After winning five of its last six games with a Cinderella run through the 2011-12 IHSA postseason, Wheeling's girls basketball team got quite used to winning.
So it was understandable what senior Brie Majkowski said after the Wildcats notched victory No. 1 this season with a 53-33 victory over the host school of the Niles North "Somebody's Hero" Thanksgiving tournament in Skokie.
"We've been waiting for this,' said Majkowski, a 5-foot-10 who helped the Wildcats (1-3) get it on Saturday with 15 points and 8 rebounds. "It feels great."
Who knows, the wait may not have been as long if not for some adversity.
"With all the injuries and illness we've had, it's nice to finally have a win," Majkowski said.
Less than a minute into their season opener, Wildcats senior forward Jessi Zuba suffered an ACL injury.
Junior Elizabeth Smith and sophomore Lani Greenberg have been sidelined with ankle injuries.
All-area guard Deanna Kuzmanic was back on the floor in the second quarter Saturday after missing two practices and the Wildcats' last game due to illness.
And in the first quarter Saturday, starting sophomore guard Hailey Dammeier left the game with an ankle injury for which she will have X-rays.
"We've had a little adversity," said Wildcats coach Julissa Hernandez, jokingly understating the situation. "We've battled injuries and illness the whole season, playing games without three of four starters. It's finally coming together where the girls are getting used to each other on the floor."
Sophomore guard Hannah Dobrowski also scored 15 points for the Wildcats while Kuzmanic added 10 in about 12 minutes of action.
The Wildcats rallied from a 16-8 deficit, closing to within 23-21 at half on a pair of free throws by Kuzmanic with 39 second left before the break.
Kuzmanic made her presence felt late in the third quarter when she made a nice pass to senior guard Kaitlyn DeBusk (8 points), who converted a layup for a 29-28 lead. Kuzmanic then pulled down the defensive rebound on the next possession for the Vikings (0-4).
The 5-9 sophomore guard then wove her through traffic at the other end of the court for a 6-foot bank shot that made it 31-28 after three quarters.
Wheeling outscored Niles North 22-5 in the final eight minutes with Dobrowski making 5-of- 6 free throws (7-of-8 for the game) and Majkowski hitting 3 baskets.
"We were definitely looking to move the basketball and looking to shoot," Majkowski said. "We knew we had to pick up our defense.
"In the second half, we had to come out with intensity and ready to play. We executed on offense and a lot of the credit for my points goes to my teammates who were looking for the open person."
Sophomore Nicole Ziotnikova started Wheeling's 8-1 run in the second quarter with a layup and junior guard Gianna Calistro had a key 17-footer to help extend the Wildcats' lead in the fourth quarter.
We have to make sure everyone gets a little piece of the action in our offensive scoring and we showed that with Bree, Hannah and Deanna all reaching double figures," Hernandez said. "Bree was working hard all game, and not only that, her teammates saw her open and she took advantage."
Mother McAuley 56, Maine West 32: Maine West (1-2) was led by Brittany Collins (12 points, 9 rebounds) and Lexi Prosperi (9 points, 7-of-8 free throws) in its first game of its own Maine West Tip-Off Classic.
Montini 46, Schaumburg 35: Schaumburg (2-3) finished play in its own Thanksgiving tournament as senior guard Amanda Kelly scored a team-high 14 points and backcourt partner and classmate Riley Williams made 3 3-pointers for 9 points.
Sophomore teammate Jada Blackwell made 8 of 12 free throws for 8 points.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.