NAPERVILLE – Eleanor Harris is a work in progress.
Downers Grove North coach Stephan Bolt can’t wait to see the finished product.
Harris, a 6-foot sophomore center, still has plenty of room to grow her game. But the varsity rookie is flashing spurts of brilliance.
“I get goose bumps because I think she’s got a tremendously high ceiling,” Bolt said. “There’s times when it’s like, ‘Wow.’
“She’s bouncy, she’s athletic, she plays tough and when she gets the right angles going to the basket she’s tough to stop. And then there’s times where she’s got to get stronger.
“But I was telling her the other day, she’s progressed a great deal throughout the season and she’s only going to keep getting better. We need her at her toughest and best at the end of the season to make a run.”
Harris’ inexperience and potential were both on full display Thursday. She missed four consecutive shots at one point but tallied seven of her nine points in the final 10 minutes as the Trojans posted an impressive 33-28 road victory over Naperville North, which features junior forward Greta Kampschroeder, one of the top college recruits in the state.
“(Harris) played great,” Downers North senior point guard Ellie Gross said. “She’s got a short memory, which is great for a sophomore.
“She doesn’t dwell on things. She keeps working hard and getting rebounds and her effort is everywhere.
“She played huge at the end of the game.”
Indeed, Harris was a factor at both ends of the floor in the fourth quarter as the Trojans (17-5) closed the game with a 6-0 run, shutting out the Huskies (13-5) for the final 6 minutes, 11 seconds.
Harris scored the go-ahead basket with 4:33 remaining when she took a feed from freshman Maggie Fleming and laid it in to give the Trojans a 29-28 lead.
“I knew if she catches it in the high post, then that back door is going to be open always because the girl defending me was way too high,” Harris said.
Harris also was part of a terrific defensive effort that allowed the Huskies only 24 shots, just one of which came in the fourth quarter. Naperville North had only seven possessions in the final six minutes, all of which resulted in turnovers.
That included a key jump-ball which Harris forced with 3 minutes remaining. She later scored on another layup off a pass from Gross to make it 31-28 with 50 seconds to go.
After sophomore Kate Gross forced a five-second call, sophomore Ryann Wendt sank both ends of a 1-and-1 to ice the win with 5.5 ticks left.
“(The victory) feels nice,” Harris said. “I knew we were going to win.
“I was like, ‘We’ve got to pull it through.’ I was determined.”
The win was a quick bounce-back from Tuesday’s overtime loss to Lyons Township, proving the young Trojans have some mettle.
“We keep putting ourselves in not great spots but I think it says a lot about our team that we were able to fight back every time, just rely on our defense and eke out some wins,” Ellie Gross said. “When we get beat, we beat ourselves. We control our own destiny.”
Kampschroeder tallied a game-high 16 points and six rebounds for the Huskies but no other player had more than one basket. The Trojans, in contrast, had a balanced attack as Kate Gross scored nine points, all on third-quarter 3-pointers, and Ellie Gross added five points, four assists and three steals.
“It was a great defensive effort,” Ellie Gross said. “We didn’t always shoot it the best. We made a couple of turnovers we can’t have but we really pride ourselves on our defense and that carried us through this game.”