Hubbard helps Wheaton North overcome Batavia
Everybody loves an unsung hero, so how about a whole team of them?
Wheaton North's stifling defense forced 27 Batavia turnovers to key a 51-34 DuKane Conference victory Thursday night in Wheaton, but junior Ellie Hubbard gave the credit to the Falcons JV squad.
"In practice they help us by doing the scout (team). They scout the other team and run what they do," she said. "And they make our defense so much better because they push us. So we know what's coming and are prepared."
The strategy was all the more important Thursday with the Bulldogs in town and 6-foot-4 emerging star Tessa Towers.
Towers, who scored 9 early points on 4-of-4 shooting, was on her way to a dominant performance, until the Falcons defense stopped allowing the ball to get to her.
Wheaton North's press flummoxed Batavia's backcourt, forcing turnovers and keeping the Bulldogs from running sets to get Towers the ball.
"We wanted to make it an 84-foot game, not a 42-foot game," Falcons coach David Eaton said. "We didn't want to play in the half-court. We knew if it were a half-court game they could lob it up (to Towers) and there was nothing we could do.
"I felt our guards up front did a great job of ball pressure."
Behind Towers, Batavia had a 14-9 lead after the first, but it quickly evaporated as the Falcons forced nine turnovers and allowed just two points in the second quarter.
Wheaton North also got a couple shots to fall, as Hubbard began to get cooking with 5 points to lead her team to a 18-16 halftime lead.
The cooking resumed out of the locker room. Hubbard scored inside and out en route to 12 third-quarter points -- more than any quarter for Batavia.
"Coach Eaton said, 'Keep shooting. You have to keep shooting,'" said Hubbard, who finished with a game-high 20 points to go with 5 rebounds and 2 steals. "My teammates were behind me and I didn't want to let them down. They mean the world to me, and I had to get them a win on senior night."
Sophomore point guard Claire Hyde pitched in a couple steals and three nice assists -- one of which she flung the ball around her back to Julia Simon for 2 points -- as the Falcons scored 22 third-quarter points and built a 13-point lead at 40-27.
Hyde scored 5 of her 11 points in the final quarters as Wheaton North kept up the pressure and put the game away.
Towers scored 6 in the second half, and Bulldogs reserve Morgan Haug tallied 8 points, but it was too little too late for Batavia.
"I thought we weathered the storm in the first half," Bulldogs coach Kevin Jensen said. "They were up 2, but I felt we were in a good spot, but then it felt like we got blitzed in the third quarter.
"They did a really nice job adjusting ... and we didn't change what we wanted to do quick enough."
For the Falcons, Simon finished with 6 points and 5 rebounds, Caroline Gaither tallied 4 steals, and Ella Kocher had 7 points and 5 rebounds.
Outside of Towers, Batavia was led by Erin Golden with 5 points and 5 rebounds.
The Bulldogs end the regular season 10-17 and 7-7 in the DuKane Conference, but Eaton called them "probably the best 10-win team in the state of Illinois."
And Jensen likes where his team is heading into an IHSA Class 4A matchup with better-seeded Willowbrook at home Tuesday night.
"I think we've been playing some pretty good basketball," Jensen said. "I told them in the locker room, 'You have about 15 feet to the door to think about tonight. And then everybody is 0-0.'"
Wheaton North -- which finishes at 18-6 and 10-4 and will play as the high seed in Glenbard West regional -- ends its season on a high note.
"This game is exactly what we needed," Eaton said. "We fought through some adversity early. We stayed composed and kept chipping our way back and then made a run and finished things off."