils' first possession of the third quarter but then outscored them 9-1 the rest of the period for a 36-23 margin that grew to 44-23 in the fourth quarter.
Kickel's active hands and feet made or contributed to four of the Huskies' seven steals in the third quarter.
"I've been starting to get more active on defense just to help the team out. We've all been trying to get our hands up," Kickel said.
"We've said this is a bunch of times. The defense creates our offense. Really getting the defensive stops, just getting blocks or steals, not letting them shoot. I think that really helps us propel into our offense."
Junior Greta Kampschroeder led Naperville North with 13 points and freshmen Peyton Fenner and Abby Drendel scored 11 each.
Senior Sarah Cernugel and junior forward Nina Sarros had 13 and 9 points, respectively, for Hinsdale Central (4-9). Sophomore Eleanor Monyek contributed 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
Kampschroeder had 8 rebounds. With 4 assists and 10 rebounds, 6 on offense, Fenner posted her first double-double of the season.
"I'm trying to make it a common thing, I suppose," Fenner said. "I've just been trying really hard to focus more on trying to get the ball, even when I don't think I can grab it. It's really been just the whole team trying to get tougher on defense. It really showed tonight, even though we had kind of a tough win. It wasn't really pretty but we were scrappy as we could be."
The Huskies opened two 12-point leads in the second quarter, but Hinsdale Central closed to 27-20 by halftime off late baskets by Monyek and Cernugel.
Calling her team's first-half play chaotic and a little frantic, Naperville North coach Erin Colletti helped the Huskies regroup.
"We took our press off, we just kind of sat in the half court and hunkered down on defense. We simplified our offense somewhat, just working the ball around, working for the best shot. That's when I thought we started to turn around," Colletti said.
"All of us are disappointed in ourselves, how we performed, but we were still able to come out with a win. Hinsdale Central never gave up. They continued to push, push, push. They caused us, I feel, to come out of our game."
Many games this season, the Red Devils have given constant effort and remained close with defense, usually a 1-2-2 zone, but they have been hampered by offensive droughts, usually in the third quarter.
"I thought the girls played really hard. I thought we did a good job of frustrating them and getting good stops against a team that's much bigger and longer than we are," Hinsdale Central coach Karen Persinger said.
"We stayed patient on offense. And then we just got stagnant in that third quarter. I feel like when we don't score, we do lots of standing and we kind of lost some of that great momentum we had in the first half where we were cutting and moving to the ball."
Kickel's comeback joins that of the Huskies' "ACL sisters," starting guard Nikki Kwilosz, who recently returned from injury, and Kara Rivard, expected to return soon.
Kickel underwent surgery two weeks after her tear. She began rehab before surgery to become stronger than before and resumed the day after surgery.
"I was determined to get back," Kickel said.