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Neuqua Valley showed no mercy to rival Waubonsie Valley on Saturday.
The Wildcats lowered the boom early on the winless Warriors, scoring the first 21 points of the game and cruising to a 75-29 victory in Upstate Eight Valley action in Naperville.
“We knew we had to come out with intensity, just make sure we got off to a good start because lately we’ve had those slow starts,” Neuqua Valley senior guard Malia Smith said. “So every time we want to get off to those nice, strong starts.”
The Wildcats (6-2, 2-0) did exactly that, using their withering press to force 37 turnovers, 15 of which came in the first quarter. At one point, the Warriors (0-8, 0-2) turned the ball over on 10 straight possessions before Andrea Colin scored to finally get the visitors on the board at the 3:47 mark.
Shortly after that, Neuqua Valley coach Mike Williams pulled his starters for several minutes to get his reserves some action. The result was the same as the Wildcats continued to steal either the first pass or the second pass in Waubonsie’s backcourt.
Seven players combined to make 11 steals in the first quarter for Neuqua, which also pulled down nine offensive rebounds in the quarter.
“We definitely practice trapping and then getting the next pass and everybody is just moving, moving, moving,” Smith said. “That way everybody gets steals.”
Smith tallied nine points and had six of her team’s 26 steals. Sophomore guards Kai Moon and Myia Starks both had four steals, while senior Najee Smith had three and Niki Lazar and Jamie McInerney all swiped two passes.
Another guard, junior Alicia Aguilar, ended up leading the Wildcats in scoring as she tallied all 13 of her points, including three three-pointers, in the second half. Moon had 12 points while Najee Smith added eight points and Lazar seven. Senior center Bryce Menendez chipped in six points and three boards.
In all, 13 players scored for Neuqua, which surpassed the 70-point plateau for the fourth time this season and second straight night. Unlike those previous games, this one was decided early.
“I think we came out stronger than we did last night [in a 71-47 win over Metea Valley] and we just had more intensity,” Smith said. “And we finished a lot more tonight than we did yesterday. I thought that was the difference.”
Colin had a game-high 21 points for Waubonsie, but the rest of the team combined for just four baskets.
The Warriors are playing without their two tallest players, 6-0 junior forward Ameri Taylor and 5-11 sophomore forward Abby Phillips, who are injured.