Downers Grove North adds to confidence with win vs. Glenbard West
Downers Grove North girls basketball coach Stephan Bolt carries 10 players on his roster. Five are sophomores and one is a freshman.
If you think that means the Trojans are timid, guess again.
Those youngsters are tall, fast, athletic and, perhaps most dangerous for any opponent, confident. With the IHSA playoffs starting shortly, they'll likely be a tough out.
News bulletin: They already are.
Downers North handily beat a tough Glenbard West team 56-34 on Friday, but of those 56 points, 30 of them were scored by freshman Margaret Fleming and sophomores Kate Gross, Ryann Wendt and Eleanor Harris.
Credit the Downers Grove Wolfpack feeder program for developing not only the skills but the confidence of that group.
"It really prepares us for the high school season because it really focuses on the fundamentals of defense, which is pretty big," said Wendt, who led all scorers with 17 points, 10 of which came in the fourth quarter to salt away the win.
Now take those youngsters and add senior sharpshooters Ellie Gross and Alexis Parker, along with a 24-10 rebounding advantage, and you've got a beaming Bolt.
"We have some length and some kids who can get up and down the floor and our kids defend," he said. "That's what we take pride in, too. When you have kids that are pretty good athletes and understand how to play defense, it's a good recipe to stop people."
The Trojans held the Hilltoppers to single-digit scoring in all four quarters, but to be fair, Glenbard West's top scorer, 6-foot-2 senior forward Taylor Huff, is out with an injury.
Sure, Downers North can play defense, but they can shoot it as well. They canned seven 3-pointers in the first half, 4 from the always-smiling Ellie Gross and 2 from Parker. That performance gave the Trojans an 29-18 lead at halftime.
Glenbard West tightened up its ball-pressure defense in the third quarter, coming out on the perimeter to prevent the long ball. But Downers North changed tactics and went inside, which was nearly as effective.
But it was Wendt who starred in the fourth quarter. She hit a 3-pointer with 4:27 left in the game, then added consecutive three-point plays that put the contest away.
"We talked about just continuing to fight for 32 minutes," Glenbard West coach Kristi Faulkner said. "I think we fought and we're still trying to figure things out without Taylor out there. It makes a big difference, her not out there."
Senior Maggie Stutelberg was her usual solid self for the Hilltoppers (17-10, 8-4 West Suburban Silver), leading her team with 16 points and 5 rebounds. Now add Huff to that equation and the outcome might have been much different.
"One hundred percent," Stutelberg said. "Huge impact. One thing we've talked about as a team is having her out is obviously awful, but having the next person on the bench step up and not necessarily fill her role completely, but still step up and kind of get your own for the game."
In Huff's absence the Hilltoppers got tough minutes from senior forward Addison Yeager, who finished with 5 points. Senior guard Emma Hall added another 5.
The Trojans are 24-6 and 9-3 in league. What's the mindset in the locker room?
"I think we're confident, you know?" Ellie Gross said. "We know that when we play together, we play well."