Batavia wins thriller over Wheaton North
Batavia coach Kevin Jensen's voice was emphatic and strong regarding senior Claire Nazos' performance in the clutch.
With 30 seconds remaining in Batavia's 55-50 victory over Wheaton North on Thursday, Nazos faced two critical free throw attempts as the Bulldogs nursed a one-point lead.
All of those practiced free throws after school apparently helped pay off, as Nazos hit both to extend the Bulldogs' lead to 51-48.
"It was so awesome to see Claire hit those," Jensen said. "Senior, it didn't matter -- history shooting, what has gone in and not gone in -- it didn't matter. I'll take that senior on the line any time. I was so happy to see her knock those down. It's going to be a good thing for her moving forward because I know it was a struggle early."
It's perhaps been a quieter year offensively for the Dubuque recruit on a game-to-game basis, but Nazos delivered when her team needed it Thursday.
"Just confidence, honestly," said Nazos, who had seven points and three rebounds. "It's all about me being a senior and being confident in my free throws."
Following Nazos' big moment at the line, Batavia sophomore Brooke Carlson (16 points, six rebounds) missed a free throw. Falcons star senior Claire Hyde responded with two made free throws of her own to make it a one-point deficit with 12.6 seconds left.
Carlson, again at the line, hit both to make it a three-point lead with 10 seconds left. On the ensuing Falcons possession, Macy Pomatto nearly hit a 3-point attempt, but it clanked off the backboard and out of bounds.
Carlson's two free throws with 2.2 seconds left clinched the game for the Bulldogs.
Hyde, held to eight points at halftime, exploded in the second half with 14 third quarter points and nine in the fourth quarter to finish with 31 points and six rebounds.
She had to earn every one of them while being guarded for the majority of the game by Batavia standout defender Kylee Gehrt, who also scored eight points.
"We made it clear at halftime -- defense is going to win the game," Jensen said. "We're going to win or lose based on our defense. Kylee battles every game because she winds up on [the opposition's] best player. And she fights and fights and fights."
"Honestly, defense has been our identity this year and it really, really showed in the second half. We rebounded really well and I loved that."
Nazos' cousin, Brooke, is also emerging for the Bulldogs (13-10, 5-2). Brooke Nazos finished with six points and six rebounds.
It was a performance that wasn't lost on Claire.
"I'm so proud of her," Claire Nazos said. "I couldn't be more proud of her. I know she's my cousin, but she's a sister. She's one of our most physical rebounders on our team. It really showed."
The Falcons forced eight fourth quarter Batavia turnovers, but it wasn't enough to finish a comeback.
"Hyde got going in the second half there," Wheaton North coach Dave Eaton said. "Really just kept us in the game. Defensively, they're just such a hard team to matchup with Carlson, a high-level player, especially as a sophomore, [and] she's one of the better players in the state. Having a 6-foot-5 matchup with [Tessa Towers] is tough. It's just tough to match up. Nazos, I think she's a great shooter."
Sara Abdul added 13 points for Wheaton North, while Zoey Bohmer had four points and four rebounds.
The Falcons (15-5, 6-2) have lost two DuKane Conference games to Batavia and Geneva this month by a combined eight points.
"You can never have a bad night [in this conference]," said Eaton said, who celebrated his 300th career win as a varsity basketball coach on Monday against Mother McAuley. "[Jensen] and I were talking about it before the game. There's not a ton of separation between anybody and I think everybody is really, really good from top to bottom. There just is no time to take a game off, or even if you're not playing well on a night, anybody can beat anybody."