It's Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum who gave Emma Donahue the nickname "the Insurance Policy" for her defensive coverage near the basket.
Fitting. The Redhawks sure are in good hands with Emma.
The 6-foot-3 senior had 21 points, 13 rebounds and 7 of her team's 9 blocked shots in her final home game Saturday, the No. 12 Redhawks holding off Naperville North 46-43.
"They didn't have an answer for her," Nussbaum said. "I wanted her to get 40, but we didn't get her the ball enough and a few times she didn't shoot it when I wanted her to."
The win is the eighth straight for Naperville Central (18-8, 12-1 DuPage Valley Conference), and it kept the Redhawks tied with Wheaton Warrenville South atop the DVC with one game left Thursday at West Chicago. WW South plays at Wheaton North the same night.
This win, though, wasn't exactly a work of art. The two teams played to a 14-14 tie at half, and Naperville Central made just one field goal the game's final 5:50.
"It was a struggle," said Donahue, who scored 14 of her 21 in the second half, "but we overcame them."
"We're a much better team than we looked like today," Nussbaum added. "But this time of year, a win is a win. I'll take an ugly win and move on."
After a somewhat sloppy first half, Naperville North (12-13, 4-9) took a 20-18 on a Shannon Bushman 3-pointer two minutes into the third quarter.
Donahue answered with a three-point play and Jill D'Amico hit a 3-pointer, igniting a 10-0 Redhawks run that finally gave them separation. Jamie Cuny's 3 capped it off.
"We started to play basic basketball," Nussbaum said. "That second quarter, it wasn't pretty."
Naperville Central led by as many as 9, but Naperville North never did go away. It was night-and-day from the teams' first meeting, a 54-42 Redhawks win where they led by as many as 17.
"Compared to how we played them the first time, it's a million times better," said Bushman, who scored a team-high 14 points.
The Huskies' Kayla Sharples added 12 points, her baseline jumper with 4:44 left cutting the margin to 38-33. But the Huskies couldn't draw closer until Bushman's 3 as time expired. Shots were hard to come by for the Huskies, who made just 13 of 51 field goals.
"I'm proud of the girls," Naperville North coach Jacquie Discipio said. "We had opportunities, we had shots, it was there for the taking. We just couldn't execute at the end."
Discipio and Bushman agreed that the Redhawks' size, with three 6-footers, was a big reason why. In addition to their 7 blocks, Donahue and Co. altered several others and generally created congestion for the smaller Huskies in the paint.
"It's really hard to simulate 6-3 in practice unless you go grab a boy or something," said Nussbaum, who also complimented Shannon Ryan for her defensive work guarding Bushman. "When you have 6-3, hands in your face, you take some shots you normally wouldn't take."