ST. CHARLES – Just a freshman, St. Charles North's Emma Ludwig is making her mark.
She only needed a few minutes in the first quarter Saturday to showcase her offensive potential.
Ludwig athletically snuck underneath the basket for a layup, plus the foul, after Emma Nawara rifled in a pass – a fairly veteran play.
"If you look at a player who's arrow is pointing up from the beginning of the year, you got to start with Emma Ludwig," North Stars coach Mike Tomczak said after a 41-39 loss to Wheaton North.
"She handled a run-and-jump, full court press for four quarters. She got about a minute and a half of rest. She handled it the entire time."
She has followed a well-known line of Ludwig basketball players that have donned blue, black and silver for the North Stars.
Jake Ludwig, now a senior at Roosevelt, is the Lakers' all-time leading scorer, a feat accomplished just over two weeks ago.
Zach Ludwig, the point guard for the North Stars boy's team last season, is now studying at Missouri.
After point guard Launi Chanthaboury was lost with a torn ACL in the preseason, Ludwig was pressed into the starting lineup.
The increased role, though, hasn't been too big for her.
"I know that I have to step up," said Ludwig, who finished with eight points and six rebounds.
"It's going to be hard because I'm a freshman, but my teammates have been really supportive and encouraging me," she continued. "They've given me the confidence that I have to play on the court."
It remains to be seen if Chanthaboury will be able to return this season for the North Stars (4-2, 0-1), but Chanthaboury has been a resource for her on the bench.
"When it's crunch time, she''s giving me tips and pointers," Ludwig said. "During the game today, she told me to pressure the guard and that definitely helped. She's been really supportive and helpful along the way."
Trailing 30-28 entering the fourth quarter, the North Stars cranked up the defensive intensity to force Wheaton North (5-0, 1-0) into mistakes, which turned into offensive opportunities at the other end.
After an Anna Tate layup, Caroline Jakaitis (nine points) knocked in a three to pull within 35-33 with 5:07 remaining. The Falcons went back up by four, and a Tate drive with a deep Ludwig jumper brought it within striking distance.
Tate finished with 10 points and a pair of blocks.
After forcing a Falcons travel, Caroline Jakaitis tied it on a jumper with 39 seconds left. But Falcons guard Nikki Baird sank a running jumper in the lane out of an inbounds pass with 3.5 seconds for what proved to be the game-winner.
A deep Jakaitis three fell short at the buzzer.
Wheaton North's Sarah Topps, who suffered an apparent right elbow injury earlier in the fourth quarter, returned to make the decisive inbound pass to precede the winning shot. She finished with 15 points and five rebounds.
Baird finished with 18 points and five rebounds.
"When we were watching Wheaton North [film], we saw how their opponent, in the third and fourth quarter, gave up," Ludwig said. "We knew that we weren't going to give up. We knew that we had to fight in order to stay in the game."