Thorne, defense put Lake Park alone in first place in DKC
On a night when both teams emphasized intense defense, it fell to a defensive-minded player to score the game-winning basket.
Emma Thorne's putback with 47 seconds left gave Lake Park a 36-35 DuKane Conference girls basketball victory Thursday over Wheaton North in Roselle.
"Yeah, that was a little surprising," Thorne, a junior forward, said with a laugh. "Sara (Balli)'s a great finisher, but she took that. She had the confidence to take that shot and that's what we need. It didn't go in, but we've always got each other's back."
"For someone who's struggled in certain situations -- Emma's struggled in those moments -- to come up with that rebound and put it up with confidence was huge for us," added Lake Park coach Brian Rupp.
It was especially huge because -- paired with Geneva's loss to St. Charles North on Thursday -- the win gave Lake Park (17-7, 8-1) sole possession of first place in the DKC. Wheaton North defeated the Lancers the first time through the conference schedule.
"It means a lot," Thorne said. "In the conference, with numbers, it's a big deal, but also just as a team to be able to pull this out, also a really big deal. They're our only (conference) loss, and now, we got this."
Lake Park scored the first 6 points of the third quarter to take a 22-17 lead, but Wheaton North (14-5, 6-3) regained the lead a 7-0 start to the fourth, Julia Simon putting the Falcons ahead 34-33 with a steal and layup midway through the period. The teams traded free throws, setting up Thorne's game-winner.
"I thought that was a great high school game right there, 36-35," Falcons coach Dave Eaton said. "Low scoring, but like you said, it was because two teams were really going at it at the defensive end. I thought we just gave up some really big offensive boards. ...
"Tonight they just flat-out outworked us on the boards. Gotta give them credit. That was for a big spot in the conference championship race there and I thought their kids really stepped up and earned it down the stretch."
Senior Darrione Rogers led the Lancers with 11 points, giving her 1,900 exactly in a Lake Park uniform. Faced with frequent double-teaming meant to get the ball out of her hands, Rogers remains 6 points short of tying Kelly Miller for second on the school's all-time scoring list.
Balli added 10 points and 6 rebounds, 4 offensive.
Like Rogers, Wheaton North sophomore Claire Hyde was held below her scoring average, finishing with 12 points. When the Falcons had the ball, Lake Park's Gabi Burgess followed Hyde around like a lost puppy.
"I'll tell you right now, Claire Hyde is unbelieveable," Rupp said. "For the pressure she got from one of the best defenders in the conference. I think Gabi Burgess is one of the best on-ball defenders we have in our conference, and for her to do that and still get off the points that she had to get off, it's unbelievable what that girl can do."
Even when Burgess picked up two fouls in the first half, Rupp left the freshman guard in the game.
"Gabi was puking in the halftime, she was puking during the game. That girl was going as hard as she possibly could and she helped us squeak out a 1-point win against a really good team," he said.
"Gabi did an amazing job. Geez, we could not have won without her. ... She really left everything on the floor," Thorne added.