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Despite having at times a considerable lead through the first three quarters, West Aurora ultimately was locked in a close battle against Wheaton North.
The short-handed Blackhawks had a chance to grab a late lead in regulation on their home floor however they were forced to go to overtime. Wheaton North dominated the extra session en route to a 65-55 DuPage Valley Conference win over the Blackhawks.
Wheaton North (18-5, 9-1 DuPage Valley), won its fourth straight staying within a game of Wheaton South in the conference race.
“In the 10 years I’ve been here, our games against West Aurora have always been competitive and hard fought,” said Wheaton North coach David Easton. “Their kids played really well and almost pulled it out in the end, even without their best player.”
And after the Falcons had scored a number of baskets near the basket in the absence of West’s leading scorer and rebounder Liz Skaggs (broken hand, out for the season), it was a shot from long range that proved to be decisive. Mandy Traversa (14 points) nailed a three-pointer from the top of the key after Erin Jacobsen started the overtime scoring for West with two free throws.
Trailing 53-52, the Blackhawks committed a turnover and missed six straight shots. On the other end, point guard Reilly Stewart (13 points) and Chrissy Baird scored from the lane. And then Wheaton North iced the game with eight straight free throws.
Baird, a 6-foot-1 junior averaging 12 points per game, was a force for the Falcons. She poured in a career-high 27 points on 8-of-14 shooting from the field and 10 of 15 from the line. Baird feasted on the same play, repeatedly taking a pass from the high post and moving left toward the basket. Without Skaggs, the Blackhawks were not able to contest.
“Chrissy got a couple baskets going to the left early, so we ran some isolation plays for her and she was able to get (the Blackhawks) in foul trouble,” said Easton. “She really stepped up and played well for us today. And Reilly’s been awesome all year, pushing the tempo and controlling the basketball.”
West Aurora (9-13, 3-8) got off to a strong start, racing to a 21-13 lead after one quarter, with Abriya Zeitz the main factor. The 5-10 junior had 15 of her team-high 21 points in the first half, and seven of her 11 rebounds.
“Abriya played her heart out,” noted West Aurora coach Connie Siljendahl. “Alexis played a great defensive game. And Erin played a solid game — hustles all the time and rarely makes mistakes. I think if we focus on the good things we did, we can grow from this game.”
After the first eight minutes, the Falcons tightened up on defense and forced the Blackhawks into 11-of-47 shooting from the floor the rest of the way.
Jacobsen supported Zeitz with 11 points for West, while point guard Alexis Wiggins added 10 on a pair of treys.
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