Metea Valley keeps its seniors in mind
For Nazuri Whigham, it just felt good to suit up again.
Whigham, a senior point guard for the Metea Valley girls basketball team, tore her ACL in December and hasn't had the opportunity to wear her uniform -- or take the floor -- since then.
But there she was Thursday on Senior Night, trotting out with her team at the start of its DuPage Valley Conference girls basketball contest against visiting DeKalb. Ceremonially, she "won" the tipoff and her coach, Keith McIntosh, immediately called time and replaced Whigham with another senior, Serenity McDaniel.
DeKalb then inbounded the ball and ran away with a 58-30 victory, using a second-quarter run of 19-2 along with a 12-1 third-quarter spurt.
But for Metea Valley, that wasn't the point. The point Thursday was to celebrate the years together and enjoy the company of friends for the final few weeks of their final high school season. That included Whigham, who characterized her time as a Mustang as a journey.
"I've been playing with most of them since freshman year, so it's been great to see everyone progress and get better," Whigham said. "As a team, we've gotten closer, and it shows a different bond on the court."
Another senior, Nikki Coryell, said representing Metea Valley as a varsity athlete has been the most special part for her.
"It's a pretty unique experience," said Coryell, who scored 3 points and added a pair of rebounds. "And just to play with this group of girls and compete at the highest level you can in high school, it's a really competitive conference in this area, so just getting to go out there and play the game you love, it's awesome."
There was a game, of course, and early on, it looked like the Mustangs (8-15, 1-6 in league) might hang with the Barbs. At the conclusion of he first quarter, Metea Valley was down just 13-8. But DeKalb's Kira Klapprodt hit back-to-back 3-pointers, and after a McDaniel layup in the lane at 6:03, the Barbs reeled off 13 straight, including another pair of 3-pointers.
That, and senior forward Ashley Nelson's double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds, proved to be too much.
But again, not the point.
"I think being able to play on varsity is an honor," said senior Kelsey Barrett, who led the Mustangs with 4 rebounds. "All three of us, we've been on varsity, this is our second, third year. I think basketball is fun, but what makes it fun is this team, and the girls around it. We're all friends on and off the court.
"I know this game wasn't the greatest, but it makes it easy to come back tomorrow to practice, because no matter what the score says, you have your team behind you."
It was a freshman who led Metea Valley in scoring. Khaliah Reid scored 8 points and added a pair of rebounds. McDaniel and another freshman, Raina Penttila, each chipped in 4 points.
Besides Nelson, junior Sanaa Finner had a big game for the Barbs (16-12, 4-3) with 15 points and three 3-pointers.
"In their own little ways I feel they have provided the leadership we've needed this year," McIntosh said of his seniors. "I think they've done an admirable job."