Girls basketball: Determined Danyella Mporokoso, Waubonsie Valley turn away Downers Grove North late

Warriors’ sophomore scores six of her 20 points during key fourth quarter run

Waubonsie Valley's Danyella Mporokoso (10) rebounds the ball against three Downers Grove North defenders during a Oswego semifinal sectional 4A basketball game at Oswego High School on Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024.

OSWEGO – Danyella Mporokoso had many moments Tuesday evening where her shots were not falling against a tough Downers Grove North defense.

She even was benched for a stretch.

When it mattered, though, Waubonsie Valley’s standout 5-foot-7 sophomore guard was the picture of determination. Mporokoso, when she wants to, will put her head down and go straight to the rim, not to be denied. And she wasn’t to be Tuesday.

Mporokoso scored three critical baskets during a fourth quarter Waubonsie Valley run that allowed the second-seeded Warriors to finally get separation from third-seeded Downers Grove North. The Warriors went on to a 44-37 win in a Class 4A Oswego Sectional semifinal to set up a sectional final rematch with Benet.

Mporokoso had 20 points, eight in the fourth quarter, and eight rebounds and Hannah Laub 13 points for Waubonsie (30-3), which matched a school record for wins in the process.

Mporokoso’s driving layup with 5:02 left gave Waubonsie the lead for good at 34-32, and after a Downers Grove North turnover Mporokoso scored on a length of the court drive.

She finished off an 8-0 Warriors’ run in style with a block, a defensive rebound and a coast-to-coast score. It was a big turnaround for Mporokoso, who shot 8-for-22 for the game and missed 11 of her 13 shot attempts over the middle two quarters. Waubonsie as a team went nearly 11 minutes without a made field goal, including the entire second quarter, after jumping out to an early nine-point lead.

“Sometimes you just got to find a way to score,” said Mporokoso. “I realized my shots weren’t falling and I still needed to score. I needed to focus on getting to the basket.”

Waubonsie Valley coach Brett Love’s confidence in Mporokoso never wavered, even after he gave her some time on the bench Tuesday.

“She is a player,” Love said. “At the end of the day, shooting good or bad, I can trust her to give 110%. I took her out, I gave her a little talk and I said you’re not getting it done. We need you to get tips and steals. That steal she had when she went back in was big for her confidence and aggressiveness.”

Downers Grove North came in winners of 16 straight games, its last loss to Waubonsie at Christmas, but the Trojans missed their first seven shots in getting down 10-1 early.

Downers Grove North's Campbell Thulin (5) shoots a three pointer against Waubonsie Valley during a Oswego semifinal sectional 4A basketball game at Oswego High School on Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024.

The Trojans, though, came all the way back to take a 17-16 halftime lead on Abby Gross’ basket as time expired in the half, thanks to a spectacular effort from freshman Campbell Thulin.

Thulin scored 14 of her 16 points over the middle two quarters, and hit four consecutive 3-pointers. When Thulin wasn’t making shots, she was assisting two 3s and grabbing eight rebounds. Thulin’s last 3-pointer had the Trojans up 29-26 with 1:05 left in the third quarter.

“It’s going to be a fun three more years with her,” Downers Grove North coach Stephan Bolt said. “She sets the tone as a freshman. She’s not a freshman. She does things with poise that typical freshmen aren’t able to do. That’s who she is.”

Unfortunately for Downers Grove North, the Trojans lost their poise for a spell when Waubonsie came with full-court pressure out of halftime, resulting in five third quarter turnovers.

“Self inflicted there,” Bolt said. “Credit to Waubonsie for changing it up.”

Kaitlyn Parker, who scored 10 points for Downers Grove North, tied it for the final time at 32-32 with 5:54 left.

Downers Grove North's Hope Sebek (10) shoots the ball over Waubonsie Valley's Maya Pereda (0) during a Oswego semifinal sectional 4A basketball game at Oswego High School on Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024.

Parker is one of three Trojans’ senior starters for a team that set a program win record and won conference and regional titles.

“I’m just so proud of this group,” Bolt said. “Those kids are tough, they’re competitors and they bought into what we wanted to accomplish and I can’t thank them enough for the journey we were on. We came up a little short, probably didn’t execute, but credit to Waubonsie for making plays. I can’t think highly enough of our kids. When it looked like a bad situation tonight, they kept scratching.”

Waubonsie, meanwhile, moves on to face a familiar foe in Benet, which knocked off No. 1 seed Bolingbrook in Tuesday’s first semifinal.

Love looks forward to the opportunity against a recent nemesis.

“That’s the game I wanted,” Love said. “I know Bolingbrook is a good challenge but Benet has knocked us out of the playoffs three times since I’ve been here – regional, regional, sectional. We really wanted to play them and have that challenge.”

Joshua  Welge

Joshua Welge

I am the Sports Editor for Kendall County Newspapers, the Kane County Chronicle and Suburban Life Media, covering primarily sports in Kendall, Kane, DuPage and western Cook counties. I've been covering high school sports for 24 years. I also assist with our news coverage.