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With consecutive games against the County's top three teams to begin the second half of divisional play, the Waterloo Vikings cannot afford a stumble.
If Wednesday night's 53-33 road win over Woodridge is any indication, the Vikings look to be approaching this critical part of the season with the right mindset.
"We told the girls that this three-game stretch is really important and we can't afford a loss," Waterloo head coach Dave Hamilton said of his team's games against Woodridge, Southeast and Windham. "We can still control our own destiny if we win and the girls understand that."
Wednesday's game was practically over after the first eight minutes as Waterloo (6-4, 5-2 County Division) jumped on the Bulldogs with 13 unanswered points in a 13-4 first-period effort.
Woodridge (6-6, 4-3) star senior forward Lizzie Wilkinson got into foul trouble early and a major chunk of the first half with three fouls.
With Wilkinson benched, Waterloo's senior tandem of forward Megan Forney and guard Jamie Willis took advantage, combining for 18 of Waterloo's 30 first-half points.
Willis shined with the ball in her hand in the first half, knocking down three of her game-high four 3-pointers while finding Forney and her other teammates for four of her seven assists.
"Jamie has really been working on (distributing the ball)," Hamilton said. "Everyone knows that she's going to get double- or triple-teamed with the ball in her hands, so she's been doing a great job of using her vision (to find open teammates)."
Willis finished with 18 points to lead all scorers. Without Wilkinson to contend with, Forney recorded a double-double with 13 points and a game high 11 rebounds -- including six offensive boards.
Woodridge put in four- and eight-point scoring toals in the first and second quarters, respectively, as the Bulldogs found themselves down 30-12 at the half.
Wilkinson played much of the second half, finishing with a team-high 11 points and six rebounds. Freshman teammate Abbe Esterak was the only other Woodridge player in double figures, finishing with 10 points, including both of the Bulldogs' 3-pointers.
With two players combining for 63 percent of Woodridge's 33 points, Bulldogs' head coach Chris Esterak said that his team has to find more offensive diversity as the season goes on -- especially with sophomore shooter Morgan Thompson and her double-digit average out for the year with an injury.
"We run a lot of our offense through Lizzie, so her being off of the court for much of the first half really hurt us," Esterak said. "Abbe scored at about what she's been averaging, but we just need more scoring. With Morgan Thompson out for the season, we really need to put it together."