Hubbard, Simon shine in Wheaton North's win at Batavia
On the softball diamond, Ellie Hubbard is a power-hitting shortstop, committed to play collegiately for Wisconsin.
She knocked one out of the park on the basketball court Saturday.
Hubbard, Wheaton North's 5-foot-9 senior, scored a career-high 32 points -- 22 coming in the first half alone. Teammate Julia Simon, a Louisville soccer recruit, broke a 38-year-old program steals record, and the Falcons wore down host Batavia in the second half of a 55-35 Wheaton North win in the DuKane Conference opener for both teams.
Hubbard shot 13-for-23 from the floor, many of her baskets on midrange jump shots from the top of the key in an impressive shooting display.
"We work on it in practice every single day," said Hubbard, who also grabbed 9 rebounds. "Every day in practice we do this drill rapid fire, shoot that shot, game speed. It works."
Hubbard, who made five of her first seven shots, wasn't shy about going at Batavia's 6-foot-4 Tessa Towers. When she wasn't shooting from distance, Hubbard caught the ball at the free-throw line and showcased a crafty game in the paint with turnaround short shots or spin moves around the taller defender. Although Hubbard had her shot blocked three times by Towers, she also drew two fouls within the first three minutes of the game. Towers never really got untracked offensively after that.
"My goal was if she came out too far I'd try to get her to the basket, try to get some fouls on her, see if I could get her out of the game with fouls," Hubbard said.
Claire Hyde had 9 points and 7 rebounds, and Simon 7 steals for Wheaton North (3-0, 1-0), which is usually much more balanced offensively.
But this was Hubbard's day.
"She is a very good 3-point shooter, she can shoot the midrange jumper; we were planning on going with a two-headed attack but then she got so hot that we kept going to her," Falcons coach Dave Eaton said. "We wanted to give her an opportunity in space. She can drive, finish around the hoop and she's such a good athlete."
Batavia coach Kevin Jensen could only tip his cap to Hubbard's deep shooting, shots he normally can accept.
"I said, look contested 17-footers, I'll take that," Jensen said. "And she hit it and hit it and hit it. We tried to run her off and she did a nice job offensively."
Towers had 10 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks, and freshman guard Brooke Carlson, who like Towers was plagued by foul trouble throughout, scored 12 points for Batavia (1-2, 0-1).
Despite Hubbard's heroics, Batavia only trailed 30-24 at half, and closed to four with Towers' basket to start the third quarter. From there, though, Wheaton North's constant run-and-jump pressure defense seemed to wear on the Bulldogs. Batavia went nearly nine minutes without a field goal during a 20-2 run that allowed the Falcons to assume a commanding 50-28 lead.
"I think we were maybe a little bit gassed mentally and physically," Jensen said. "Their defense, they're super aggressive and super physical and they keep coming and coming and coming and will wear on you."
That's indeed the style of play the Falcons hang their hat on. They've beaten their first three opponents by an average 25-point margin.
"Our defense is our identity," Hubbard said. "We pride ourselves on how we pressure teams."
Nobody does it better than Simon, who came into the game with 203 steals needing one to break Karen Helm's career program record from 1981-1983. Simon did that in the game's first two minutes, and added six more steals to boot.
"It's awesome," Eaton said. "That's about a 40-year-old record. What a great day for her. To do that in basically two years and three games this year is very impressive. Excited for her. She's just a tremendous kid."