ST. CHARLES – Daja Nagra's prep basketball career goes far beyond taking stats and holding a clipboard.
Her story is about not giving up.
Nagra, a St. Charles North senior, has taken a road to her first varsity start that is anything but ordinary.
Nagra tore the ACL in one knee at the beginning of her sophomore season, and then tore the ACL in her other knee at the end of her junior year.
That didn't stop her from making the most of her spotlight moment, her varsity start in St. Charles North's 50-31 win over Wheaton Warrenville South on Senior Night Thursday.
"I just thought that I should give these girls [one] last run that I had in me," Nagra said.
North's five seniors – Launi Chanthaboury, Caroline Jakaitis, Emma Nawara, Emily Vesper and Nagra – all took the floor together to open the game. In a pregame ceremony, each walked out to center court with their families to commemorate their North Stars careers.
Nagra and Vesper perhaps earned the loudest cheers for their individual play.
Nagra hit a free throw late in the fourth quarter.
"It was all about my upper body. It was just pushing through because I knew that I had to get done what I needed to," Nagra said. "It paid off because we had an awesome game, and I got what I needed which was support from the girls."
"[Daja] was on our JV team last year; played as hard as [one] could play. Just a ton of heart. Everybody loves her," North Stars coach Mike Tomczak said. "She is by far – and we have a brilliant team, academic All-Americans – but she is the most well-spoken, eloquent [and] professional individual that I've met. And, she's 17 years old."
Nagra hadn't participated in practice until Wednesday. She gave it a try Thursday, and ended up with one point and a rebound.
Vesper has played primarily junior varsity this season, but earned a vivacious applause for making a pair of free throws and then a slick floating layup off the left elbow.
"It meant so much to finally make [a shot]," Vesper said. "I was thinking in my head as I was driving 'If I could miss any shot, [it] would not be this one. Just sink this one more than anything.''"
"It's the best feeling ever to hit that with all my friends and family here," Vesper continued. "It [just] meant the world."
Chanthaboury led the North Stars (19-11, 9-6) with 13 points, while Nawara had eight points and four rebounds. Erin Stack followed with eight points and six rebounds, while Talia Pellegrini had seven points and three rebounds. Jakaitis had seven rebounds and two points.
WW South (5-22- 2-12) was led by Mia McCoyd's 12 points and four rebounds. Caitlin Shaughnessy had 10 points and two rebounds, while Carly Briggs had six points and three rebounds
One-by-one, each North Stars senior was periodically pulled off the floor, exchanging hugs and smiles down the bench.
"This team is not your typical team," Vesper said. "People play basketball; they love the sport, [but] we love the sport and we love each other more than that. This team, it means everything to come off and have that love from the coach and the team. Because this is just like no team that I've ever been on in my whole life."
"Just a great opportunity, and I'm so glad that I got to have it," Nagra said. "Because without these girls pushing me to do it, I wouldn't have done it. I'm so glad I got to do it."