Wilson warms up in game to lead Hoffman with career-high 33

Monraia Wilson hardly went into Monday's girls basketball game against visiting Niles North beaming with confidence.

"Oh my gosh, in warm-ups, I couldn't hit a shot," said the Hawks four-year starting guard. "I was nervous about that.

"And then I come out and miss my first couple of jump shots in the game. And those are my thing."

Well, perhaps slow starts like that should become her thing.

All Wilson did after she scored on a driving layup with 6:22 in first quarter was go on to score a career-high 33 points, including a season-high five 3-pointers, as the Hawks got past the Vikings 55-47 in the nonconference game.

It was Wilson's third game of the season in which she scored more than 20 points. And Hoffman (3-7) recorded all its wins in those games.

"When she scores, we look a lot better," said Hoffman coach Mike Koester, whose team built its biggest lead at 25-17 late in the first half when sophomore Raven Wilson (no relation) scored on a putback.

The Hawks had not forgotten last year's game in Skokie, when they led 16-0 and then lost 55-54.

That made things even more tense for Hoffman when the Vikings rallied a 27-26 lead midway through the third quarter.

The two teams were separated by 3 or less points for almost the entire final quarter until Wilson connected for her fifth 3-pointer and then hit 2 free throws with 1:14 left to give the hosts a 53-47 lead.

"That No. 14 (Wilson) is a handful," said Niles North coach Dan Paxton. "We talked about her before the game and how we wanted to put a big emphasis on keeping her put of the paint.

"She's a nice player. If you back off her, she hits the 3s. If you crowd her, she can get by you."

That's exactly how Monraia Wilson operated Monday, hitting one clutch shot after another from inside and out.

"We tried to shut that game out of my minds from last year with Niles North but it was still in our heads," said Monraia, who made 6-of-9 free throws and 11 field goals. "We wanted to avenge that loss. And we really needed this win to bounce back from our Schaumburg game (a 78-39 loss last Friday). We don't play like we did in that game. We need something like this game to show us that we're good."

The Hawks got a good all-around effort on Monday, including 10 points from senior Tayler Williams and 8 from classmate Kirsten Besterman.

"That was a solid 10-point effort from Kirsten," said Hoffman coach Mike Koester. "And Jada (Byndom, a sophomore) stepped up with some really good defense off the bench while playing almost the whole fourth quarter.

"This was a good rebound game for us from Schaumburg and it was good to see us win a close game."

A rebound bank shot by Niles North freshman Dafina Rexhepi tied the game at 45-45 with 4:18 left.

Wilson scored the Hawks' final 10 points, including the 3-pointer with 3:15 left that gave Hoffman the lead for good at 48-45.

Two free throws by junior Alyssa Aragon cut the lead to 48-47 before Wilson scored 7 unanswered points (a 3-pointer and 4 free throws) to close out the game.

The final two free throws with 36.3 seconds left allowed Wilson to break her former career-high of 31 points set Dec. 2 in a 59-47 win over Barrington.

Gina Loy, a senior guard and standout shortstop on coach Karin Wick's softball team, led the Vikings (1-8) with 17 points while Aragon added 15 and sophomore Lauren Dsouza 11.

"We played poorly in the first half," Paxton said. "We got outrebounded and didn't have the sense of urgency that we needed to start a game."

But Paxton liked what he saw in the final two quarters.

"We did a lot of nice things," he said. "The girls showed a lot of heart. We just didn't do that in the first half and that's a little disappointing. But we're young, and we've got to understand you've got to play with energy from the start of the game."

  Hoffman Estates' Kate Mongold, right, drives on Niles North's Kamaria Harmon on Monday night at Hoffman Estates. Steve Lundy/
  Hoffman Estates' Monraia Wilson, left, dishes the ball off around Niles North's Dafina Rexhepi on Monday night at Hoffman Estates. Steve Lundy/
  Hoffman Estates' Monraia Wilson, right, drives on Niles North's Dafina Rexhepi, left, and Kamaria Harmon on Monday night at Hoffman Estates. Steve Lundy/
  Hoffman Estates' Kate Mongold, right, drives on Niles North's Dafina Rexhepi on Monday night at Hoffman Estates. Steve Lundy/
  Hoffman Estates' Jada Byndom, right, drives on Niles North's Gina Loy (22) on Monday night at Hoffman Estates. Steve Lundy/
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