Girls basketball: Woodstock North tops Johnsburg for sixth straight KRC win

Hampshire's Caylin Stevens

WOODSTOCK – After losing its first three Kishwaukee River Conference games to start the season, Woodstock North could have easily hit the panic button.

Instead, the Thunder have reeled off six straight conference wins since, none bigger than their gritty 61-50 triumph over visiting Johnsburg on Wednesday night.

“Since our 0-3 start in conference, I’ve seen a huge step up in our effort in practice,” Thunder coach Jay Justice said. “Our defensive consistency has been sort of our trademark. And once we figured out what our rotations would be, things just sorta clicked.

“I give these girls a ton of credit. They’re a whole different team than when we started the season.”

They were also far better than the first time the two teams met Dec. 6, when Johnsburg routed North by 15 points.

Wednesday was another story, entirely.

Thunder senior guard Caylin Stevens scored a career-high 26 points and was one rebound shy of a double-double with nine.

She shot 7 for 16 from the field, and sank three 3s, but what stood out most was the way she helped will her team to the finish line down the stretch of physical fourth quarter.

Stevens routinely attacked the rim late, then went 5 for 10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter. Twice in the game’s final three minutes she was knocked to the floor, and twice intentional fouls were called by the officials.

In total, Stevens was 9 for 15 from the charity stripe.

“Being aggressive is just my mentality all the time,” Stevens said. “I’m always looking to draw contact, especially when we need points.”

She wasn’t the only one taking matters into their own hands. Teammate Isabella Borta was a monster on the glass, pulling down 11 rebounds, including eight offensive boards.

The Thunder (12-10 overall, 6-3 KRC) tallied 20 offensive rebounds.

“I think we just wanted it more,” Borta said. “We’ve been on a red-hot streak since we beat Plano, Sandwich and Woodstock, and we were real pumped up in front of our home fans tonight.”

Marengo entered the night in first place in the KRC with a 7-1 conference record. North’s win keeps them two games back in the loss column, with a rematch against Marengo on Monday.

“We haven’t given up on the conference,” Borta said. “The way we’ve been playing, we feel like we’re still in this thing.”

Johnsburg (12-9, 7-3) now has three KRC losses, and Woodstock entered Wednesday with a 7-2 conference record, meaning four teams still are in the hunt.

The Thunder led by as many as 16 late in the third quarter Wednesday, but the Skyhawks wouldn’t quit.

Johnsburg cut North’s lead to seven three times in the fourth and got a team-best 18 points from Wynne Oeffling.

Sophie Person (seven points, eight rebounds) and Kiara Welch (six points, 10 rebounds) repeatedly try to pull Johnsburg close late, but it simply wasn’t enough.

“I appreciate every time these girls step on the court,” Johnsburg coach Erin Stochl said. “They give everything they have every game.

“Today was no different. We knew we were in for a physical slugfest coming in here on their court, but we just let them pull away from us a little too much in the first half. And we turned the basketball over too much.”

She applauded the effort of senior Lauren Foszcz (seven points) off the bench.

“Just a tremendous effort by her,” Stochl said. “And Ava [Jablonski] had four fourth quarter points. We’re gonna keep battling. There’s a lot of basketball left, and anything can happen. The important thing is, the effort is there.”