Freshman Abdul helps Wheaton North hand Willowbrook 1st loss
Wheaton North star point guard Claire Hyde is going to leave some big shoes to fill when she graduates after this season.
But she already knows who is going to step into them.
Freshman Sara Abdul erupted for a career-high 23 points and four-year starter Hyde added 21 points, five rebounds and four assists as the fourth-seeded Falcons knocked off top-seeded and previously unbeaten Willowbrook 60-50 on Monday in the semifinals of the Bill Neibch Falcon Classic.
Wheaton North (12-2) will play sixth-seeded Glenbrook South, which advanced when second-seeded Downers Grove North withdrew due to COVID protocols, in the championship game at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Hyde had high praise for Abdul, who made 8 of 14 shots, including three 3-pointers.
"Man, we're so lucky to have her," Hyde said. "She's such a talented player. Personally, I have the greatest honor of playing with her as a senior. I'm lucky to catch her.
"I cannot wait to see what she does in the next couple years, but I think she's going to be huge for us going down the stretch because she's been huge for us in the beginning of the season. I think she'll continue to step up like we see her doing everyday."
Hyde scored 16 of her points in the first half, including a 3-pointer during a closing 10-0 run that saw Abdul score the final five points. Three of Hyde's assists came on Abdul baskets, including a great play at the end of the half when Hyde was falling to the floor under pressure and somehow got the ball to Abdul, who sank a 3 at the buzzer to give Wheaton North a 33-22 lead.
"I know I wasn't hot in the beginning," Abdul said. "I was missing, but Coach E (David Eaton) told me to keep shooting, and that gave me more confidence.
"Once I see one go in, I know I can make the next."
That's what happened in the second half and the Falcons needed it.
Abdul hit another 3 off a Hyde pass to give Wheaton North its largest lead, 38-26, midway through the third quarter.
But the Warriors (12-1), who struggled after star guards Hannah and Calli Kenny both sat out much of the second quarter with two fouls, roared back behind the play of Elle Bruschuk. The sophomore post scored nine of her career-high 20 points during a 19-3 run, including back-to-back baskets that gave Willowbrook a 45-41 lead with 4:39 to go in the fourth quarter.
But Abdul once again came through in the clutch, taking a pass from Hyde and burying a 3-pointer from the right wing to pull the Falcons with a point.
"It was a huge shot," Eaton said. "I don't think she understands how good she really is and we keep telling her to shoot.
"I think she's been looking to drive too much and she got in rhythm and hit a 3. That was a huge 3 to sort of swing us back into momentum, and we fought our way back and got a tough win."
Abdul's trey was the first of nine straight points for Wheaton North. Sophomore Zoey Bohmer came up with two steals and went coast-to-coast for layups each time and Hyde followed with another steal and made two free throws.
Hannah Kenny's 3-pointer pulled Willowbrook within 50-48 at the 2:23 mark, but Abdul answered with a driving layup.
Bruschuk hit two free throws with 53.1 seconds left to make it 52-50, but Bohmer scored again and Lindsey Shanahan, Abdul and Hyde all made a pair of free throws to ice it.
"We got to where we need to be but we didn't close the game," Willowbrook coach Terry Harrell said. "I think some of the problem was that we hadn't gotten in close games this year, so when we took the lead, we just relaxed.
"Before, in other games we took the lead and we pulled away. This time we didn't pull away."
But the Falcons did, giving a young team a big boost in confidence.
"It means a lot," Abdul said. "We just kept hard at it. We knew we could win this game."
The Falcons have won a lot of games during the career of Hyde, whose is mulling offers from Central Michigan, Tennessee-Martin and Stephen F. Austin. She, of course, wants to get more wins before she moves on to the college level and thinks Abdul will help the Falcons do so.
"She's fearless," Hyde said. "She can score the ball; she can make defensive plays.
"There's nothing that can stop her. The sky is the limit for her."
And as Monday's performance showed, Abdul isn't fazed by pressure.
"It's good for her to get that type of pressure in this type of game," Hyde said. "Because come playoffs, it's going to be a lot more of that."