Waubonsie Valley struggles in regular season finale

Nazareth senior Amalia Dray made sure her final home game was a memorable one.

So did all of her teammates.

Dray scored a game-high 18 points, including four 3-pointers, on 7-for-8 shooting and added four steals and three assists to lead the Roadrunners to a stunning 59-35 rout of Waubonsie Valley on Thursday in the regular season finale for both teams.

It was the 16th consecutive win for Nazareth (26-3), which dominated in every aspect in snapping Waubonsie Valley’s eight-game winning streak.

How did they do it?

“I think it’s a mix of things,” Dray said. “Through the season we’ve been getting better progressively each game.

“We played really well against Marist last night (a 70-40 win). We’ve been getting used to playing doubleheaders — for the past couple weeks we’ve had back-to-back games, so our bodies were ready for it.

“And our coaches prepare us so well for each game. So we know personnel, we know what passes they’re going to take, when they’re going to take them. We want to peak in March and we’re pretty close to that.”

Indeed, the Roadrunners look ready to contend for the Class 4A state championship, one season after winning the Class 3A title.

The Warriors (27-3) came into the game averaging 66 points and had scored at least 48 points in every game. Nazareth held them to 11 in the first half.

“We scouted them and they were scoring in the 70s,” Nazareth coach Eddie Stritzel said. “I told the girls if this is a 70s game, we have a problem.

“We were hoping to hold them in the high 40s and we held them to mid-30s, so it was a great defensive game for us.”

The great effort began early, when sophomore Stella Sakalas sank a jumper to break a 5-5 tie. Senior Danielle Scully followed with a 3-pointer and Dray scored on a layup, which was just the early stages of a staggering 29-6 run which Dray capped with a trey to make it 34-11 early in the third quarter.

Scully finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and three steals, while Sakalas had 10 points and four boards, senior Mary Bridget Wilson contributed seven points, five rebounds and four assists, and senior Olivia Austin tallied five points, nine rebounds and three assists.

The Roadrunners amassed 17 assists on 21 baskets, shot 49% overall and 45% on 3-pointers, sinking 9 of 20. They also won the rebounding battle 33-18.

“They shot really well and defensively they had us scrambling, trying to make decisions whether to help or guard the shooters,” Waubonsie Valley coach Brett Love said. “Offensively, we didn’t move enough against their high pressure zone.

“We tried to prepare as much as possible in practice but it’s nothing like the real thing. With the caliber of players they have, they cover ground quickly and we have to be able to shoot quicker. We’ve got to be able to make quicker decisions. We have got to be able to attack gaps and execute at a higher level.”

The Roadrunners held Waubonsie sophomore Danyella Mporokoso to 13 points, seven less than her average, and senior Hannah Laub to seven points. Mporokoso shot 3 of 13, while Laub was 3 of 15.

“They did a really good job of taking away Hannah for the most part, making her uncomfortable,” Love said. “And they always had two or three girls around Dani, which make it more difficult for us to execute.”

The Roadrunners, though, executed their game plan to perfection.

“Our focal point was to stop Danyella because she’s awesome,” Dray said. “They have a bunch of other people who hit shots, so the main thing in our defense is we wanted to stop penetration.

“We just work so well off of each other that it’s easy to say if I get beat, then Olivia or Dani will step up. We just work so well together; we can pop out and not let them shoot.”

That’s what happened at the end of the third quarter, when Dray made arguably the most spectacular play of the game. The Warriors had pulled within 37-25 after Mporokoso sank three free throws, but Sakalas and Wilson sank back-to-back 3-pointers to trigger a 17-3 run.

Waubonsie’s Arianna Garcia made a great effort to save a rebound from going out of bounds in the final seconds of the third quarter, but Dray stole the ball at midcourt and raced in for a buzzer-beating layup to make it 45-26.

“I looked at the clock and I’d seen that the low of our zone was doing such a good job of blocking everyone else, that it was so easy,” Dray said. “I saw her looking at (a teammate) so I just went running and I saw there was three seconds left. I just threw the ball in front of me and went for it.”

While the game wasn’t as close as the Warriors would have liked, it did give both teams the test they wanted heading into the playoffs.

“That’s what girls basketball should be about — packed gyms, excitement, two really talented teams going at it,” Stritzel said. “It was a real physical, athletic game.”

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.