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Wheaton North sharpshooter Mandy Traversa has been on fire lately, but Wheaton Warrenville South might as well have dumped a bucket of ice water on her.
Traversa, a 6-1 senior guard, came into Saturday’s crosstown showdown leading the host Falcons in scoring at 18 points per game. But the Tigers cooled her off in a hurry, holding her to two points on 1-for-12 shooting. The three-point specialist missed all eight of her attempts from behind the line and WW South rolled to a 57-42 victory and sole possession of first place in the DuPage Valley Conference.
“We definitely made sure we keyed on [Traversa] defensively,” Tigers guard Sierra Bisso said. “We were talking about how we got to get a hand up in her face, we can’t let them shoot threes, because we know she’s been doing so well. We’ve been watching her and she’s shot so well lately.”
Instead, it was Bisso and her teammates who shot well. The senior tallied 13 points on 5-for-7 shooting, including a trio of three-pointers.
Two of those treys came in the opening minutes as Bisso and star junior guard Meghan Waldron combined to score the Tigers’ first 12 points in boosting the visitors to an early 12-2 lead. Both players had six points in the first quarter, which ended with the Tigers (16-3, 7-0) up 16-6.
“This week has been kind of pressureful,” Waldron said. “I haven’t even been playing like myself, which has been frustrating, so tonight I just wanted to play how I usually play, and even with so many people out we have so much heart.
“Every teammate I have, you can look in their eyes and see they hate to lose, and North is a great team. I don’t know if they were off or what, but they still tried hard. The scoreboard didn’t tell the truth of this game.”
Waldron was dominant at both ends, scoring 14 of her game-high 20 points in the first half to stake the Tigers to a 31-14 lead. She also had 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
But Waldron was appreciative of the assistance she received from her teammates, especially Bisso, who chipped in five rebounds, three assists and two steals to go with her hot shooting for the Tigers, who led by as many as 24 points in the fourth quarter.
“Sierra is a great shooter,” Waldron said. “This whole season she has been great on offense and defense. She knows her role for the team and tonight she definitely did amazing.”
The same couldn’t be said of the Falcons (13-6, 6-1), who struggled to crack the Tigers’ defense and couldn’t buy a basket when they did. Always reliant on the three-pointer, Wheaton North missed its first 11 attempts and were 2-for-17 overall. Their two-point shooting (12-for-30) wasn’t great, either.
Chrissy Baird led North with 12 points, while freshman Emmy Gryna added eight points, all in the fourth quarter.
Melinda Franke had seven points and seven rebounds and Olivia Linebarger and Erin Zappia both tallied six points for the Tigers, who welcomed back head coach Rob Kroehnke from a two-week absence following surgery to repair a broken leg.
“[The win] is so good, especially since Coach just came back,” Bisso said. “It was a great feeling to have him back. We were all pumped and ready.”
The victory was a temporary salve for Kroehnke, who coached while sitting down and is still in pain from his injury.
“I’ve been cooped up for two weeks, so it feels good to get out of the house,” Kroehnke said. “We talked about defense winning championships and we’re now at that point in the season where these games mean so much. They’re not going to hand the winner [of this game] a trophy, but it’s nice to get this one.”