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Kuzmanic sparks Wheeling victory
By John Leusch | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/23/2011 12:21 AM

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At the conclusion of Wheeling's 50-28 victory over Deerfield on Thursday, Wildcats senior Kellie Kuzmanic was announced as a member of the all-tourney team for the Blue Devil Classic at Warren High School in Gurnee.

All one had to see was her play in the first seven minutes to see why she earned the honor.

Kuzmanic scored all but two of the Wildcats' points as they raced ahead 14-4 with 1:42 left in the opening period.

The 6-foot senior forward hit 16-footers, layups and 3-pointers during her streak which set the tone for Wheeling's first two-game winning streak of the season.

She finished with a game-high 19 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals.

"She came out and lit us up," said Deerfield coach Mike Muldrow, whose team is 4-12. "We changed defenses and she took advantage of that. She's just a very good all-around versatile player."

It was an all-around exceptional defensive job for Wheeling, which held Deerfield under double digits each quarter.

"That was the goal to hold them under 10 points each quarter," said Wheeling coach Julissa Hernandez. "Our defense plays into our offense. Even though not everything went our way offensively, we played as a team."

Kuzmanic scored her team's first 10 points, including a 3 that made it 10-2 with 3:03 left in the first quarter.

After a an 8-footer by Amanda Kellow cut it to 10-4, Leah Malsom (7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists) scored on a rebound layup to make it 12-4. After another defensive stop, Kuzmanic went to work again for layup and 14-4 lead with 1:42 left.

"We definitely got out on the floor and started running," said Kuzmanic, who was 3-of-5 from 3-point range. "We wanted to put pressure on them right away and get steals."

Kuzmanic and Hanna Dee each had 2 steals while Hannah Dobrowski (7 points) and Deanna Kuzmanic had 1 apiece.

"When we put pressure on a team, it creates our offense and brings up our intensity," said Kellie Kuzmanic. "Hopefully with these two wins we can keep going and get some more wins under our belt and keep improving."

Malsom stressed that defense is the key for the Wildcats, who are 3-14.

"We learned from this tournament that defense is the key," she said. "We been struggling with that all season. We knew we could do it. Now we had a chance to finally show we could do it.

"Things are finally coming together for us. Our passing is good, out shots are falling. It's about time things are finally clicking."

It was the second straight game and second time this season Hernandez played all 11 girls on the roster. Ten of them made it into the scoring column.

" I know their record doesn't look real good but that's (Wheeling) a good team," Muldrow added. "Their interior passing is very good so that shows they have good knowledge and good basketball skills."