Diamond Thompson isn’t always vocal about asking for the ball.
So her coach did the demanding for her Thursday.
“I could tell you what I said to the team, but you wouldn’t be able to print it,” Wheaton Warrenville South coach Rob Kroehnke said with a laugh. “Get her the stinking ball.”
WW South did, the 6-foot-4 Thompson scored three straight baskets to break a tie to start the fourth quarter, and the Tigers rallied from a huge early hole to beat Wheaton North 53-45 in the Class 4A Bartlett sectional final.
Thompson scored 8 of her 12 points in the fourth quarter, blocked 4 shots and made all 6 of her shot attempts. She didn’t get an attempt for the entire third quarter, though. That changed out of the between-quarter huddle.
“I was open and coach challenged me to get the ball and that’s what I did,” Thompson said. “It’s just a matter of putting them in. I think I need to be more vocal sometimes.”
WW South’s sectional title is its first since 1997, its 29th win breaking that team’s school record for wins, and it puts the Tigers (29-3) into a Monday supersectional at Dundee-Crown against Huntley, a 45-41 winner over Streamwood.
It’s been a trying and rewarding season like no other. WW South has fought through losing starters Maggie Dansdill and Sierra Bisso to torn ACLs and overcame a little more adversity Thursday.
Wheaton North (23-8) jumped out to leads of 12-0 and 18-3, while WW South missed its first 9 shots. Tigers standout Meghan Waldron, coming off games of 28 and 27 points, missed her first 6 shots.
“I’ve never seen a team play with as much emotion as Wheaton North did tonight. They’re a great team,” Waldron said. “We just had to keep our cool.”
Wheaton North twice lost to WW South by double digits during the regular season, but Reilly Stewart’s 2 free throws capped the 12-0 start, and Mandy Traversa’s driving three-point play made it 18-3.
“I think we came out a little bit intimidated against them the last couple games, wondering are we as good as they are,” Falcons coach Dave Eaton said. “I think tonight we showed we could play with these guys.”
WW South, though, gradually whittled away at the lead in the second quarter and did so on the offensive glass. The Tigers grabbed 12 offensive rebounds in the first half, turning many into points, kids like Olivia Linebarger and her 5 rebounds, Melinda Franke and her 7 and Allie Zappia and her 8 doing the dirty work. In one possession in the third quarter alone, WW South grabbed three offensive rebounds, Zappia turning it into a three-point play.
Meanwhile, WW South put the brakes on Wheaton North’s offense, a 9-0 run to close the half cutting the Falcons’ lead to 23-20. Linebarger’s coast-to-coast layup gave WW South its first lead, at 29-28 with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
“We knew we could make a comeback, and it starts with our defense,” Kroehnke said.
Waldron scored 10 of her 15 points in the fourth quarter, her steal and score and transition basket capping a 10-0 run to start the final period. A win Monday would mean the Tigers’ first state appearance since Wheaton Central and Katie Meier took second to Marshall in Class AA in 1985. That team also won 29 games.
Stewart, Chrissy Baird and Kelly Thornton all scored 11 points for Wheaton North, and Traversa 10 — including her 1,000th varsity point.
“Win or lose tonight, this team has taken our program to among one of the best in the state of Illinois,” Eaton said. “I can’t say enough about this team.”
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