Shorthanded Willowbrook clinches Gold title

DOWNERS GROVE – Willowbrook was without four players, but the Warriors were still able to cross off a goal on its season checklist.

The Warriors escaped Downers Grove South with a 49-48 victory Tuesday to improve to 11-0 in the West Suburban Gold and lock up the outright conference title for the first time since 1996.

Willowbrook (21-3) was without starters Melissa Rader and Alyssa Ressinger and key bench players Danielle Velasquez and Jada Stills. Ressinger and Stills will be back, but Rader and Velasquez are out for the season.

The absences wreaked havoc on coach Terry Harrell's typical lineups and rotations and Downers Grove South took advantage early on. The Mustangs led 22-15 at halftime and extended the lead to 30-22 midway through the third quarter before Willowbrook turned it around.

"They played hard, they stayed in the game and did what we had to do to win the game," Harrell said of his team's performance. "I like pretty wins, but they all aren't going to be pretty."

The Warriors scored the next 12 points and led the rest of the game. Willowbrook was up by as many as eight points before DGS made a run in the final minute to get within three.

The Mustangs had two tying 3-point attempts miss before a rebound and layup by Kasandra Rugienius just before the buzzer made the final score 49-48.

Junior Micala Giammarino, who started due to all the injuries, led the Warriors with 12 points. Sophomore Josie Zabran had 10 points. Claire Hardy had 15 points and 13 rebounds to lead DGS and Rugienius, a freshman, added 10 points.

"The girls make sure you know what you're doing and make you feel like you've played as a starter all year so it's really easy to adapt," Giammarino said.