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South Elgin was in an unexpected spot Friday night and host Waubonsie Valley was in an unfamiliar one.
But the end result was an expected one, as visiting South Elgin staved off an upset bid by the Warriors and pulled out a 43-40 victory in an Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division opener in Aurora.
Winless Waubonsie Valley (0-6, 0-1) had taken a 40-39 lead on driving layup by Emma Rigby with 1:05 left in the fourth quarter, but guard Anna Tracy sank a 15-foot jumper with 26 seconds remaining to put the Storm (5-2, 1-0) ahead to stay.
Following a Kennede Miller steal, sophomore Delaney Kelleher made two free throws – her only attempts from the line – with 15 seconds left after Tracy was forced from the game with a possible concussion after hitting her head on the floor.
“It was pretty intense,” Kelleher said. “We really needed [the free throws] but I just pictured [it being] like no else was on the court and that it was just like a practice.”
The Storm then played tight defense on Waubonsie’s final possession, which ended when Andrea Colin’s off-balance three-pointer under pressure caromed off the front of the rim as time expired.
“Tonight just seemed like a struggle all night,” said South Elgin coach Tim Prendergast. “It came down to Anna Tracy hitting a big shot. She’s gritty.”
So was the Storm, which won despite making only 7-of-40 shots in the second half and 15-of-64 overall. The visitors did it with defense and rebounding, outboarding the Warriors 39-28, including 19-9 on the offensive glass.
“I think [the shooting woes happened] because they pressured us so much,” said Kelleher, who had eight points and four steals. “We weren’t used to it, but we should have used more back-door cuts because their defense was so high on us.”
Miller led the Storm with 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Tracy added 10 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists.
Rigby scored 11 points to pace Waubonsie Valley, which led by as many as seven points in the second quarter but made only three baskets in the second half. Andrea Colin, Morgan Grastorf and Kendall O’Sullivan all tallied six points for the Warriors.
“It’s the best game we’ve played overall, the best total team effort we’ve had,” said first-year Waubonsie coach Dave Owles. “We had the lead in the fourth quarter and the ball and we were a little out of our element there, so that’s something we have to learn. Hopefully we’ll get ourselves in that position more often now and learn how to play with the lead toward the end of the game.”