Waubonsie Valley survives Neuqua’s furious fourth-quarter charge

At just 5 feet, 4 inches, Waubonsie Valley guard Arianna Garcia is far from the tallest player when she takes the court.

Despite her stature, however, she just might be one of the best rebounders in the area.

The sophomore came up big Thursday at Neuqua Valley, scoring 4 of her 8 points — and more importantly grabbing 5 of her 8 boards — in the fourth quarter.

The clutch effort from Garcia helped hold off a spirited rally down the stretch by the Wildcats as Waubonsie Valley won 55-54 in a DuPage Valley Conference matchup.

“That’s what I’ve been doing for awhile,” said Garcia of her prowess on the glass. “If I’m not scoring, I’m rebounding.

“I look for the ball and I go get it. Just do anything to help the team.”

Neuqua Valley trailed by 12 midway through the final quarter, but cut the lead to 1 in the final minute and had a chance to win at the end.

It was non-stop, relentless defense that led the charge for the Wildcats.

“We knew that if we pushed the pace and pressured the ball, our offense would take it from there,” said Neuqua Valley senior Caitlin Washington.

Washington was terrific for the Wildcats, scoring 20 points.

“We were able to get steals,” added Washington, “and then we were able to get layups.”

Waubonsie Valley (18-1, 4-0) trailed after one quarter, but behind 11 second quarter points from sophomore Danyella Mporokoso, took a 29-22 lead into halftime.

The Warriors kept extending the lead, and when Mporokoso got a steal and fed Garcia for a layup, the visitors took a 47-35 advantage with just over four minutes remaining in the contest.

“She’s a key piece of what we do,” said Warriors coach Brett Love of Garcia.

“She’s a great lateral defender, and she always guards the best player on the other team. She’s very active and understands that regardless of her size, she can impact the game on a high level.”

Down by 12, senior guard Zoe Navarro began Neuqua Valley’s rally by hitting back-to-back layups.

The home team kept the pressure on down the stretch, forcing a number of Warriors turnovers, and when Washington sank a layup with 15 seconds left, the score was 55-54.

“It was frantic,” said Love of the game’s final two minutes, as the big Warriors lead slipped away.

“We wanted to settle down and not take any bad shots, but at the same time we wanted to stay aggressive and get to the basket. We just didn’t do that.”

Waubonsie Valley was fouled and missed two free throws with 10 seconds remaining. Neuqua Valley got the rebound and hustled the ball down the court, but a 3-point try for the win at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

At that point the Warriors were able to exhale as they escaped with the victory.

“We’ve played some tough teams this year,” said Love, “but we haven’t played a game like this where it comes down to one point in the last second.

“It’s good to get that kind of experience on the way to the postseason.”

Mporokoso scored a game-high 22 points for Waubonsie Valley, while teammate Maya Pereda added 11 points.

Navarro finished with 10 points for Neuqua Valley (10-8, 3-1), as the teams played an unusual weekday 2:30p.m. tipoff due to both schools still being on winter break.

According to Garcia, that wasn’t a problem for the Warriors.

“It was a little different,” she said. “We’re used to 7 p.m. games but we focused and got our minds right. We came in prepared and were good to go.”

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