Wheaton Warrenville South stays poised, holds off Schaumburg
As we approach Turkey Day, there are a lot of things to be thankful for.
For prep basketball teams, among them is the chance to play a full season, including playoffs.
"It felt so good to be back to normal, and have fans in the stands," said Wheaton Warrenville South girls basketball coach Rob Kroehnke after his team defeated Schaumburg 44-39 at the Saxons Thanksgiving Classic.
It was the first game of the season for both teams.
"Last year we had some fans, but not many," added Kroehnke of last year's COVID-shortened campaign. "It was weird, the whole thing was unfortunate, but we're just glad to be back."
"It just feels really good to be back playing with some of my best friends, and have a semi-normal year," added Tigers senior Lily Huntzinger.
Huntzinger led WW South with 19 points, while senior Alyssa Orozco scored 14 for Schaumburg.
"It was those mistakes," said Saxons coach Jacqie Strauch of the loss. "We'd make a steal then couldn't connect on the other end, then make another steal and it's the same thing."
"I think those were first game jitters. We asked our kids to emphasize defense, get up in people's faces and work hard, and I think we did that. Now we have do to the little things, win the loose ball challenges."
The fourth quarter came down to free throw shooting, and the Tigers were 8-of-14 down the stretch to seal the win.
"We constantly practice free throws, every day," said Huntzinger, who will enroll at and play hoops for DePauw University in Indiana next fall.
"That (the foul shooting) was important because it was such a close game. Some of our underclassmen went to the line and knocked them down, which was huge for us."
WW South scored the first 7 points of the contest, and held a lead through most of three quarters.
"They had that 7-0 run, and just look at the end, it's a 5-point game," said Strauch.
A 3-point play from Saxons sophomore Symone Harrell brought Schaumburg to within 28-27 at the end of three quarters.
Schaumburg stayed close in the final 8 minutes, and a layup from another Saxons sophomore, Emma Jevtic, tied the game at 33-33 with 3:40 left to play.
It was at that point that the WW South parade to the free-throw line began.
Huntzinger, Elie Farrell, Campbell Bastian, and freshman Brooke Ittersagen all hit clutch foul shots in the final minutes as extended the lead to 6 points late.
Ittersagen's free throw with 15 seconds left brought the count to 44-37, then a layup at the buzzer from Schaumburg's Madi Dolecki accounted for the final score.
Dolecki finished with 7 points.
"We have 6 sophomores on our team," said Strauch, "and I'm excited for this season. Wheaton Warrenville came in tonight and did what they do, play a 1-2-2."
Another WW South frosh, Emily Troia, hit some key free throws, while teammate Hannah Struebing added 7 points for the Tigers.
"Our main goal was to come out and work hard tonight, and that's exactly what the kids did," said Kroehnke. "We need to clean up a lot of stuff, but the main thing is to work hard.
"I thought we held our composure pretty good, especially with having two freshman (Ittersagen and Troia) on the floor at times. They handled their first game well, and Lily came in and took control, which is what she's got to do."