Downers Grove North clinches 1st conference title since 2014

Kaitlyn Parker cherished a rare opportunity on Tuesday night.

The Downers Grove North senior guard/forward had the proverbial green light against Lyons in a West Suburban Conference Silver Division game.

Parker, in theory, has the green light every game. Her experience and leadership – to go with high-level scoring – allows her the freedom to hunt for points.

But against Lyons, a team with several forwards, Parker enjoyed a large number of open looks from the perimeter. Early on, she had a mixed bag of results, combining a pair of airballs with a few head-scratching turnovers due to Lyons’ length.

In typical Parker fashion, she started hitting shot after shot.

Parker managed to carry the Trojans to a victory, scoring a game-leading 22 points in a 48-40 triumph over the Lions in Downers Grove. With the win, the Trojans (25-3, 10-1) clinched the conference title. Senior guard Hope Sebek scored 10 points for the Trojans.

“It felt great to get a win for the team,” Parker said. “I’ve played varsity for three years, and this is all that I’ve wanted – a conference championship. We’re not done yet. It was awesome to be open. My team saw me, delivered passes and screened for me. I didn’t think I would get (so many open looks). I thought the opposite.”

On the heels of the Downers Grove North boys basketball team’s run to the Final Four last season, and the football team reaching the Class 8A state championship, the Trojans’ girls basketball team is making their own noise.

“It’s been a while since we’ve won (conference), since 2014, I think,” Downers Grove North coach Stephan Bolt said. “These kids are awesome. Wins and conference championships are a byproduct of what we do. The ultimate goal is to make a (playoff) run. I’m proud of the girls. It was definitely a goal for them. It was a tough game.”

Parker sparked the Trojans to their 11th straight win, plus helped them avoid a close game against the Lions. On Jan. 16, the Trojans beat the Lions on buzzer-beater on the road. She drilled five 3-pointers, brought the ball up the court on many possessions and played solid defense. She even took a charge on a powerful drive by Nora Ezike with 2:24 remaining.

“She was ready to shoot it. She’s been shooting really well for us. She’s really tough to guard when she’s knocking down shots like that,” Bolt said.

Downers Grove North junior guard Abby Gross scored seven points, but her tenacity played a big factor in stopping Lyons from making it a one-possession game. Gross came up with several key plays in the final two minutes, including two steals, a defensive rebound and hitting three free throws.

“Abby does a lot of stuff that goes unnoticed,” Bolt said. “We tell her to be ready to shoot and go to the drive and make shots. She did a great job of finding opportunities around the rim, knocking down some free throws down the stretch and she always defends with high energy and a high IQ. It was fun to see her do some offensive things tonight.”

The Lions (16-11, 7-4) came out of the gates in a cold freeze, not scoring their first point until Kennedy Wanless’ basket with 2:41 left in the quarter. The Lions never led but staged an impressive comeback, cutting the deficit to 45-40 following a three-point play by Ezike with 52.9 left in the game.

“They are well-coached and very physical and play very good defense,” Lyons coach Meghan Hutchens said. “They were times we played good defense but couldn’t capitalize on it. I think this game will be good experience for us going into the playoffs. That’s a good team. There are times we play so well that it’s scary, then times we have momentary lapses and don’t stick to the gameplan.”

Ezike, a highly recruited player, is starting to get back into a groove after an extended absence. The 6-foot-2 Ezike finished with a team-high 14 points, all coming in the final 19-plus minutes.

“Coming back for the past few games and at practice just continuing to keep working and get back to where I was before and get better and my stamina up, I think the last few games I’ve gotten back into the groove of things,” Ezike said. “There’s certainly things we all need to get better at, so we can get some more wins and go far in the playoffs.”

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