Neuqua pulls away from Waubonsie Valley
Everyone misses shots, but few hightail it to the other end of the floor to break up gimmies after they have missed.
While Neuqua Valley freshman Kylee Norkus' defensive effort was just a single play, it was a passionate one that energized the Wildcats as their punishing defensive pressure and ability to score in transition were prominent throughout a 55-22 DVC victory over Waubonsie Valley.
"Being a freshman and starting on varsity, there's definitely a tempo to the game that you have to get with it and step it up a notch," Norkus said. "We all bring different things to the table and are starting to jell as a team together now. If we keep it up defensively and get more possessions offensively, we'll just keep this up as a team and finish strong."
Norkus led the Wildcats with 12 points, but one could argue that her 10 rebounds and defensive effort and court awareness were most significant in helping break the game open.
How did she do it? She responded positively whenever something "bad" happened.
"I get the energy from my mom (Kara)," she said. "She's a big inspiration for me. She always says if you miss a shot you need to go do something defensively to get the ball back. And if you make a mistake defensively, go and do something offensively to help the team."
Norkus and fellow freshmen Caitlin Washington and Zoe Navarro combined for 28 points and 14 rebounds.
"We've got a lot of pieces this year and a lot of young pieces, so it's promising," Wildcats coach Mike Williams said. "Everybody feeds off the energy and that's what we've missed the last couple of years. I'm happy for them. I'm happy for us."
The game was tied at 8-8 with 3:12 remaining in the opening quarter.
Neuqua Valley (4-2, 2-2) then used an 11-0 run to pull ahead 19-11. The Wildcats broke the game open with a 22-0 run in the second quarter that finally ended mere seconds before halftime on Lauren Threat's putback.
Waubonsie Valley (1-4, 1-2) was outscored 36-2 in the second and third quarters.
"Once you get down it applies a little more pressure for you to actually score," Warriors coach Brett Love said. "The decisions are rushed a bit, shots are a little short and things like that and it can kind of snowball from there."
And it did.
"We know if we can get like 10 stops then we know we'll have no problem on the offensive end," Washington said. "We are starting to build team chemistry day-by-day. It was a slow start at the beginning but now it's beginning to pick up."
That bodes well for the Wildcats, and especially seniors Ellie Wisner (8 points), Jada Divine, Claudia Gallegos and Jessica Sun as the program hasn't enjoyed a winning season since 2015-2016. They went from not knowing if they were going to wear the Neuqua Valley uniform again to playing for a team that's winning games.
"I know all the seniors are excited to have a chance to play again, especially with the freshmen coming in and making a big impact," Devine said. "We have a really good chance to compete in the DVC and hopefully win some games."
Lauren McKnight led the Warriors with 13 points.