Wauconda's game keeps growing
Once a teammate of Grant junior Jazzlyn Linbo during their feeder-basketball days, Wauconda junior Kiley Szmajda has watched her old friend get taller and taller and taller.
"I used to be the same height as her," the 5-foot-10 Szmajda said with a laugh of the 6-2 Linbo.
Szmajda has grown, too, particularly as a hoops player.
The forward demonstrated that again on Tuesday night, scoring 16 of her 18 points in the opening half, as Wauconda took control early against visiting Grant and cruised to a 68-37 win in Northern Lake County Conference action.
The win for Wauconda (13-5, 6-2) avenged a loss to open conference action in early December, when Grant's Kylie Whyte hit a 3-pointer to beat the fourth-quarter buzzer.
Grant fell to 12-9 and 6-2 with its second NLCC loss in a row.
"We wanted to beat Grant back from their upset against us on the buzzer-beater," Wauconda sophomore guard Mackenzie Arden said. "We worked really hard during practice, and we just played a complete game. Usually there's a quarter where we don't play as well."
Arden also had a huge night, scoring a game- and career-high 21 points to go along with 8 rebounds. Arden, who sat out most of the second quarter with a couple of fouls, scored 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, in the third quarter. Her efforts helped Wauconda extend its lead to 51-32 heading into the fourth.
"Just trying to get the lead up," said Arden, who's had a pair of 20-point games this season. "I don't really score just to score for myself. Everything is about the team."
Szmajda, who was coming off a career-high 27 points against Antioch, is enjoying a breakout season in her third on varsity. She's also had games this season of 24, 25 and 26 points.
"I just have more confidence this year as an upperclassmen," Szmjada said. "Now I'm not the younger one. I'm the older one."
Linbo, who's also a three-year varsity player, made her return to Grant's lineup after missing five games with a concussion. While she went 0 of 5 from three-point range, she still finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Linbo had her first full practice with the team in 2020 only Monday.
"We haven't played enough together [with Linbo]," Grant coach Kevin Geist said. "It's hard to play against a team like [Wauconda] that was real unselfish, and they were hitting a lot of their shots."
Katelyn Dupree also had 12 points for Grant's Bulldogs and grabbed 6 rebounds. Grant's 31-point loss came four days after the Bulldogs lost to Grayslake Central by 39 points.
"It's hard to get knocked in the mouth twice like this," Geist said. "We're determining some things. It's been frustrating."
Ella Karg (12 points) nailed back-to-back 3-pointers to end the opening quarter and hike Wauconda's lead to 18-9. Nine players scored for Wauconda's Bulldogs, who have won four in a row.
"By far, the best, most-complete game we've played all year," Wauconda coach Jaime Dennis said. "Hopefully everything is coming together at the right time at the end of the season. The girls have worked, we've analyzed weaknesses, and we've focused on those in practice."