NAPERVILLE–Hinsdale South’s girls basketball team knew it had a decided height advantage in Monday’s Class 4A Naperville North Regional quarterfinal against Plainfield South.
Hornets junior Uzo Okoro took full advantage of that from the opening tip.
Okoro scored 12 of her game-high 20 points in the first quarter, including the Hornets’ first 10 points overall, to help push Hinsdale South to a 49-29 win.
The win sets up a regional semifinal at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday against sixth-seeded Wheaton Warrenville South.
“We knew going in that they weren’t the tallest team, so that was the focus, but we try to do that most of the time,” Hinsdale South coach Jen Belmonte said. “(Uzo) does her thing, which is nice. I wish it was typical. She usually gets that many shots off, but they don’t all go in. That was definitely good production for her in the first quarter. I think that’s the first time it happened all season. I wish it happened every game.”
Okoro’s hot streak early on helped the Hornets (15-10) jump out to a 19-3 lead early in the second quarter on Plainfield South (2-27). The Cougars did manage to slow Okoro and the Hornets down in the middle two quarters, however, outscoring Hinsdale South 18-16 from that point to the middle of the fourth quarter, but that only cut the lead to 35-23.
“We weren’t too pleased with our team effort in terms of our strategy of fronting the post and taking away the lob,” Plainfield South coach Tor Erickson said. “We tried to make up for that by playing behind her and doubling down, and that worked for a while. They played through that, though.”
Belmonte can’t remember the last time that the Hornets have played Wheaton Warrenville South, but that’s the challenge her team faces Tuesday with a trip to the regional title game on the line. Hinsdale South is playing its best basketball of the season, however, winning seven of its last eight games overall.
“We couldn’t do anything until we won tonight,” Belmonte said. “We just had to stay focused. We did scout them and they’re going to be a very similar team to us. They play a 1-3-1 zone, so we’ll be ready to attack that. We’ll have our hands full, but I think we’ll be OK if we do what we do defensively and hopefully get some point production from our guards, and not just our interior girls.”
Wheaton Warrenville South did not have to play Monday, so the Tigers will be more rested, but Okoro doesn’t think that will be a factor.
“We didn’t want to look past anything because that’s when you can get beat,” Okoro said. “Coming off of this win, I think it gave us a lot more confidence in ourselves.”