Author Archives: Kaleb Carter

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.”

*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. 

Carmel Catholic Takes 3A Title As Size, Defensive Might Overcome Nazareth

Carmel Catholic Takes 3A Title As Size, Defensive Might Overcome Nazareth

By Kaleb Carter

NORMAL –  Grace Sullivan and Jordan Wood have been making opponents sweat their height all season long. Saturday, the duo made timely plays with their heads more than anything, bringing home a state championship for the first time in program history.

Carmel Catholic’s 43-39 victory over Nazareth avenged two previous losses to the Roadrunners this season in East Suburban Catholic Conference play. The Roadrunners won the previous matchups: 57-41 on Dec. 8 and 58-47 on Feb. 5. 

Other contributors had the honor of making backbreaking plays down the stretch for the champion Corsairs. 

“It’s nerve-wracking in some of these larger games,” Sullivan, a senior Bucknell signee, said. “We learned how to slow ourselves down and understand that we can make these plays. We’re good enough to make these plays. I feel like that’s an area we’ve improved. Also physicality and rebounding, coach Berg said that’s been one of our focal points this entire season. The rebounding side, that’s been a huge improvement. Overall, all the things we’ve been working on, we’ve improved.”

Ashley Schlabowkse sank 3-of-4 free throws to give the Corsairs a four-point lead with 11 seconds left. She also recorded a steal late to help finish off the Roadrunners (33-3 final record). 

“I was a little nervous, but I was like, ‘This is just like the Benet game, I just have to make it and get back on defense,’” Schlabowske said. 

Mia Gillis sank two timely free throws as well with 50 seconds left to put Carmel up four, but Nazareth Academy’s Grace Carstensen drilled a three-pointer to cut the deficit back to a point before Schlabowske’s free throws with 11 seconds remaining. Carstensen scored 11 points and knocked down 3-of-6 on three-point attempts. 

Gillis scored eight points, adding seven rebounds and three assists. 

“I think team-wise when we got down, we trusted each other and hit our free throws,” Gillis said. 

Sullivan scored 13 and had 13 rebounds. Wood scored 12 and had three assists. Carmel was strong shooting the ball, making 16-of-28 shots, and out-rebounded Nazareth 28-14. 

The two squads were trading buckets throughout the third, and with the Carmel student section chanting “shoot the ball” at Caroline Workman, she pulled up from deep for a go-ahead three-pointer that put Nazareth up 27-26 with 2:00 left in the third quarter with the atmosphere reaching a frenzy. Dray scored nine and Workman scored eight for Nazareth. 

“It was like a home game, like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of people here,’” Carmel’s Anna Hartman said. 

Kyla Smith tied the game with a free throw, then after missing the second free throw, Grace Sullivan put a shot off the glass for a 29-27 Carmel lead. Mia Gillis added an elbow jumper for a 31-27 advantage. 

Every time Nazareth drew nearer, Carmel Catholic had an answer. 

“We played hard tonight,” Nazareth coach Ed Stritzel said. “I don’t know that we played well. That had a lot to do with Carmel.”

The Corsairs kept the Roadrunners off the board until Workman took the ball hard to the hoop for a layup with about 1:50 left in the first quarter. 

“Playing from behind, it’s a ton of pressure and it forces us to speed things up,” Nazareth Academy’s Olivia Austin said. “Taking quick shots is something we do a lot. We weren’t finishing as well as we normally do.”

Carmel was in control in the early going, before some mostly-token pressure from the Roadrunners sped Carmel up and got Nazareth back in the game. Carmel led 18-16 at the half behind six points, seven rebounds from Sullivan and seven Corsairs assists on eight made baskets. 

“We know we can do better,” Dray said. “We didn’t perform our best today, so in the future we know we’re going to give everything we have and not fall short again.”

Schreacke Sets 2A Title Game Record in Quincy Notre Dame Win Over Winnebago

Schreacke Sets 2A Title Game Record in Quincy Notre Dame Win Over Winnebago

By Kaleb Carter

NORMAL – A record-breaking, 35-point performance from Quincy Notre Dame junior Abbey Schreacke is what it took to clinch the Raiders a Class 2A title 63-56 over Winnebago Saturday at Redbird Arena. 

Schreacke’s second-chance three-pointer with just over a minute left in the third quarter sent a deafening roar through Redbird Arena. A QND defensive stop and some free throws following offensive rebounds helped the Raiders (29-3) head to the fourth on a 14-3 run. 

Schreake added three free throws after time had elapsed to close the third, as a Miyah Brown foul sent the Raiders’ junior wing to the charity stripe. That trio of freebies had Quincy Notre Dame up 48-39 going to the fourth. Schreacke went on to finish with a 2A title game record of 35 points. She also had 11 rebounds and was a perfect 14-of-14 on free throws. 

Raiders junior guard Blair Eftink added 13 points for QND. The Raiders also shot 29-of-34 from the free throw line. 

“We would not be able to come out how we do if we don’t come together,” Eftink said. “Even if we’re up, we come together and talk it out. If we’re down, we come together and we know that everything we do, it’s not just one person.”

The closest Winnebago pulled in the fourth was within five, 48-43, when senior forward Sarah Seger hit a shot from the right block. Seger scored 10 points, junior Campbell Schrank scored 10 points and and senior forward and Wisconsin-Whitewater hoops commit Renee Rittmeyer led Winnebago with 16 points.

“It was really exciting to have a good game in our last game, the state finals,” Seger said. “ It meant a lot.”

Schreake scored 19 of those 35 points on 7-of-10 shooting and 5-of-5 free throws in the first half, but Winnebago took a 29-28 lead into half after two Brown free throws. 

“I got off to a good start and that’s because of my teammates around me,” Schreacke said. “Eryn (Cornwell) always sets good screen for me. She always gets me open.”

Brown, a senior Bellarmine basketball signee, did everything she could muster to keep her squad in the game, while others like Seger gave Winnebago some huge minutes on the block in the second half. Brown struggled mightily with her shot, going 3-of-18 from the floor. 

“I love competition and she gave it to me,” Brown said of Schreacke. 

She added 11 rebounds and four assists.  

“It was really exciting to have a good game in our last game, the state finals,” Seger said. “It meant a lot.”

Winnebago had the rebounding advantage and took advantage with 21 second-chance points, but shot 4-of-16 on three-point attempts and just 14-of-24 from the free throw line. Winnebago finished 36-3. 

Eftink shared an insight about the love and dedication coach Eric Orne shows his Raiders. 

“This year I found out my mom had cancer and he was the first person to buy the wrist bands we all wear,” Eftink said. 

“These wrist bands were a good reminder for us to keep playing hard and it just shows how much we’re a family and we have to have each other’s backs,” Schreakce said. 

Brimfield Topples Galena for 1A Girls Title with 4th-Quarter Run

Brimfield Topples Galena for 1A Girls Title with 4th-Quarter Run

By Kaleb Carter

NORMAL — Brimfield sophomore guard Elynn Peterson missed the first free throw in the biggest pair of attempts of her life. She sank the second to deliver Brimfield a 32-31 victory over Galena in the Class 1A State Championship game Saturday at Redbird Arena.

“I don’t want to go to overtime, so I really got to make this basket,” Peterson said she told herself. “So I said, ‘God, please help me,’ shot the ball, and it went in.”

Galena led 22-12 early in the fourth quarter. But that lead was trimmed quickly to 22-17, with a huge Ella Lune block leading to a runout and Elly Doe three-pointer. Brimfield had to complete the comeback without Doe, however, as she quickly picked up her fourth and fifth fouls.

Brimfield’s Jaclyn Fabry followed that with a three-pointer to cut the deficit to two. Out of a Galena timeout, Sophie Bedell put her own missed shot back in for a game-tying make, making it 22-22 and capping a 10-0 Brimfield run. 

“It’s a dream come true to win state,” Bedell said. “I think we played really well together. We were really struggling in the first half, but when we came out (in the second half), we were communicating more and we were fixing our offense.”

Gracie Furlong’s corner three-pointer stopped the Brimfield run and put Galena back on top 25-22. Lune answered with an and-one bucket and free throw to tie it, then Fabry saved a ball from going out of bounds and found a cutting Bedell for a shot off the glass and a 27-25 Brimfield lead with just over four minutes left.

Lune finished with 10 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. 

Galena sophomore Taylor Burcham muscled up a tough layup to tie it again, then both squads forced turnovers, and Burcham and Fabry traded buckets to make it 29-29. Burcham finished with a game-high 15 points. 

“I was trying to keep the momentum going,” Burcham said. 

Bedell sank a reverse layup for a Brimfield lead, only for Burcham to score another basket through contact on the other side to tie it 31-31. After Burcham missed the free throw, Brimfield called a timeout with 52.4 seconds left.

From there, Brimfield ran down the clock for Peterson’s drive, drawn foul and winning free throw.

“When you play the best teams in 3A and 2A you’re probably going to tell yourself we’ve played the best, so let’s just continue to play our game and it will work out, Brimfield. “And it did,” 

The Pirates’ incredible 1-3-1 defense kept Brimfield off the scoreboard in the third quarter until the 1:49 mark when Sophie Bedell made 1-of-2 free throws to cut Galena’s lead to 21-12. The Pirates scored the first seven points of the second half. 

Doe sank a layup for Brimfield’s final points of the third as Galena took a 22-14 lead into the fourth quarter. 

Galena looked to set the tone defensively in the early going, with a block and two steals on Brimfield’s first three possessions. Brimfield was just as game defensively with three Lune blocks in the first quarter. 

“We executed everything we wanted to do 90 to 95 percent of the game,” Galena coach Jamie Watson said “I said it a long time ago, we’re the best defensive team in 1A. I believe it now and I believed it when I said it six weeks ago.

“Taylor [Burcham] was a monster and really made big shot after big shot,” Watson said. “She was barely holding us up there at times.”

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Illinois Girls Basketball State Preview Notebook

Illinois Girls Basketball State Preview Notebook

By Kaleb Carter

​​”She’s got to be exhausted, right?”

Stevenson coach Ashley Graham had those question about Emory Klatt after the Patriots’ 36-32 Supersectional win Monday, over Loyola Academy at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights.

Klatt, averaging 12.9 boards per game coming into the night, put on a clinic on the glass on both ends. Graham noted that after nearing 400 rebounds, Klatt will have a chance to finish near the single-season school record of “about 470 or 477” held by former Ms. Basketball of Illinois Tauja Catchings. 

Klatt’s offensive boards manifested in some extra buckets for the Patriots against Loyola, while her defense in the Stevenson zone helped the Patriots to hold a fifth-consecutive opponent under 35 points. 

A 6-1 sophomore forward, Klatt has the frame to body out opponents, plus the instincts and drive to chase every loose ball.

“I feel like defensive was more important than offense in this game,” Klatt said. “Every single time the ball was going up, I know they went straight to me. I had a target. The defensive end was so important especially … our defense was the key to our success.”

Graham, in her seventh season as Patriots coach, makes her first trip to state with the Patriots and will be seeking her 50th victory in two seasons, compared to just four losses.

“Her athleticism, her tenacity and just her willingness, she’s got a nose for the ball,” Graham said. “She works at it to give herself second chances, give her team second chances and then to control the power zone on the defensive end.”

“You have to say that for sure it’s her athleticism and her instinct,” Graham said. “She’s got a natural nose for the ball. But again, she works at it. In practice, she’s relentless in her swim-moves, her spins, her body position and that’s something we rely on.”

Klatt has established her presence on a crew that has had a remarkable balance between its top three producers that include senior guard and Penn signee Simone Sawyer and Illinois-Springfield recruit Ava Bardic, a senior guard. They add height and shot-blocking prowess from junior forward Kate Arne and ball-handling and defense from underclassmen Kendell Williams (a sophomore) and Nisha Musunuri (freshman) for quite the talented top six. 

The victory was one for revenge after the Ramblers won the first meeting of the two in November, 56-50. 

“We’ve improved so much since … I know the date … November 22nd. We’ve improved so much since then,” Bardic said. “Those last few minutes were the biggest minutes I’ve played in my life. The whole bench, the whole crowd, it was amazing.”

A Feb. 11 loss at Nazareth Academy also gave the Patriots some perspective that Bardic thinks was ultimately good for the program after 26-consecutive victories. 

“I actually think losing to (Nazareth) was good for us,” Bardic said. “I think we actually learned … we were coming into playoffs a little too confident. Taking a loss right then actually I think motivated us to play even better and refocus our energy what the end goal was.”

Always having threats across the floor has put Stevenson in a position to win its first state championship since 1996. The Patriots’ last state appearance came in 2001, when they lost 44-38 to New Trier.

“It’s crazy. I never would have dreamed this ever,” Klatt said. “Since I moved here … this year is so special, for it to be my sophomore year going to state, I’ll remember it for the rest of my life.’s Kaleb Carter live-streamed the final minute and the celebration that ensued. That included an interview with Klatt.

4A Notes

Benet Academy is playing in its fourth state semifinals since 2015 and fifth overall. The Redwings overcame a slow start by Navy commit and senior forward Morgan Demos in a 44-37 win over Whitney Young in the Supersectional, thanks to sophomore star Lenee Beaumont scoring 23 points. 

Benet was our top-ranked team in the final regular season girls top 25 rankings. Stevenson was No. 1 for much of the season. This may be a de facto state championship game, though the difference between Benet, Stevenson, Bolingbrook and Barrington is pretty slim. Any of them could find a way to win. Barrington will be the underdog of the group. 

  • Benet plays Stevenson Friday at 2:30 p.m.
  • Bolingbrook faces Barrington Friday at 4:15 p.m.

4A statistics

3A Notes

East Suburban Catholic Conference supremacy is apparent at the top of Illinois girls  high school basketball. In addition to Benet making the semis in 4A, Carmel Catholic and Nazareth Academy are both in the semis opposite one another. 

The lone 3A team to defeat Nazareth (32-2), Sycamore, was defeated by Carmel Catholic (26-7). Meanwhile, the Corsairs have lost to Nazareth by double digits twice this year. And of course, be on the lookout for the tall pair of Carmel’s Jordan Wood (a Class of 2023 Michigan State commit) and Grace Sullivan, a senior Bucknell signee.

Civic Memorial (32-4) is set for its first state appearance led by the likes of Olivia Durbin (Jr.), Kelbie Zupan (Sr.) and Meredith Brueckner (Fr.). Each is lethal from three-point distance. The Eagles have made 285 triples this season.

Morton (28-5) is certainly no newbie to Redbird Arena. The Potters have won four titles under coach Bob Becker, and Harvard commit Katie Krupa, a senior, makes a strong case as maybe the best senior on a team still alive in the postseason. Krupa, with one championship to her name, will be playing in her third state title game. Her 17.7 points per game makes her the leading scorer at 3A state. 

  • Civic Memorial vs. Carmel Catholic, Friday at 10:00 a.m.
  • Nazareth Academy vs. Morton, Friday at 11:45 a.m. 

3A statistics

2A Notes

Pana (35-1) has five players who have made at least 19 three-pointers and are led by Jillian Hamilton’s 18 points per game. Its lone loss is to 3A Lincoln, who it later beat, and Pana enters the game on a 31-game win streak. 

Quincy Notre Dame (28-3) junior Abbey Schreacke is the best scorer left in the state, regardless of class, at 25.2 points per contest. Winnebago (34-2) has some strong wins on its resume, including an overtime victory at Fremd. 

Fieldcrest (34-2) is in the midst of a historic season for the program and narrowly defeated Butler College Prep at Morton College to earn its first opportunity in Normal. They’ll be the shortest team, with no player at 5-11 or taller. They have a balanced attack with five players who average at least 8.5 points per game.

  • Pana vs. Quincy Notre Dame, Thursday, 2:30 p.m. 
  • Winnebago vs. Fieldcrest, Thursday 4:15 p.m.

1A Notes

Brimfield narrowly defeated Okawville in a Supersectional matchup that I thought featured the state’s two-best 1A teams. It was Okawville’s first and only loss to a 1A program this season. Brimfield and star senior star and EIU signee Ella Lune are set out to win the program’s first state title. Lune, averaging 19.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists, helped lead her team to a 29-4 record after playing a challenging schedule in the non-conference.

Neoga (28-7) is a balanced team that gets production throughout the lineup but gets the most from 6-0 junior forward Sydney Richards. This is the first state appearance for the program.

Senior point guard Katie Baker does a little bit of everything for Serena (33-2), which enters on a 29-game win streak. 

Galena (31-3) gets contributions from all over and its defense has not allowed 40 points or more in a game since Jan. 17.

  • Brimfield (29-4) vs. Neoga, Thursday, 10:00 a.m. 
  • Serena vs. Galena, Thursday, 11:45 a.m.

Regional Final Notebook: Resurrection Goes Pedal To The Metal

Regional Final Notebook: Resurrection Goes Pedal To The Metal

By Kaleb Carter

CHICAGO — Like thieves in the night, the Bandits stole any chance of Northside mounting a significant challenge, as Resurrection College Prep raced out to a huge victory on a memorable night for the lightning-quick squad. 

Friday’s Class 3A final victory was the latest example of Resurrection’s style, a 57-26 stomping of the Mustangs in which Resurrection leaped out to an 18-0 lead due to its suffocating press, quick passing and easy buckets. 

“Everything we do is fast,” coach Jon Palicki said. “All the drills, everything is based off creating turnovers, points off turnovers, we try to score in seven seconds. As you probably saw me, comically (yelling), as soon as the other team scores, we try to get the ball up as fast as humanly possible. That’s what we do. We try to play a lot of depth, 10, 11, 12 kids. We have 11 kids that have played over 200 minutes, so that’s our style, pedal to the metal.”

Senior Christina Simonetti was the beneficiary of timely passing, running the floor for uncontested layups and good looks against the Northside zone on her way to 15 points. Beating the zone down the floor in transition is one way the Bandits thrived against Northside. But even against the zone, Resurrection felt prepared due to a six defenders versus five offensive players drill they run in practice. Simonetti has been on two regional champion teams now.

“A couple of us were on the team when we won regionals two years ago, and it was like the best day of our lives,” Simonetti said. “We really just wanted that again, especially for the younger players because we know how much it meant to us when we were that age.”

Four-year varsity player and senior guard Bridget Kovac admitted it was a tough adjustment period early on in her career to get used to Resurrection’s system. 

“It took a while to gain my confidence, but even with the older girls and as I got older, I gained more confidence and learned to take that leadership role,’ Kovac said.

Even up by 30-plus late in the second half against Northside, a three-pointer from senior Murphy Killion sent the Resurrection bench into a frenzy. With a student section loaded with classmates in whatever random dresses they could dig out of the closet, the atmosphere was remarkable in a gym that wasn’t even full.

Palicki highlighted the efforts of his assistant coaches, saying that sometimes he has to take a step back and let smart coaches do what they need to do.

“This year, it’s brought COVID, its brought kids being out,” Palicki said. “It’s brought kids being moved up and down. It’s brought, every day I feel like I was saying a prayer, ‘Please don’t have COVID today … it’s been a lot of obstacles.”

The Bandits sprinted to their student section and celebrated with classmates at the final buzzer.

“To win a regional my last year on my last game ever on my home floor, it’s just as good, but maybe a little bit better as a senior,” Kovac said.

Regional Title Upsets by Seed

(6) Canton 53, (1) Eureka 30

Being battle-tested in the Mid-Illini paid huge dividends for the Little Giants. Not too many teams that endure a 10-game losing streak will win a regional title in the same season.

(6) Carlinville 51, (2) Hillsboro 49

Carlinville lost to Hillsboro at home on Feb. 7, turned right back around and beat them. 

(4) Johnsburg 44, (1) Rosary 40

(4) Routt Catholic 57, (1) Greenfield 34

(4) Schaumburg Christian 45, (1) Harvest Christian Academy 44

One of the state’s top scorers, Summer Reid, who has a 40-point game this season, hit a miraculous shot to hand Harvest Christian Academy a hand-point defeat.

(4) Breese Mater Dei 35, (1) Freeburg 33

(4) Morton 31, (1) Peoria 27

Not much of an upset, though Peoria did defeat Morton 41-32 on Jan. 15. Both teams were consistently ranked or acknowledged among the best in the state in our Top 25 rankings. That sets up a matchup with No. 3 Galesburg in the LaSalle-Peru sectional semis.

(4) MacArthur 68, (1) Springfield 63

(5) Washington 44, (2) Peoria Notre Dame 37

Washington is rewarded for its hard-fought win with AP Class 3A No. 1 Geneseo, a top 10 team in the rankings.

(6) Lake Zurich 54, (3) Hersey 41

Lowest Seeds (6 And Lower) To Win Regional Final

Class 1A

Stockton – No. 6 Stockton defeated No. 5 Lena-Winslow 45-40 to head to the Pecatonica sectional semifinal.

St. Thomas More – No. 6 St. Thomas More beat LeRoy 50-39 to reach the Blue Ridge sectional semifinal.

Class 2A

Canton – The No. 6 seed handed Eureka a heavy loss, 53-30

Carlinville – As a 6-seed, upended No. 2 Hillsboro by two points, 51-49.

Class 3A

Payton College Prep – No. 6 Payton stomped No. 4 Hyde Park 53-29 to reach the De La Salle sectional semis.

Class 4A

Lake Zurich – The No. 6 Bears upset Hersey 54-41 to reach the Warren sectional semis. 

Girls Basketball Top Performances: Week 13

Each week, I’ll be highlighting the best team and individual performances from around the state that stood out in girls basketball. It could be a state record, an amazing highlight or anything in between. 

Stats are critical to highlight these players and teams. Get in touch to submit a girls team or player at any point during the 2021-22 season. I can be reached at or on Twitter @Kaleb_M_Carter.

Editor’s note: Stats and records are accurate through Sunday, Feb. 13.

Notable Week 13 Team Performances

Whitney Young

When I watched Whitney Young against Stevenson at Fremd’s early December invite, the Dolphins’ talent was achingly apparent. I’d previously seen it in spurts on a summer day at the Morton College Summer League.

Stevenson’s cohesiveness was light years ahead of what the Dolphins showed that day, leading to a 69-60 win. The Dolphins at that point found themselves 2-3, having lost three games to teams that are now in the Top 25. 

Saturday, the Dolphins claimed a city title at Credit Union 1 Arena, in a 57-55 triumph over a Kenwood team with three current senior Division I commits in Brianna McDaniel (Texas A&M), Whitney Dunn (Loyola) and DonYeil Bolton (Alabama State). 

“I think the losses that we took earlier in the season were needed so we could be prepared for games like this, because at one point we were down 17-6,” junior Skylar Jones said. “I think we needed to stay composed, slow down and get our groove back.”

Jones was in takeover mode in the third quarter, with her defense (five steals) helping jump-start the Dolphins and leading to easy buckets in transition and the half-court. She helped Whitney Young dictate the pace it wanted as they surged ahead.

“Her mental is on a whole other level right now,” Whitney Young coach Krissy Harper said. “How she was earlier in the season, how she came out slow, that first possession she missed that left-handed layup … She would have crumbled. But she held it together. She couldn’t really find her rhythm in the first half, but she definitely came through for us in the second half.”

Every Dolphins player played with assured confidence that showed their belief in one another and what they were doing collectively. Tanila Marshall’s defense around the rim deterred the Broncos. Olivia Vick provided a shooting threat and a cool under-pressure ball-handling presence. Freshman Alana Shields hit timely free throws and handled the ball well against Kenwood’s pressure.

After an ice-cold first half, freshman Destiny Jackson rose to the occasion in the second half with some pull-up jumpers, and added rebounding and a passing touch. Maia Downes’ crucial 10 points in the first half kept the Dolphins in the hunt. 

“Maia Downes was the silent assassin,” Harper said. “Seriously. She’s the one who kept us in the game, undoubtedly. … I’m so proud of her. Her being a senior, I really believe she took all of this in and she wanted to go out with a bang.”

Every Dolphins player has meshed as the season advanced. At the time of Saturday’s win, Whitney Young had won 12 consecutive games. That run started with a 50-44 win over Loyola Academy on Dec. 30. 

“We’re light years ahead,” Harper said of where the Dolphins were in December. 

“We all started to mix,” Jones said. “We all started to get on the same page. When you saw us against Stevenson, I don’t think we were all on the same page. We were having mental and internal issues, and I think over time they started flattening out and we started to get on the same page.”

The Dolphins are highly likely to face Kenwood again. Soon. 

A possible sectional semifinal matchup looms between the two. 

“We should definitely be grateful, but not take it for granted because Kenwood is definitely a very good team,” Jones said. “We’re going to end up playing them again in state (playoffs), so I don’t think we should take them for granted at all.”

Should the Dolphins play to their full potential, sink more shots than they did in the comeback win over Kenwood…

And should a motivated Kenwood bring their A-game and prove ready to weather the storm…

Tuesday, Feb. 22 at Lyons Township High School should be a great deal of fun.


Defeated Dundee-Crown, 56-26, and Crystal Lake Central, 42-16, and sealed the deal on the Fox Valley Conference championship.


Went undefeated, 14-0, in the Illinois Central 8; beat Joliet Catholic, 45-40, and Manteno, 64-26. 


Earned Kaskaskia Division title with a 10-0 mark when they defeated Valmeyer 49-42. Also beat New Athens, 46-26.


Blasted Belvidere, 61-8, and Rockford East, 68-23. to run its winning streak to 13 games heading into the postseason. Went undefeated in NIC-10.


Won NUIC North with a 46-28 win over Pecatonica and defeated Durand, 47-24.


Defeated Plainfield North, 47-46, and Bloomington, 61-32.

Maine South

Defeated Deerfield, 72-65, to avenge an earlier loss and win the CSL title game, led by Emily Pape’s 31-point, 13-rebound performance. 


Thumped Rockridge, 50-19, and Class 2A No. 1 Quincy Notre Dame, 73-49.

Lincoln-Way East

The Griffins defeated Argo, 53-31, and Plainfield South, 56-44. Sophomore Lana Kerley had 26 points and assists in one of the wins.

Notable Week 13 Individual Performances

Ariana Warren, Arcola, Sr.

Scored 37 on 15-of-22 shooting and reached 1,000 points in a 78-26 win over Chrisman. 

Helped team get to NTC title game.

Sophia Hoffman, Carlyle, Fr.

Scored 19 points and added six steals, four assists and four rebounds in a 54-35 win over Wesclin. 

Posted 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting, three rebounds, two assists and two steals in a 67-36 win over Red Bud.

Tessa Crawford, Jersey, So.

25 points, including five made three-pointers, six rebounds, four assists and four steals versus Cahokia. 

18 points, four three-pointers, four rebounds, two assists and three steals against Waterloo.

Alyssa Seymour, Chester, Sr.

Totaled 30 points and 19 rebounds in 72-36 victory against Sparta. 

Added 13 points, 13 rebounds in another game.

Alyssa Hughes, St. Charles North, Jr.

Scored 30 with nine rebounds, four assists and three steals in a 56-54 win over Batavia.

Was named unanimous DuKane all-conference. 

Lauren Miller, Trinity, So.

31 points and 11 rebounds versus De La Salle. 

Torrie Kortan, St. Charles East, Sr.

27 points in a win over Wheaton North. 

Kammie Ludwig, Geneseo, Sr.

Scored 37 points versus Moline as Geneseo clinched the Maple Leafs’ third-consecutive Western Big Six title and helped Geneseo win its 29th game, a school record. 

Abbey Schreacke, Quincy Notre Dame, Jr.

Scored 27 in a 45-35 win over Jeff City Helias (MO).

Posted 34 points, 10 rebounds in a loss to Brimfield. 

Totaled 20 points in a win over Liberty.

Bella Dudley, Tri-County, Sr.

23 points, six rebounds, five steals and four assists in a win over Decatur Lutheran. 

Illinois Girls High School Basketball Rankings: Week of February 13

Illinois Girls High School Basketball Rankings: Week of February 13

By Kaleb Carter

Editor’s note: The girls basketball rankings are an attempt to contextualize just how every team in the state stacks up with one another, regardless of the size of the school. 

The week ending Feb. 13 is the sixth week of rankings. It features more movement than any other edition. It took a lot of mental back-and-forth and plenty of switching around to try and get it all to feel right. With postseason play underway, now more than ever, these rankings don’t mean anything in terms of actual games being played. 

This is a long way of saying, some will not be particularly fond of this week’s rankings. 

With that preamble: Things got weird last week. When considering last week’s rankings, No. 1 Stevenson lost to No. 9 Nazareth. No. 4 Naperville North lost to Fenwick. No. 6 Sycamore lost to No. 14 Geneva. No. 19 Whitney Young beat No. 3 Kenwood in the Chicago City Championship game and that changed a ton about the rankings. No. 17 Okawville was beaten by unranked Breese Central. No. 25 Quincy Notre Dame was blasted by unranked 1A power Brimfield. 

It was the most agonizing ranking process I’ve undertaken since the first time we put these rankings out. 

1. Benet (25-3, +1)

Beat Montini this past week. No. 1 seed in Aurora (East) Sectional. Recent loss to Carmel not enough to keep Benet from the top spot. Has a great overall body of work and will be a strong favorite to make a run to the state title.

2. Nazareth Academy (27-2, +5)

Huge leap for Nazareth, which went from No. 15 the second week of January all the way up to No. 2 after a victory that ended Stevenson’s 26-game win streak. It honestly was hard to have Stevenson drop, but I believe heavily in the importance of head-to-head matchups when it comes to teams. 3A favorite.

3. Stevenson (29-2,-2)

It was not without great contemplation that Stevenson fell from its top ranking (for the first time) after a loss to previously-seventh-ranked Nazareth (now No. 3). Benet has beaten Nazareth 45-31 (Feb. 24), and Nazareth beat Stevenson. Stevenson had won 26-consecutive games before the Feb. 9 loss to Nazareth. Is battle-tested and should make a run to Redbird Arena.

4. Loyola Academy (27-3, +1)

Defeated Hersey in overtime, at Hersey. 

5. Naperville North (27-3, -1)

Beat Waubonsie Valley, lost to Fenwick. 

6. Barrington (24-5, +6)

Defeated Prospect in the MSL title game. 

7. Geneseo (29-1, +1)

Won over Moline.

8. Bolingbrook (19-5, +2)

Defeated Sandburg, finished unbeaten in conference. 

9. Geneva (23-4, +5)

Defeated Sycamore on the road and won against Lake Park. 

10. Whitney Young (18-5, +9)

Won the city championship over Kenwood. 

11. Kenwood (19-6, -8)

Lost to Whitney Young in the city title game. 

12. Sycamore (28-2, -6)

Fell at home to Geneva. Beat Plano. 

13. Joliet West (24-3, –2)

Lost to Providence Catholic, defeated West Aurora.

14. Fremd (25-6, -1)

Defeated Hersey in overtime.

15. Lyons Township (25-3, No change)

Handed Willowbrook a loss. 

16. Edwardsville (25-4, No change)

Beat Lutheran North (MO) and Belleville West. 

17. Hersey (26-5, -8)

Lost in overtime to Fremd. 

18. Peoria (24-3, +2)

Win over Manual.

19. Okawville (27-2, -2)

Lost to Breese Central.

20. O’Fallon (23-5, -2)

Wins over Vashon (MO) and Collinsville. 

21. Peoria Notre Dame (No change)

Defeated Normal West. 

22. Marist (21-9, No change)

Beat St. Ignatius. 

23. Montini (22-8, +1)

Lost to Benet. 

24. Winnebago (29-2, -1)

Wins over St. Francis and Harlem. 

25. Homewood-Flossmoor (16-8, UR)

Defeated Lockport. 

Just Missed Out

  • Willowbrook (UR)
  • Carmel Catholic (UR)
  • Civic Memorial (UR)
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