Girls basketball: Navarro leads Neuqua Valley's rout of Waubonsie Valley as Wildcats clinch DuPage Valley Conference title
Neuqua Valley junior point guard Zoe Navarro made a delayed impact in Thursday's game.
The 5-foot-4 Navarro, a three-year varsity player, fixed the oversight with a prolific second quarter, sparking the Wildcats with her energy, passing, shooting, defense and penetration skills.
In short, Navarro impacted every phase of the game to power the Wildcats to a shocking 69-41 rout over Waubonsie Valley in DuPage Valley Conference play. The Wildcats (18-10, 8-1) clinched the conference title and ended Waubonsie Valley's 5-game winning streak.
"I started attacking more because my shot wasn't falling from the outside early on, so I knew I had to get myself going by getting to the rim," Navarro said. "It was a big game against our rivals, and you always want to get win. I just got off to a bit of a slow start and my teammates got into a rhythm and I contributed to that."
Navarro made consecutive baskets early in the second quarter to kick-start the blowout, snagging her own missed shot and powering up a shot in traffic under the basket. She added a hard-driving layup to pad the lead to 22-12.
Navarro said she welcomed a bigger role this season.
"Last year I started but I didn't have much of a scoring role and this year I really stepped into that and I had to contribute more," Navarro said.
"I did a lot of shooting and finishing in the offseason. It's hard being a smaller guard. I like to get pull-ups and floaters. I don't let my (size) affect me. I know people underestimate my skill, but I think one of my best assets is my quickness, which I use to my advantage."
The Wildcats showed why they could be a hard team to defeat in the Class 4A playoffs against the talented Warriors. Navarro finished with 8 points and 3 assists in the running-clock victory, while junior star guard Caitlin Washington poured in a game-high 23 points. Kylee Norkus, Nalia Clifford and Tia Poulakidas each scored 11 points.
Poulakidas said the Wildcats played an all-around game to knock off the Warriors, who were outscored 19-4 in the third quarter.
"We knew we were going to come out with a lot of energy and they would do, but I didn't think we would be ahead this much," Poulakidas said. "When we play together, we're hard to stop. Other teams don't know who to guard. Zoe was a huge threat. She brings us together and always brings us together on offense and defense and a great leader on the floor."
Neuqua Valley coach Mike Williams praised his entire team, noting the consistent play of Navarro for helping dissect the Warriors with her aggressiveness pushing the pace and playing tough defense. Taylor Curry led the Warriors with 13 points.
"Right now, the team is pretty well focused," Williams said. "We've had some tough games, against Carmel and Nazareth. They're not satisfied. They did a great job offensively and defensively and passing the ball for balanced scoring. When we do that, we're hard to beat.
"Zoe has a bulldog mentality. She's so competitive. She controls the tempo. She plays hard and makes great decisions. I've always though the world of Zoe."