ELMHURST – Calli Kenny evidently had enough of a short break from success.
Willowbrook’s sophomore has known little but winning this school year. She was a driving force on a Warriors’ volleyball team that won its first 30 matches in the fall, and the school’s first sectional title.
Kenny has carried it right into basketball. In her second varsity season, Willowbrook won 16 of its first 17 games.
She made sure a brief detour from that ended Wednesday.
With Willowbrook in danger of losing for the third time in four games, Kenny scored a game-high 19 points to take the momentum back. She hit the go-ahead shot early in the fourth quarter, as the visiting Warriors rallied from seven points down in the second half to beat York 51-46 in a West Suburban Conference crossover.
“We knew this game was our chance to come back and beat a competitive team after falling short these last few games,” said Kenny, who shot 7-for-13 and also led Willowbrook with eight rebounds and five assists. “So this felt good.”
Sophie Sulivan added 13 points, six coming in the fourth quarter, and Hannah Kenny 10 points and four rebounds for Willowbrook (18-3). It was a reversal of fortunes in 48 hours for the Warriors. On Monday they let a 15-point lead slip away in a 58-51 loss to Libertyville.
This time Willowbrook held York (10-11) scoreless for a stretch of 6 minutes, 39 seconds in the fourth quarter. A 12-0 run turned a 38-35 Dukes’ lead after a Mariann Blass 3-pointer into a 47-38 Warriors’ advantage following Elle Bruschuk’s basket on a Calli Kenny assist.
Sullivan, 1-for-6 from the 3-point line, improvised with a runner in the lane and a short turnaround jumper during the key run.
“If one thing is not going in, try something else. Gotta do whatever it takes to win,” Sullivan said. “We definitely played better defense in the second half. I think it was the will and want to win.”
Calli Kenny certainly embodies that tough-minded spirit.
She scored 10 points in the second quarter to carry Willowbrook’s offense early. Her driving layup capped off a 9-2 run started by Hannah Kenny’s three that ended the third quarter tied 35-35. Then she gave the Warriors their first lead since the game’s first basket – and the lead for good – with a pull-up baseline jumper to make it 39-38 with 6:48 left.
While Willowbrook struggled from the perimeter, 4-for-19 from three, Kenny did much of her work aggressively attacking the basket – her specialty.
“She’s not the biggest kid in the world, she’s about 5-foot-10, but when she goes to the basket she has great leaping ability, she gets around people, she gets in the air and it’s hard to block,” Willowbrook coach Terry Harrell said. “She’s quick enough and she’s nifty enough that she gets open shots.”
“My mindset is just to go up strong as I can, no matter the result, just go up as hard as I can,” Kenny said. “That’s what I’m good at, is driving to the lane and drawing contact. That’s what was working today.”
Blass scored 17 points, hitting five of York’s 13 3-pointers, and sophomore Stella Kohl had 13 points and 10 rebounds with three 3-pointers. The hot-shooting Dukes made 7-of-18 3-pointers in the first half to lead 29-23 at half, and led by seven midway through the third quarter.
But they were 0-for-4 from distance during a six-point third quarter, with six turnovers. A team that starts two juniors and two sophomores couldn’t get the positive momentum back.
“We had open looks because we were attacking the basket. When our offense was working we were getting in the lane, making them help and we didn’t get that as much in the second half,” York coach Brandon Collings. “There was a stretch in the third quarter where we missed three or four layups and hit two wide open threes. We make those it’s a different game.”
Blass eventually found the range again late with three threes, but Harrell said a tweak defensively helped his team cool off York’s shooters.
“In the first half they were running a little action where they dribbled right into the defender and we haven’t had that a lot this year so our girls were going under the screen. They would step behind the screen and it was a practice three,” Harrell said. “At halftime we decided that when the dribbler comes at you that we step up and tighten on the shooter.”
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.