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With Maryland in attendance, Waubonsie Valley’s Danyella Mporokoso doesn’t react. ‘I look for where my mom is.’


When things aren’t going Waubonsie Valley’s way, which hasn’t been often this season, dynamic sophomore guard Danyella Mporokoso steps right into the void to get things back on track.

It’s why coach Brett Love doesn’t really get nervous.

“Those are things we talk about,” Love said of Mporokoso. “When we’re not doing well, she can put the team on her back and take care of business offensively.”

After a sluggish start for the Warriors in Monday’s Class 4A Oswego East Regional semifinal game against Oswego, Mporokoso did just what Love has come to expect.

She scored her team’s final 11 points of the first quarter, erasing a 10-point deficit for Waubonsie on its way to a 67-43 victory. She ended up leading all scorers with 20 points.

Maya Cobb added 17 points and Arianna Garcia had 10 for the Warriors (28-3), who play at 7 p.m. Thursday for the regional title against Downers Grove South, which beat the host Wolves 45-37.

Emily Mengerink paced Oswego (9-24) with 11 points. Kendall Grant added 10 points.

Mporokoso started her 11-point run by putting back a rebound to cut the deficit to 13-12. She then hit four straight free throws to give the Warriors the lead for good.

After putting back another rebound, Mporokoso then hit a three-quarter-court shot at the buzzer to put Waubonsie up 21-16 heading into the second quarter.

“It’s just a lot of energy from teammates hyping you up,” Mporokoso said. “It’s just really fun in those times.”

Waubonsie Valley's Danyella Mporokoso scores a breakaway layup. Waubonsie Valley defeated Oswego, 67-43, in a Class 4A Oswego East Regional semifinal girls basketball game Monday, February 12, 2024, in Oswego, Illinois. (Jon Langham/Photo for the Beacon-News)
Waubonsie Valley’s Danyella Mporokoso (10) scores a breakaway layup against Oswego during a Class 4A Oswego East Regional semifinal game on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. (Jon Langham / The Beacon-News)

Mporokoso’s 3-pointer to end the first quarter gave the Warriors all the momentum they needed.

“It was pretty cool,” Mporokoso said. “That was my first shot made like that.”

Runs like that are what Love has come to expect not only over the past two seasons but since he began working with Mporokoso in fifth grade.

“She has it in her to do that,” Love said. “She’s a player. She plays at a high level. For her to lock in and score that many points for us and help us out when we’re struggling, that’s great.”

Oswego came out strong, though, opening up the game with a 10-0 lead. Last season, the Panthers lost to the Warriors by 66 and 67 points in their two meetings.

“We weren’t afraid,” Oswego coach Dave Lay said. “We weren’t intimidated. We showed our maturity and how much we’ve improved. We did ourselves proud with the way we came out.

“I couldn’t be more proud of how we came out.”

Waubonsie Valley's Danyella Mporokoso dribbles against Oswego's Emily Mengerink. Waubonsie Valley defeated Oswego, 67-43, in a Class 4A Oswego East Regional semifinal girls basketball game Monday, February 12, 2024, in Oswego, Illinois. (Jon Langham/Photo for the Beacon-News)
Waubonsie Valley’s Danyella Mporokoso (10) dribbles against Oswego’s Emily Mengerink during a Class 4A Oswego East Regional semifinal game on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. (Jon Langham / The Beacon-News)

Despite the slow start, Love didn’t call a timeout. He knew Waubonsie could break out of it with the help of Mporokoso.

“We weren’t playing like we normally do,” Love said. “I thought that over time they just needed to shake it off and figure it out themselves, and they did.

“I’m happy about that, but we can’t do that if we want to go further in the playoffs.”

Lay knew Mporokoso would be looming even after his team’s hot start.

“She’s one of the best players in the state,” Lay said. “She shot that one from the other volleyball line like it was a free throw. She’s unbelievably special.”

Waubonsie Valley's Danyella Mporokoso battles Oswego's Kaelyn Stager for a rebound. Waubonsie Valley defeated Oswego, 67-43, in a Class 4A Oswego East Regional semifinal girls basketball game Monday, February 12, 2024, in Oswego, Illinois. (Jon Langham/Photo for the Beacon-News)
Waubonsie Valley’s Danyella Mporokoso (10) battles Oswego’s Kaelyn Stager for a rebound during a Class 4A Oswego East Regional semifinal game on Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. (Jon Langham / The Beacon-News)

College interest in Mporokoso is starting to become more prevalent as well. Maryland was in attendance Monday.

“We’ve always had that plan,” Love said. “We’ve always had our sights on playing at that level. Now, she’s at the point where it’s starting to come to fruition. I’m so proud of her.”

Mporokoso said it’s exciting to be getting this attention, although she does get nervous.

“I don’t look in the stands,” Mporokoso said. “Before the game, I look for where my mom is, but that’s it. It’s really cool. I’m really grateful to be in this position. I worked really hard for it.

“Everything is paying off.”

Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.



Paul Johnson , 2024-02-13 05:34:43

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