Spillane, Wheaton North roll in Neibch opener

After a couple days off on holiday break, senior guard Mira Spillane and her Wheaton North teammates were more than ready to get back to work on Tuesday and they wanted to make a statement from the opening tip.

Their mission was accomplished in their first-round game of the Bill Neibch Girls Basketball Holiday Classic against Elk Grove. The host Falcons (8-7) jumped ahead 13-0 before pulling away from the Grenadiers 63-31.

“Oh, for sure [it was a great start],” said Spillane, who finished with 10 points, 6 rebounds and 2 steals. “We tried to step on their throat right away by pressing them. We always do that with teams we think we can exploit. We have a lot of length on our team, so we try and use that.”

Wheaton North wasted little time grabbing an 8-0 lead as leading scorer Sara Abdul—who made the all-tourney team last year as a sophomore—opened the scoring with a 3-point shot, followed that with a traditional 3-point play, and then converted a steal into a layup. The Falcons’ pressure defense, which forced 7 Elk Grove turnovers in each of the first three quarters of play on Tuesday, helped the lead grow to 13-0 following five straight points from Zoey Bohmer before the Grenadiers finally got on the board with a basket from Danica Little.

“We took advantage of it,” Abdul said of her team’s tough full-court trapping defense. “We knew we were the better team coming in so we tried to take care of the ball and just play our game.”

The turnovers led to some transition layups on the other end, but the Falcons also shot well from the perimeter. Abdul knocked down a pair of 3s on her way to a game-high 20 points, and teammates Macy Pomatto, Spillane, Mackenzie Skidmore and Caroline Barlar also connected from beyond the arc.

“We took advantage of all the steals we were getting, and we were actually hitting our shots today,” said Abdul, who added multiple assists and steals in the game. “We were excited to get back. We had a couple days off and we just went after it.”

Elk Grove (3-10), on the other hand, just never got going after the rough start. Senior guard Maggie Maher scored 7 points and Zariela Myles had 8 points off the bench, but the Grenadiers lost the turnover battle 21-8 and couldn’t overcome the giveaways.

“I feel like we had a very good first half [last week] against Prospect and handled their pressure so I was hopeful,” Elk Grove coach Courtney Lindfors said. “But I don’t think having two days off and just diving right in helped us. We dug ourselves into a 13-0 hole and things didn’t go our way and our heads went down.”

Wheaton North led 35-19 at the half but then took total control in the third quarter by limiting Elk Grove to just 4 points and growing the lead to 56-23. With the win, the fourth-seeded Falcons advance to the tourney’s quarterfinals Wednesday against the winner of the game between No. 5 Glenbrook South and Bartlett. Elk Grove will play at noon on Wednesday in the consolation bracket.

Earlier winners on Tuesday included No. 3 Downers Grove North, No. 6 Palatine, Hinsdale Central and second-seeded Waubonsie Valley.

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