Downers Grove North falls in OT at Kipp Hoopsfest

Kate Gross and Downers Grove North, like so many other teams, have dealt with their share of adversity in this disjointed season.

The Trojans had to pull out of a Christmas tournament after advancing to the semifinals. They played Saturday at the 32nd Coach Kipp Hoopsfest without three starters.

On top of that, Gross was knocked to the court on multiple occasions during the game, and frequently grabbed trying to get open. Through it all Downers Grove North took a glittering 18-2 record into Saturday.

And showed why, even in defeat.

The short-handed Trojans showcased their stifling defense in building a 13-point second-quarter lead, but ran out of gas in losing in overtime to Sandburg 37-33 in a game held at Montini.

Gross, who scored a team-high 13 points, said Downers Grove North's second loss since November is nonetheless something to build on.

"Super proud of the girls for battling back," said Gross, a senior guard. "Obviously we had a ton of girls that had to step up today. It puts us in a good spot going into the postseason."

Downers Grove North (18-3) hangs its hat on a hard-nosed defense that gives up just over 25 points per game. It was in vintage form early Saturday.

The Trojans held Sandburg scoreless for an 11-minute span from the game's first minute until midway through the second quarter. Downers Grove North controlled the defensive glass, and frequently dove to the court for loose balls.

At the other end Ryann Wendt scored eight of her nine points in the first half, two Wendt free throws giving the Trojans a 15-2 lead a minute into the second quarter.

"We buckled down on defense," Gross said. "We let them get shots later but we came out strong."

Downers Grove North indeed led 17-7 at halftime, but the game turned in the third quarter on the hot hand of Sandburg's Josie Canellis. The junior guard, the niece of sports anchor Lou Canellis, scored 11 of her game-high 17 points and knocked down three of her four 3-pointers during the quarter.

Her third three pulled the Eagles (15-6) within 17-16, capping an 11-0 run, after they shot just 3-for-16 in the first half.

"That first half was just something else," Canellis said. "I just knew all it was going to take was making one shot. I knew once that first one went in we'd be OK."

Gross, held to just one basket in the first half, seemed to stem the tide with back-to-back 3-pointers, the first breaking a six-minute scoring drought, and a runner in the lane to give the Trojans a 25-18 lead to the fourth quarter.

But they scored just two points in the fourth quarter and went without a made field goal, with three consecutive turnovers in the final three minutes. Sandburg's Claire Callaghan rolled in a runner to tie it 27-27 with 2:16 left in regulation. The Eagles took their first lead on Canellis' fourth 3-pointer to start overtime, and never trailed in the extra period.

"You could say we ran out of gas," Downers Grove North coach Stephan Bolt said. "We talk about adversity all the time. These kids battled, and they continue to battle. I'm really proud of them. They battled down three kids and other kids stepped up and made plays, and we had a chance to win."

Bolt didn't particularly care for the contact on Gross that wasn't called, among other issues, and his frustration came to a head with a technical foul in overtime.

But he, and Gross, were both looking at the experience as preparation for the postseason. Ella Sebek added seven points and seven rebounds for the Trojans.

"It definitely was a physical game, obviously learning how to respond to it - you never know what kind of team you're going to see down the road," Gross said. "It was a hard game for us today but I'm proud of the we fought. It sets us up for future success."

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