WHEATON – Claire Hyde put both hands on her head in frustration after she was met in midair by a defender and missed a runner.
Hyde, Wheaton North’s 5-foot-4 all-everything guard, was bumped and grabbed throughout the Dec. 28 game trying to get free from Glenbrook South’s defense. On three occasions, she had her shot blocked at the rim in the fourth quarter, and she was knocked to the ground on a late shot in the lane.
Nothing new, though.
“I kind of expect that with some teams more than others,” Hyde said. “They stayed with it for sure. It’s a growing experience.”
The young Falcons likewise took another lesson in defeat. For the second time this season, they came up short in a tournament championship.
Wheaton North, playing without two starters, led all the way into the fourth quarter, but Glenbrook South used a 25-point fourth quarter to charge past the Falcons for a 57-48 win and the championship of the Bill Neibch Falcon Classic.
The Titans (9-6) overcame the 26 points and nine rebounds from tournament MVP Hyde, who had to earn every basket on 9-for-31 shooting.
“In the Lyons championship game, we didn’t play well against LT and the majority of that is due to LT and their athleticism, and today in our championship game, we didn’t play well because of Glenbrook South’s physicality,” Wheaton North coach Dave Eaton said. “They got into us a little bit and we just didn’t respond. We haven’t had a team be physical with us and they did a great job taking us out of what we want to do offensively.”
Wheaton North (12-3) led 14-4 early and nursed that advantage over the next two quarters despite a nearly five-minute scoring drought in the second quarter and a three-minute dry spell in the third while Hyde sat with three fouls.
But the Falcons couldn’t hold back the heroics of 5-foot-10 Glenbrook South sophomore Chloe Gonzalez, who erupted for 13 of her 21 points in the fourth quarter.
“She’s tremendous,” said Titans coach Scott Nemecek, whose program won its sixth Falcon Classic title and first since 2018. “First half, she had some good looks, step-in 3s she missed, but she knows they’ll go in eventually. She has confidence and it’s unwavering.”
That confidence showed when Gonzalez drilled back-to-back 3-pointers from the left wing, the second tying the score at 40-40 with 5:27 left. Her free throw on Glenbrook South’s next possession gave the Titans a 41-40 lead with 5:05 left, their first lead of the game.
“I think I saw the ball go through the hoop a few times, and once it did, I got some confidence,” said Gonzalez, who shot 8 for 16 from the field with three 3-pointers all coming in the second half.
Wheaton North, which hangs its hat on ball-hawking run-and-jump defense, couldn’t shut off Glenbrook South’s late offensive onslaught that repeatedly broke pressure and turned it into layups.
“We switched how we were playing to see if we could get some defensive plays to go. It’s a defense we haven’t played a lot and we tried to be a little too aggressive. It was sort of out of desperation,” Eaton said. “We got out and sort of matched out of a little bit, and when we matched that’s when their athleticism shined and they went right to the rim.”
No Titan is more athletic than jet-quick point guard Sidney Rogers, who scored nine of her 15 points in the third quarter. Rogers’ three-point play in the final seconds of the quarter cut Wheaton North’s lead to 34-32.
Glenbrook South shot 63.6% from the floor in the second half after shooting just 33.3% in the first half.
“Wheaton North does such a great job on defense of making you play fast,” Nemeck said, “but I think once we were able to slow down and break the seal the girls settled in real nicely.”
Wheaton North freshman Sara Abdul, coming off a career-high 23 points in her team’s semifinal win, scored 11 of her 13 points in the third quarter Dec. 28. Abdul’s nifty Eurostep in transition gave the Falcons a 34-29 lead late in the quarter.
But the short-handed Falcons shot just 28.8% for the game while leaning heavily on Hyde with senior Caroline Gaither out with a foot injury and COVID-19 and fellow starter Eden Pearson also out with COVID-19.
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.