Naperville North is a different team when Kayla Sharples and Zoe Swift are on the court.
That couldn't have been more obvious Thursday.
Sharples scored 15 points and pulled down 14 rebounds after sitting out a first quarter where the host Huskies spotted Glenbard East a 9-point lead, and even without Swift, Naperville North held on for a 38-33 win.
Swift was out of town at a soccer tournament. Sharples sat out the first quarter after missing a practice due to a soccer commitment. Her impact on return was immediate. Sharples scored the Huskies' first two baskets of the second quarter, then assisted on a Delaney White 3-pointer.
On more than one occasion Sharples grabbed a defensive rebound and led the fastbreak.
"She makes things a lot easier for us," Naperville North coach Jacquie Discipio said. "We were giving up a lot of offensive rebounds and with her arms she just reaches out and gets those boards. We were able to get some quick releases and run down the court. We're better when we're running."
It's been a stop-start season thusfar for the Huskies. Because of soccer commitments and injuries, Naperville North hasn't yet had its entire roster for a game. Still, after Thursday the Huskies (8-7, 1-2 DuPage Valley Conference) are over .500 for the first time and riding a three-game win streak.
"We're 8-7 and gaining confidence," Sharples. "It's definitely been tough physically and emotionally."
And the Huskies are doing it with quite a young group.
Freshman Laurel Pereira scored 6 points in the first quarter Thursday, and freshman Cece Pope scored all 6 of her points in the second half to go with 5 rebounds. Only one senior played Thursday.
"These young girls are eager to learn. They're like sponges," Discipio said. "It's good to see girls stepping up. It's a positive thing for our program."
Glenbard East (2-12, 0-4) is young and growing in its own right, starting two sophomores and two juniors with junior Tajanae Key the Rams' top sub.
The Rams, coming off a hard-fought 29-23 loss to a ranked Willowbrook team, got out to a 15-6 lead after a quarter behind a combined 13 points from sophomores Allison Hansen and Rachael Leifheit.
Held scoreless the entire second quarter, the Rams bounced back to take a 21-18 lead before Naperville North answered with an 11-4 run to close the third quarter and take control of things.
"We're starting to compete, starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," Rams coach Don Finnie said. "Last year we lost this game by 30; this year we were within 5. My girls played hard and they never gave up."
Hansen finished with 13 points and 7 rebounds and Key had 8 points and 5 rebounds for Glenbard East.
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