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Coach Dave Owles and Waubonsie Valley continue to rebuild the Warrior program with underclassmen, and played well against East Aurora at home on Friday.
After a close and physical first half, Waubonsie took the lead briefly in the third. But East's Lady Tomcats, led by varsity veteran Tyshee Towner, clamped down on defense, found other ways to score, and pulled away for a not-so-easy 40-30 victory in the Upstate Eight Valley.
“We came out a little slow and had to get warmed up, ready, and really start to play as a team,” said Towner, who had a game high 23 points.
After a nervously-played and close first quarter (each team turned the ball over on its first three possessions), the Warriors (2-20,1-9) were able to use offensive rebounding to stay close. Morgan Grastorf, Elexsus Brownlee, and Ryaen Johnson each deposited an offensive board, and Johnson's enabled Waubonsie to close the half trailing only 16-15.
Only Towner and Desiree Rhodes scored from the field for East (11-11, 5-6) in the half. Johnson, a 6-2 junior with a wide wing span, played effectively against Towner at times, but the Cats' ace also had two putbacks and nine points at the half.
“That's the only way you have to play. You can't play soft,” said Rhodes (who also celebrated her birthday with nine points) concerning the physical play. “You have to play strong or you'll get eaten alive.”
The Warriors were effective with a zone to open the third, and took a brief 21-18 lead when Grastorf made a layup on an Andrea Colin assist. But Brandi McAlister, who had just scored on a breakaway, nailed a three and tied the score. Towner went to work and scored three times from close range with assists from Rhodes and McAlister, and East led 30-25 after three.
“We picked it up in the second half,” said Towner. “We had the little senior discussion that we were going to pick it up and that we weren't going to lose.”
Grastorf made a turnaround in the lane to begin the fourth to draw Waubonsie within three, but it was the last basket the Cats allowed until the final seconds of the contest. Rhodes' work on the offensive board and Towner's slashing drives allowed East to pull away to its final margin.
“Waubonsie is young team, but they are up and coming,” said East assistant coach Lee Clayborn, speaking for coach William Anderson, who was again without a voice. “They have a new coach and new system, and will get better.”