Author Archives: Kaleb Carter

Vision Clear as Bolingbrook/St. Ignatius Pair Commit to Miami RedHawks

Vision Clear as Bolingbrook/St. Ignatius Pair Commit to Miami RedHawks

By Kaleb Carter

Jackson Kotecki and Mekhi Cooper both feel that there is a well-detailed plan laid out before them. That trust provided to them by the Miami RedHawks coaching staff is what led the pair to both commit within days of each other to the Division I men’s basketball program in Oxford, Ohio. 

 

Cooper, a 5-10 Class of 2023 guard for Bolingbrook, and Kotecki, a 6-9 Class of 2023 forward for St. Ignatius, both cited a vision shown to them by the Miami coaches in their recruiting visits. Kotecki said he bonded with the Miami coaches more than any other staff. 

 

“I enjoyed every second of it,” Kotecki said of his visit. “The coaches’ plan for me, they physically gave me …a spreadsheet thing of how they’re going to develop me. They showed me the plan. It wasn’t like they were just saying it so that they gave me confidence that they’re really going to help develop me as a player.”

Cooper said that he believes he’ll develop well under Steele’s tutelage. 

 

“It feels great to have made a decision the biggest factors (for) me were the coaching staff from Miami showed so much love and support during the recruiting process and got to build a strong relationship,” Cooper said. “I also loved coach Steele(‘s) focus on player development and how much he believes and trust me.”

The pair are familiar with one another, having played together before for travel club Mac Irvin Fire. 

 

“I’m really excited man,” Kotecki said. “Mekhi was my man on the Fire and to be going to college together is awesome.”

 

“I know Jackson well, we (played) together one year of AAU, so that felt good to team up with him again,” Cooper said. 

Kotecki is plenty confident in his growing offensive skills, but is aware teams came calling when they saw his defensive capabilities guarding players all over the floor. 

 

“They (Miami) really wanted me and wanted to build their team around having tall, versatile guys, guys that can play multiple positions, not just one position,” Kantecki said. “That was something I was looking for in a program.”

 

Kotecki picked up his first offer in June and admitted it was stressful to see so many players around him picking up offers before him. He had confidence in his own abilities, but wasn’t seeing the interest from coaches he expected. 

 

“You see all your friends that you play with getting offers and you’re like, ‘why am I not getting offers?’ And that starts going through your mind,” Kotecki said. “Just knowing from experience and having to play through that was tough, but I just had to power through that and I did and it worked out.”

 

The big man said that his coaches, from Matt Monroe with the Wolfpack, to his Fundamental U coaches, gave him the confidence to grow this summer. It proved to be the needed growth for colleges to come clamoring. 

 

“To go out there and play with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder and be like ‘yeah, I am better than most of these kids that are ranked higher than me and just trying to not worry about that,’” Kotecki said. “Just going out and whoever is put in front of me I’m going to lock them up and I’m going to go as hard as I can through the whole game.”

 

Both state semifinalists a year ago, (Bolingbrook in 4A and St. Ignatius in 3A), the pair, both verbal commits, bring a winning pedigree to coach Travis Steele’s first recruiting class at the helm of the RedHawks. The RedHawks already have Illinois ties. 


Deerfield graduate Jackson Kenyon is a rising senior on the roster. Senior guard Will Stevens is a Chicago native. Sophomore Bryson Tatum is an Urbana graduate. Steele was also once a men’s basketball assistant at Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel. 

 

Cooper, a standout at the Ridgewood Shootout this summer, put much on display in his game that leads writers like yours truly to believe he will quickly be college-ready.  Coach Robert Brost’s Raiders do tend to churn out college-ready players with remarkable consistency. 

 

“This year I really want to get bigger and stronger and this season I’m hoping to get back downstate and get a ring,” Cooper said.

 

“I know we’ll be able to get back down to state,” Kotecki said. “I have the confidence in our guys. Even though we have a younger team, we lost a lot of seniors, I know the younger guys are going to be able to step up. We’re going to be able to get back down to where we were and hopefully further.”

Clemson Commit Asa Thomas Approaches 4th Year of Varsity For Lake Forest With High Expectations

Clemson Commit Asa Thomas Approaches 4th Year of Varsity For Lake Forest With High Expectations

By Kaleb Carter

Lake Forest boys basketball coach Phil LaScala remembers when it really hit him just how much upside there was in Asa Thomas. 

“The second game of his career (as a freshman) we played St. Ignatius and he had like (22) points, 14 in the second half in clutch time,” LaScala said. “It’s one of those things like ‘wow, we have something special here.’”

Thomas was reeling in big offer after big offer in the summer of 2021 following his sophomore year, with DePaul, Illinois, Iowa, Marquette, Minnesota, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin all all extending official offers. 

Thursday, Thomas (Class of 2023) made his commitment to the ACC’s Clemson Tigers and coach Brad Brownell. 

“I love the coaching staff there,” Thomas said. “Coach Brownell and Coach (Billy) Donlon are two outstanding coaches and I know my game can expand under their wing. And on top of all that, I get the chance to play in one of the best conferences in the country every night. Also Clemson’s strong academic reputation was also a big factor in my decision.  It’s an ideal combination of academics and athletics for me.

His trip to Clemson, South Carolina, a college town of under 17,000 souls, was pleasant one.

Lemont would be the closest Illinois city by population in comparison. 

“The visit was great,” Thomas said. “I was able to meet some of the guys and get a feel for how life is as a player. It just felt right when I was walking around the facilities and the campus. It was a great time.”

Last season, the then-junior guard/wing was dropping big scoring totals, scoring 40 vs. Bulls College Prep and compiling stat lines often consisting of a handful of rebounds and assists. He reached the 1,000 career points mark in early February. Thomas was an IBCA first team all-state honoree and a Chicago Sun-Times 3A all-state first team pick a season ago.  He led the Scouts to a 27-7 overall, 13-1 record in the North Suburban Conference to claim the NSC title. He also earned conference player of the year honors. 

“We’ve had some good offensive players the past couple years that have also been solid contributors and I think this year he’s really going to have to step it up a notch and be that lead guy all the time,” LaScala said.

Thomas also hones his skills playing travel ball with well-known AAU club Illinois Wolves. 

“He’s 6-8 now and he can shoot from long range and he gets his shot off really quick,” LaScala said. “He sees the court really well. He passes really well and he’s skilled. When you’re 6-8 and skilled those are hard to come by.”

“He’s a great communicator too. When they (college coaches) come in to watch practices and stuff like that, they watch how he communicates with his teammates and he’s an unbelievable leader.”

Thomas seems well aware how much will be on his shoulders heading into the season. 

“I just want to go out there and get better everyday with my high school teammates,” Thomas said. “We have a great squad this year and my goal is to go out and win a state championship.”

“I think the best is yet to come for him as far as the things he can do and I think this year,” LaScala said. “He’s… he’s really going to start to take over and dominate.”hm

Summer Notebook: Mia Bergstrom’s Time To Shine; Suburban Notables from Stevenson Summer League

By Kaleb Carter

Mia Bergstrom has some catching up to do, and she knows it. It’s a focal point to get her team moving forward. 

“We’re still kind of young, so I’ve got to lead the (underclassmen) up to what we’ve been doing the last year and the year before,” Bergstrom said. 

A Class of 2024 shooting guard, Bergstrom leads a retooling Saint Viator through the summer months as the Lions make adjustments following the loos of two Division I basketball recruits. Joy Bergstrom (now at South Dakota) and Nora Ahram (UIC) were both guards for a squad that went 20-13 (3-4 in East Suburban Catholic League). 

Three of those losses came to Class 3A state champs Carmel Catholic, another team that the Lions saw in competetion at the summer league at Stevenson High School.

Coach Jason Raymond said he expects continued growth from Bergstrom.

“It’s the first time really for her playing without her sister, she played AAU with her sister her whole life, the last two years at Saint Viator she played with her sister, so this is the first time she’s stepped out on her own,” Raymond said “So she’s trying to adapt to that new role as being the No. 1 scoring option for her team whereas before, with her AAU team, and even with us, she’s probably either the three number or four scoring option for us in years’ past. It’s a little bit of an adjustment for her, but it’s not going to take long for her to figure it out with her skill-set.”

While the No. 1 option for Saint Viator, she is more flexible in what she provides travel team Wolverinas, where she can be a 3-point specialist or all-around scorer wherever needed. 

This summer, Bergstrom has began to hear from a flurry of college coaches, picking up offers from Division I programs Murray State, St. Thomas, Cleveland State, Northern Illinois, UIC, Omaha, Valparaiso and most recently Saint Louis. She was offered by Bradley before her sophomore season even began. 

“It’s very exciting,” Bergstrom said. “I appreciate them reaching out and giving me offers, but we’ll see how this year goes, this summer.”

Bergstrom and Class of 2025 guard Allia Von schlegell will lead the backcourt while the Lions look for emerging skills from a relatively young group across the roster. 

“We’ve got a lot of good offensive players so, we’ve got to gel on defense and if we get that done, we’ll be tough,” Bergstrom said.

Other Notes From Teams at Stevenson’s Summer League

Stevenson’s young guards showed potential, but the frontcourt of highly-recruited Emory Klatt (2024)  and Kate Arne (Class of 2023) showed that they’ll provide the firepower needed to make the Patriots one of the state’s best again as they defend a 4A title. 

Reigning 3A champs Carmel Catholic was the best looking team overall in the two days of games I watched on June 16 and June 23. The Corsairs finished the summer league with a convincing win over Stevenson. Michigan State commit Jordan Wood (Class of 2024) has added to and improved her arsenal and a more confident Mia Gillis (2024) will pick up much of the slack lost by Bucknell recruit Grace Sullivan. 

Libertyville has the potential to launch itself into the upper echelon of the state’s teams this season. Maryland commit Emily Fisher (2023) leads the way, while burgeoning talent (see 6-0 forward Talya Tillman, 2025) is beginning to open eyes for the Wildcats. The Rule sister’s (Kate and Rachel, Class of 2024) are improved shooters this offseason too.

Sophie Swanson was rolling through the league, but coach Babbi Barreiro clearly had a plan of testing her less experienced players in the tough summer league, as young Fillies are getting their chance to grow and make mistakes. All that said, don’t be surprised if Swanson, the reigning Illinois-Basketball Girls 4A Player of The Year erupts for a 50-burger and a handful of 40-point barrages this year. She’s even more of a versatile scorer now from the looks of things. With DI offers in-tow, Molly O’Riordan (2024) should be a big riser in the frontcourt for the Fillies. 

Deerfield is still up to its entertaining ways this summer with the Kerndt and Kerstein sisters. Meanwhile, the recruitment of guard Aubrey Galvan (2025), who played a big role on Deerfield’s third-place state soccer finish, is picking up. Galvan recently secured offers from Minnesota, Wisconsin and SIUE. 

Hersey looked predicably good, and should be battling Barrington for Mid Suburban League supremacy this season. Some new faces will be asked to take bigger roles, while some like Natalie Alesia (2024 guard) and Annika Manthy (6-3 2024 forward) should factor in a great deal to the team’s success. 

Other standouts I saw included sharp-shooting guard Kate Saccaro (New Trier, 2024), Rachel Kaus (Lake Forest, 2023). Kaus recently picked up an offer from Cornell. Never did get to see Prospect at the league. Warren and Vernon Hills showed some intriguing flashes I may follow up on in the coming season. 

Huntley’s Jessie Ozzauto, An All-Around Athlete, Energized By Lehigh Commitment

Huntley’s Jessie Ozzauto, An All-Around Athlete, Energized By Lehigh Commitment

By Kaleb Carter

 Huntley class of 2023 star Jessie Ozzauto recalls heading into her junior season with a renewed attitude geared toward success. 

“I was just having that confidence of, ‘Ok, just shoot the ball because you’re a good shooter,’” Ozzauto said she was telling herself. “I think that’s a major thing that has helped.”

The multi-sport Red Raider excelled enough as a junior to begin drawing Division I attention, and soon had Lehigh University making a move that drew her own attention. 

“One of my coaches from my old AAU team reached out and said they [Lehigh] were interested, so I started talking to them probably about a year ago,” Ozzauto said. “I’ve been talking to them a bunch. The associate head coach actually flew out to Huntley to watch a game.”

On June 2, the multi-faceted and nearly six-foot shooting guard committed to the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania institution. She’ll play for a team that piqued her interest for a variety of reasons, notably due to the temperament the unit exhibits. 

Coming off a 19-11 (overall) season, 11-7 in Patriot League play, the Mountain Hawks are in a time of transition, where former associate head coach Addie Micir takes over as head coach following a 27-year tenure from former coach Sue Troyan. 

“The energy that they have is what sticks out to me,” Ozzauto said. “No matter who scores or what happens, I feel like the energy is always up.”

Ozzauto will return to Huntley this year after a summer with the Illinois Lady Lightning, looking to help the Red Raiders repeat as FVC champs. She’s coming off a season where she averaged 12 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.4 steals, and sank a team-high 56 3-pointers (courtesy of Alex Kantecki, Northwest Herald).

Fellow rising senior and all-conference returnee Sammi Campanelli is back, as should be fellow senior Morgan McAughn. Also coming back into the fold is rising sophomore Anna Campanelli, who already holds a D-I offer from Fort Wayne. The Red Raiders are coming off a regional championship and a 22-7 overall record, winning the FVC at 17-1.

“That team was super fun to play with,” Ozzauto said. “We didn’t know really what to expect coming into that season. Jori (Heard) helped us out a bunch because of her skill rebounding-wise. I think all-around, every single person on that team took it to themselves to own up defensively.

“This (past) year we shot it really well too, which was something that wasn’t really part of our offense much,” she continued. “And that just started to form this year, just because of the way we were able to push the floor and the way we were able to get stops defensively and how that created our offense.”

A track athlete since middle school, Ozzauto has had no trouble staying busy outside of basketball season, playing both sportsl simultaneously. Last month, she was on the 4×200 relay team for the Red Raiders that took seventh place at the 3A state meet. She was also on the 4×100 team that qualified for day two of the state meet and the 4×400 unit that qualified for the meet. 

“I think the footwork that comes from both, I think they both really correlate with each other,” Ozzauto said “I’m in a relay for track so especially the chemistry and trust, it actually translates to basketball as well.”

The soon-to-be senior knows she needs to improve in all aspects of her game to prepare for the Division I level. While undecided on a major, she has interest in sports psychology.

“I think just overall making my game better on both ends of the floor, it’s college, it’s way more physical, you have to find different ways to get your shot off,” Ozzauto said. “I think adding more aspects to my game and just getting better all-around … it’s not simple. It’s not as simple as high school or AAU might be. There’s more complex steps and creating different opportunities for myself and for teammates.”

Lenee Beaumont Commits to Indiana After Recruitment Explodes

Lenee Beaumont Commits to Indiana After Recruitment Explodes

By Kaleb Carter

Lenee Beaumont has never backed down from playing the best. She’s reaped the rewards of playing around strong competition for years. 

For one, her Benet squad plays in arguably the strongest league in the state: the East Suburban Conference, which hosts the 2021-22 3A state champs and runner-ups (Carmel Catholic and Nazareth Academy). She’s played against strong internal competition since arriving at Benet as a freshman. She’s played at an extremely high level in travel ball and is set to do more of that this summer in the Midwest EYBL circuit. 

The 2023 point guard verbally committed to Indiana University, a rising program in the Big Ten.

She joins a growing list of Illinois Class of 2023 players heading to the Big Ten. 

“Starting up as a freshman, when I was a freshman, I think we had four or five Division I players,” Beaumont said. “Looking up to them it was always a goal of mine, like, that would be awesome. I would love to be in their shoes. Being in their position is a great feeling, a dream come true basically. I think it’s going to prepare me well, always having those types of players around me, being exposed to that level of competition.”

Beaumont said she was happy to have a decision made before the upcoming live period. She can focus on her game and helping her team win. 

“I love to win no matter what. I hate losing,” Beaumont said. “That was definitely something that factored into my decision. I was paying really close attention to them this past season. They had a great successful season and most of the time they were a top-10, top-15 program. They’re heading in the right direction for sure.”

The junior noted that, just like the Benet coaching staff, she feels that the Hoosiers’ staff will refuse to allow her to be comfortable with her current abilities.  She has a drive to be great. 

“I think everyone there has the same goal,” Beaumont said of Indiana. “They’re all very level-minded. … Everyone was super sweet, understanding and very kind. Grace Berger, she’s probably one of the best players in the country, but you would not have gotten that vibe from her. Everyone there is very good people. They’re all about their motto, ‘Do the work.’”

An IBCA all-state first-team selection as a junior (honorable mention as a sophomore) and second-team all-stater for the Associated Press this past season, Beaumont has wowed her coaches and opponents alike since walking into the gym her freshman year. 

“She was playing against (Lexi) Moriarty, and Brooke Schramek and (Kendall) Holmes and those kids, and you could tell in a hurry she just knows how to play the game,” Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. “I personally think she has a WNBA-level skillset. She doesn’t have a WNBA body yet, but she had a WNBA skill-set.”

Kilbride says this having coached a former Big Ten Player of the Year and WNBA player Kathleen Doyle. He said Beaumont’s recruitment process exploded ‘like a grenade’ when college coaches were able to get out and see her live in the summer of 2021, following less live evaluation during the first summer during the pandemic. 

“She’s such a fluid athlete,” Kilbride said. “When she shoots the ball, she’s got a beautiful shot. Literally a beautiful shot. I enjoy just watching her in practice during our shooting drills. It’s fun to just watch her shoot the ball, partly because of the way it looks, but partly because it’s just fun watching it go in so often.”

The long-successful Redwings coach said that Indiana made Beaumont feel like a priority.

“Back in the fall, I told her, ‘You really can’t screw this up.’ Because you could pick out of a hat and you’re not going wrong,” Kilbride said of her college shortlist. “There’s no bad options here.”

Beaumont will head to USA Basketball’s U18 National Team Trials May 31 through June 4. Also getting invitations from Illinois were Lisa Thompson (Joliet West) and Alyssa Latham (Homewood-Flossmoor).

“I just want to show that I can compete against some of the best in the country and do whatever I can to help my team be successful this summer,” Beaumont said. “Also, I’m really looking forward to the USA trials so that should be a great experience as it is and just give it my all.”

After the summer, the goal remains the same. She wants the 2021-22 4A fourth-place Redwings to have a better experience at the IHSA state finals in 2023.

“The goal is to get back to Redbird Arena,” Beaumont said. “That was just a great experience and I know I am and the rest of the team, no matter who is on it, is willing to do that, even though it’s a ways away.”

 

2022 Illinois-Basketball Girls Players of the Year

2022 Illinois-Basketball Girls Players of the Year

By Kaleb Carter

Illinois-Basketball.com is pleased to announce its first Player of the Year awards for girls basketball. The award honors standout performers on some of the best teams in the state. We considered statistical performance, team performance and all-around skill, and spoke to media and coaches around the state before choosing these deserving student-athletes.

1A Player of the Year: Ella Lune, Sr., Brimfield

A physically imposing presence among the small schools of the greater-Peoria area, Eastern Illinois signee Ella Lune led a dominant season for her squad, touting terrific stat-lines while holding down the paint on the defensive end. 

Lune’s defense — which included six blocks — was a deciding factor in Brimfield’s 33-32 state championship win over Galena. She averaged 19.5 points, 8.6 points, 3.1 assists, 2.2 steals and 2.2 blocks per game for the season. Lune was the leading vote-getter for the Associated Press all-state team.

2A Player of the Year: Abbey Schreacke, Jr., Quincy Notre Dame

Schreacke, an uncommitted multi-sport star in basketball, volleyball and softball, capped her hoops season with a 35-point, 11-rebound in a decisive state title win over Winnebago.

She consistently put up 30-point scoring performances and double-double efforts, and earned the most votes for the Associated Press all-state team in 2A. Schreacke averaged 25.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and made 137-of-172 free throws (80 percent) for the year.

3A Player of the Year: Kammie Ludwig, Sr., Geneseo

A record-breaker throughout her preps career and the Maple Leafs’ all-time leading scorer, the Providence signee led Geneseo through most of the season undefeated. Geneseo finished 31-2. She was a first team all-state pick for the IBCA and AP. 

Per the Quad City Times’ Jackson Stone, Ludwig: 

“Led the WB6 this season in points per game (24.5), owns Geneseo’s career (1,881), and single-season (791) scoring records. She also has hit the most 3-pointers in a season (73) and compiled the highest single-season free throw percentage (84.3%).”

4A Player of the Year: Sophie Swanson, Jr., Barrington

Swanson’s near unmatchable scoring ability at the highest level of Illinois girls basketball won her the honor as the 4A Player of the Year, narrowly edging several worthy candidates of the most competitive race of the four classes. Two other players were heavily considered for the award, and in the process of consulting coaches, media and others, several more names were deemed worthy of consideration. 

It was Sophie Swanson’s impeccable shooting that led Barrington all the way to the state title game. Her ability to get a shot off from seemingly any angle, with perfect form, made her lethal from all over. 

The Purdue commit and Fillies junior averaged 21 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game for the 30-6, 4A state runner-up Barrington squad. It was the best finish in Barrington history. Capable of going on a run by herself instantly, Swanson posted scoring totals of 40 (versus Fremd), 37 (Fenwick), 36 (Buffalo Grove) 33 (Naperville North) and 32 (Libertyville). She also scored 35 in a state semifinal win over Bolingbrook. Swanson was the leading vote-getter for the AP all-state team. 

Illinois Girls High School Basketball Rankings: Final Edition of 2021-22 Season

Illinois Girls High School Basketball Rankings: Final Edition of 2021-22 Season

By Kaleb Carter

It’s all over. The 2021-22 season is complete and the dust has had some time to settle. As we look back at the campaign and the postseason tournament, our first in two years’ time, it’s fun to take a look at who were the state’s best teams and what made their resumes solid. 

This was the first season we’ve conducted a Top 25 rankings, with this, our first full season of coverage after a COVID-abbreviated first season.

Thanks for reading all season long, we’ll be back next year.

1. Stevenson (36-2, 4A State Champions)

The Patriots’ season featured a 26-game win streak, a dirty display of defensive dominance and plenty of highlights to boot. Ranked No. 1 in each of the rankings except for the last one, Stevenson put its print on this season as the state’s top team. 

2. Barrington (30-6, 4A Runner-Up)

Won an MSL Title and did not lose to a team not named Stevenson since Feb. 4 (Naperville North). Returns a crew that could well find itself back at Redbird Arena next season. Was on a 19-game win streak heading into the state final. Sophie Swanson (2023) should be a preseason favorite for some state Player of the Year honors. 

3. Bolingbrook (24-6, 4A Third-Place)

Finished strong after injuries made things difficult for the early portion of the schedule. Rolled through SWSC unbeaten. 

4. Benet (30-5, 4A Fourth Place)

Took two single-digit losses at state after making a strong case as potentially the state’s best team for much of the season. Lenee Beaumont (2024) will likely enter next season as a top five player in the state. 

5. Loyola (31-4, Lost in Supersectional to Stevenson)

Few teams can match the balance the Ramblers possessed this season. A truly unique brand of team basketball in this day and age. 

6. Whitney Young (23-6, Undefeated in Red North/West)

Put the pieces together throughout the schedule on its way to a city championship before bowing out to Benet. Skylar Jones (2023), Destiny Jackson (2025) and Olivia Vick (2023) are all potential all-state returners after Jones and Jackson earned the honor a season ago. 

7. Carmel Catholic (28-7, 3A State Champs)

Grace Sullivan (2022) and Jordan Wood (2023) certainly left their mark, bringing the Corsairs their first state championship in program history. They ended the season using their defense to stifle opponents, holding Sycamore, Civic Memorial and Nazareth each under 40 points to wrap up the season.

8. Nazareth Academy (33-3, 3A State Runner-Up, ESCC Tourney champs)

Succumbed to a Corsairs team they had defeated twice during the regular season. The Roadrunners will reload and look to try their hand at another title with an excellent team next season. 

9. Edwardsville (28-5, Undefeated in SWC,)

Played well in the postseason, but ran into a hot Bolingbrook squad. CMU recruit Sydney Harris (2022) departs as the program’s all-time leading scorer. The Tigers will look to replace three Division I-bound hardwood heroes. 

10. Naperville North (30-4, Undefeated in DVC)

Two of four losses came to Benet, Naperville North loses one of the state’s to scorers in Kenzie Hare.

11. Kenwood (21-7, Undefated in Red/South Central)

City runner-up and sending three players off to Division I basketball programs.

12. Lyons Township (28-4, Undefeated WSC)

Quite the successful campaign, a conference title and a home tournament run to the sectional final. 

13. Sycamore (32-3)

There was lots of talent for the most successful Sycamore team ever in terms of postseason success. Sycamore graduates 2022 guard Faith Feuerbach but should return a loaded team. 

14. Fremd (27-7, MSL West champs)

Still a young team that looked like a state final four qualifier at times. Freshman guard Ella Todd — who is garnering Division I attention — will be a big leader, as will 2023 forward Maddy Fay. 

15. Geneva (25-5, Unbeaten DuKane champs)

Had a long stretch of success but was upset by St. Charles East in a sectional semifinal. Will have a strong core of returners.

16. Quincy Notre Dame (29-3, 2A State Champs)

Junior Abbey Schreacke led the way to the 2A title over a game Winnebago squad. 

17. Hersey (27-6, Tied for MSL East title)

Had potential for a longer run before Meghan Mrowicki’s late-season injury. Katy Eidle was top-notch and won Gatorade Girls Player of the Year honors.

18. Geneseo (31-2, Unbeaten in West Central)

Looked nearly a sure-fire thing for IHSA state, but Washington got the best of the Leafs. Senior Providence signee Kammie Ludwig has a strong case for best 3A player in the state. 

19. Joliet West (26-4, Undefeated in Southwest Prairie)

Had an excellent season cut short by Normal Community in the postseason, featured excellent campaigns from junior Lisa Thompson and senior Grace Walsh. 

20. Winnebago (35-3, Runner-Up in 2A, Unbeaten in Big Northern)

Memorable season capped by state title-game loss in 2A. 

21. Morton (29-6, 3rd in 3A, Tied for Mid-Illini title)

Katie Krupa led the Potters to state one last time. 

22. Montini (25-9, 5-0 in GCAC regular season)

Victoria Matulevicius (2024) and Shannon Blacher (2023) helped lead a strong season and are set to return next season.

23. Peoria (25-4, Undefeated in Big Twelve play)

Took a 14-game win streak into the regional final, where the Lions lost to 3A third-place finisher Morton. 

24. Marist (23-10)

Faced tough schedule throughout the season and graduates a strong class of seniors.

25. Civic Memorial (32-6, Undefeated in Mississippi Valley)

Three-point shooting led them to a state berth. Should remain strong. 

2021-22 IHSA Girls State Basketball Notebook

2021-22 IHSA Girls State Basketball Notebook

By Kaleb Carter

My first experience at the IHSA Girls Basketball State Series was memorable in a few ways, even if the 13-hour day is something of a blur — even half a week after the fact. 

After covering each title game, writing recaps of 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A creating a 55-photo gallery and thinking everything over, here are some general thoughts following the first state championship series games held since March 2020.

Title Game Superlatives

Best performance

Quincy Notre Dame’s Abbey Schreacke posted the best finals performance of Saturday, and one of the best 2A title game performances ever, setting a record with 35 points in the 63-56 win over Winnebago. She added 11 rebounds and was 14-of-14 at the charity stripe, carrying her team offensively in the first half when Winnebago jumped out to the early lead. 

Best effort in losing performance

Taylor Burcham and the Galena 1-3-1 zone defense left an imprint on my mind for how they made Brimfield struggle offensively more than any opponent in the state this year. Burcham scored 15 points, tallied five steals and helped hold Brimfield to two points in the first quarter and three in the third. Burcham manned the top of the confounding Pirates zone that had shut down Serena pretty much entirely in the semifinals.

The Pirates forced 22 turnovers in the title game and 18 in the semis as Serena scored just one point in the first half as Galena rolled to the final. Galena held Brimfield to just 32 points, falling by one.

Model of consistency

Stevenson senior guard Ava Bardic scored 13 in the 4A final win over Barrington after scoring 16 in the semifinal win over Benet. The senior is the school’s all-time leading three-point shooter. She dealt with a late-season concussion while helping pulling out a state title. 

Under the radar

Seniors Jaclyn Fabry and Sophie Bedell both made crucial plays down the stretch of Brimfield’s 1A title game win over Galena. The stats won’t blow you away, but Fabry had five points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Bedell had six points, five rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Both made crucial plays as Brimfield erased a 22-12 third-quarter deficit. 

Carmel Catholic’s Mia Gillis had eight points, seven rebounds and three assists as a critical figure in the Corsairs win over Nazareth Academy. Winnebago senior and future Wisconsin-Whitewater hooper Renee Rittmeyer scored 16 and had five rebounds in a losing effort to Quincy Notre Dame. 

Numbers galore

  • Carmel Catholic scored 28 of its 43 points in the paint in its title game win. 
  • Simone Sawyer scored her team’s first 10 points, finishing with 26 with five rebounds and five steals in a title game win over Barrington. 
  • Brimfield only led for 3:43 of the championship game and still found a way to emerge state champ. It totaled 28 assists over the semis and finals. 
  • Neoga sophomore forward Haylee Campbell scored 23 points and had 24 rebounds over two games while Neoga took third in the state after losing to Brimfield and defeating Serena. Sydney Richards also showed a repertoire that was ready for a state final four. 
  • Stevenson’s lights-out defense held Benet to 28 points and 12-of-41 shooting overall and 0-of-14 from beyond the three-point arc, also forcing 24 turnovers in the semifinal matchup.
  • Sophie Swanson’s 35 points in a semifinal win over Bolingbrook was complemented by Gewn Adler’s 20-point, 11-rebound performance.
  • Harvard commit Katie Krupa had 36 points total over her two games. Krupa made her third appearance in the 3A state final four.

Returning to state in 2022-23

Of the winning teams, Quincy Notre Dame is the most likely to stand a chance repeating as state champions, with IBCA all-staters Schreacke and Blair Eftink both returning as seniors next year. Of the other schools in the state final four, others that should stand a good chance to return, include a young Fieldcrest team coming off its best season in school history. Junior Ashlyn May is back, though the Knights will have to have someone step up after losing IBCA all-stater Ella Goodrich. 

It would not surprise me in the least if Nazareth Academy found itself in a state championship game next year, even losing someone as steady and reliable as Caroline Workman. Amalia Dray and Danielle Scully were both IBCA all-staters and Grace Carstensen could be one of the best three-point shooters in the state. She knocked down six triples in a semis win over Morton. 

Bolingbrook loses a lot (See: Kennedi Perkins and several other seniors), but with Tahj-Monet Bloom leading the frontcourt and Angelina Smith controlling the backcourt, the Raiders will still be extremely dangerous. Barrington, which defeated Bolingbrook in the semis, loses valuable seniors but still returns one of the state’s best cores in IBCA first-team all-state guard Sophie Swanson (2023), Molly O’Riordan (2024) and Gwen Adler (2024).

Three-Point Showdown

Sandburg junior Josie Canellis experienced a memorable cap to her season*, representing her team at the IHSA three-point Showdown Saturday morning, winning the four-player final between the winners of each class.

Canellis, from 4A, made 13-of-15 shots in the final round to defeat the other winners: Woodlawn sophomore Jase Burkett in 1A, sophomore Xamiya Walton of Butler College Prep in 2A and Sycamore senior Faith Feuerbach in 3A. 

Burkett was a bit fatigued by the process of going to the competition, but settled into her element in the shooting portion.

“It was kind of stressful trying to get everything ready, then the long drive, staying in the hotel, getting up early in the morning,” Burkett said. 

Burkett made 11 thee-pointers to win the 1A title, then made 10 in the finals between the winners of all four classes.

“I was not nervous at all,” she said. “I was just out there to have fun. I wasn’t really worrying about winning, I was just out there to have fun.”

https://twitter.com/Kaleb_M_Carter/status/1500625337318789123juni

*Corrected to reflect Canellis is a junior, not a senior.

Simone Sawyer Leads Stevenson to 4A Girls Title

Simone Sawyer Leads Stevenson to 4A Girls Title

By Kaleb Carter

NORMAL – Simone Sawyer shook off whatever bad shooting bug had bitten her in her previous few games, scoring 26 points as Stevenson defeated Barrington 55-43 to give the Patriots their first state title since 1996. 

Barrington was battling from behind all game, falling behind as much as 21 (41-20). 

Fillies junior Sophie Swanson shook her defender and nailed a three-pointer about a minute into the fourth quarter, cutting Barrington’s deficit to 11, 48-37. But Sawyer had an answer, grabbing her own rebound and finishing an and-one bucket and free throw. The next possession, Sawyer found Ava Bardic for an open triple, opening up a 17-point lead. Sawyer shot 11-of-17 from the floor, adding five rebounds and five steals. Bardic scored 13 points, including three three-pointers. Kate Arne scored 8 points and Emory Klatt added 9 rebounds

“My freshman and sophomore year we didn’t make it past regionals,” Sawyer said. “We never won a regional. We never got it that far. Last year got canceled because of COVID. I think we could have gone far last year, we had good record … we knew this was our last run, our last chance at it.”

Sawyer scored 12 of Stevenson’s first 14 points as the Patriots raced to a 16-4 lead after a quarter and a 34-17 halftime lead. Sawyer had scored just two points on free throws and missed all eight of her field goals in a semifinal, 36-28 win over Benet Academy.

“It took us a while to get acclimated last night, but I knew this was coming,” Stevenson coach Ashley Graham said of the slow shooting night versus Benet. “It wasn’t going to happen twice.”

“She’s so mentally tough to bounce back like that,” Graham said of Sawyer. “She said that’s not going to happen twice. She’s just so talented.”

Finding her shot in the state title was what propelled the Patriots to the title. 

“It feels good knowing I’m going to be playing on these stages next year,” Sawyer, a Penn basketball signee, said. 

Swanson struggled with Stevenson blanketing her with several defenders throughout the first half. Two quick fouls by Swanson hurt the Fillies as well, as they had to play without their junior superstar scorer who put up 35 points in a semifinal win over Bolingbrook. 

“I told the kids, as sad as they are and as hard as it is, ‘Keep your head up high and recognize we’re the second-best team in 4A state,’” Barrington coach Babbi Barreiro said. “That means something. We played in a hell of a conference. Carmel won their (3A championship) game, we beat Carmel, we played some really good teams this year and we had a lot of success.”

Swanson, junior Purdue verbal commit, scored 14 and sophomore forward Molly O’Riordan added 12 points and seven rebounds. 

“I love my kids and they never give up,” Barreiro said. “They didn’t give up. We battled, we just didn’t java some things go our way. … Stevenson executed offensively pretty well.”

Stevenson went 36-2, 14-0 in conference play and finished the season 4A state champs. Doing it with senior teammate Bardic at her side made it all the sweeter for Sawyer. 

“We couldn’t have a better ending,” Sawyer said. 

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