Category Archives: Girls

Stat-Sheet Stuffer Sophia Loden of Mascoutah Commits to Southern Indiana

By Kaleb Carter

Follow @Kaleb_M_Carter

When looking at prospective colleges, Mascoutah incoming senior Sophia Loden told her high school coach about her excitement in soon-to-be Division I University of Southern Indiana.

Mascoutah girls coach Frank Evans took that sentiment to heart and made a move that will long endear him to Loden. Evans got Mascoutah into the Southern Indiana women’s basketball team’s summer camp this summer.  

“[It] a lot of fun and I feel like I connected with the players there,” Loden said. 

The 5-11 multi-position player — Loden plays more of a post-role for Mascoutah, but figures to play more on the perimeter in college — made the visit a productive one, and chose to come back for a second visit that also went well. She played six games over two days in the team camp visit, which presented a chance for her to play in front of college coaches. 

“My official visit was amazing,” Loden said. “The facilities are incredible but the culture that coach Rick Stein has created is unmatched. All of the girls on the team introduced themselves to me and my family. It’s just not something you see at every college. Everyone there made me feel really welcome.

“The practice that I attended was very competitive, but the players were also extremely positive with each other,” she added. “I wanted to put my shoes on and jump in there with them. It just felt right when I was there.

Loden cited COVID-19 as having interrupted what could have been a potentially busy early recruiting process. As a freshman, she averaged just under 10 points per game for a Mascoutah squad that had just one senior and claimed five victories. She averaged 13.6 points and 10.3 rebounds as a sophomore. 

“I had my sophomore high school season cut in half, and coaches couldn’t really come watch AAU games,” Loden said. “During this time, I reached out to as many coaches as I could and would send them game film and highlights. Once COVID restrictions allowed fans at games, I went to as many games as I could. I also attended Elite Camps for the schools I was interested in, so the coaches could see me on their campus, and we could interact with each other. I think the biggest thing I did was really try to communicate with coaches.”

This past season, Loden easily averaged a double-double (22.7 points, 12.2 rebounds), and led her team in scoring, rebounding and steals as the program went 16-15 in Evans’ third year coaching the team in his current stint. (He also coached Mascoutah from 2005-08.) 

Evans said that Loden has improved immensely her mentality since he started watching her in her freshman season before taking over as coach. 

“Her mental midset and maturity has changed,” Evans said. “She has become more and more unselfish.”

As things have changed for the better, Evans says Loden has realized how her attitude has begun to pay off. With future D-I pole vaulter Katie Schneider and multi-sport athlete Bella Hart making up a stellar senior trio for Mascoutah, the program expects the positive upward trend to continue.

“I think it was a matter of her teammates and her coming together and her teammates showing, ‘Hey, we’ve got a few kids who can shoot the three pretty well,’ and they score in transition pretty well,” Evans said. 

Over time, Evans cited Loden’s ball-handling in transition and her passing as improved facets of her game. She’s also played volleyball and even tried her hand at golf. 

“Coaching kids like Sophie make’s it fun,” Evans said. “She has a motor that never stops. I take her out of the game for a breather, but she hardly ever asks to come out. She goes end to end as fast as she can. She plays defense as hard as she can.”

She has also become stronger and better at shot selection. Both she and Evans cited Mascoutah’s strength program for that. 

“Mascoutah has a really good weight training program,” Loden said. “Our strength coach ran workouts three days a week throughout summer.”

“Skill training wise, I’ve continued to work out with Coach Denney, but also making sure I train a few times a week with Dave Ruckman (a trainer here in the metro east),” Loden said. “I credit both of them for making me a much more confident player over the past year.

A notable record could be broken this season: Bec Harris’ career 1,724 points is within reach. The rising senior scored 703 last season and has 1,068 points for her career, per statistics. 

Other Illinois women on the other Southern Indiana roster from Illinois include Ashley Hunter, a fifth-year player who played at Homewood-Flossmoor, Neuqua Valley graduate Claudia Gallegos and Ramsey Hasewinkle, an honorary team member, from Albion. 

Upon arrival, Loden will be joining a program in-transition from NCAA D-II to D-I. 

“The players and coaches are already up to the challenge of the OVC (Ohio Valley Conference),” Loden said. “While I was at camp, I asked the players how they felt about not being able to compete in the NCAA tournament, and while they were naturally disappointed about the four-year transition, they have set goals to make the NIT in the meantime. Every player and coach told me repeatedly that at USI, we expect to contend for the OVC year-in and year-out.”

With school right around the corner, Loden says she is considering stuyding engineering.

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.”


Kaleb Carter’s 2021-22 End-Of-Year Superlatives: Girls Basketball

Kaleb Carter’s 2021-22 End-Of-Year Superlatives: Girls Basketball

By Kaleb Carter

The girls basketball season has been over for a while. With some time removed from the season, I wanted to share final thoughts on the great basketball I watched. I created a list of superlatives to do just that.

I witnessed 38 girls basketball games this season and this list is specific to players and teams I saw in person. Most of what I was able to get to was weekend invites, as it was the best way to see as many teams as possible. It’s a Chicagoland-heavy list, but that was the bulk of the players and teams I watched this season.

Ms. Bright Lights

Simone Sawyer  posted 35 and 31 points, respectively, against Chicago’s top two teams (Kenwood and Whitney Young), as well as 26 in a state championship win over Barrington. Sawyer never shied away from big moments. Even with a less robust average stat line than many of the state’s better players, Sawyer was considered heavily for 4A player of the year.

Most impressive looking player

Katy Eidle of Hersey looked like she was capable of anything with the ball in her hands, and had to handle a great deal of responsibility after the injury sustained to teammate Meghan Mrowicki. She led her team to a 27-5 overall, 9-1 record in MSL East — one of the best conferences in the state.

Most exciting team

Deerfield’s high-octane, guard-oriented attack made every game they were in fun to watch, regardless of opponent.

Best defensive look

Galena’ 1-3-1 zone look in the state title game almost brought them a state title, as Brimfield had scored just 12 points well into the third quarter. But Brimfield made a run and prove its might. I also watched a stream of the state semis where Galena held Serena to one point in the first half against Serena.

Glue players

As far as players who helped keep their teams together, the following caught my eye for their less-noticed contributions:

  • Stevenson’s Kendell Williams (2024)
  • Carmel Catholic’s Mia Gillis (2023)
  • Fremd’s Kace Urlacher (2023)
  • Whitney Young’s Maia Downes (2022)
  • Kenwood’s Ariana Bullock-Williams (2024).

Ms. Fearless

Kenwood’s Brianna McDaniel has a game that won’t take a backseat to anyone. She is always in attack mode and always getting to the rim. Not that she can’t shoot, her complete offensive package makes her unlike anyone I saw this year, even coming off an ACL tear. 

Most dominant team performance

It’s between a 50-21 Nazareth win over Sandburg thanks to the Roadrunners’ stifling defense, and a 64-13 Carmel Catholic win over Grayslake North. 

Most dominant individual performance

Given the circumstances, Abbey Schreacke’s 2A title game record 35 points, to go with 11 rebounds, was quite the demonstration to see, as Quincy Notre Dame claimed the state title in Redbird Arena.

Others included Lincoln-Way West’s Ava Gugliuzza scoring 40 versus Sycamore and Simone Sawyer’s 35 against Kenwood. I also watched Sophie Swanson explode in wins over Libertyville and a loss to Naperville North. 

Best game I saw

Geneva’s 59-53 win over Benet at Morton College’s Christmas Tournament featured a hot Vikings squad that handed Benet its second loss of the season and first to an Illinois team. The trio of Leah Palmer, Cassidy Arni and Zosia Wrobel played a whale of a game, and shut down one of the state’s better players in Lenee Beaumont. Meanwhile, Morgan Demos had 25 points as Benet fell just short. It looked like a postseason preview of sorts, before Geneva was upset by St. Charles East. 

Also considered Maine South’s CSL championship victory over Deerfield, Stevenson’s win over Kenwood at Trinity High School in the Midwest Hoops Spotlight Shootout, and Whitney Young’s win over Kenwood in the CPL city championship game. Lincoln-Way West’s overtime victory over Sycamore at Trinity is also worth a shoutout.

Aesthetically pleasant throwback style

Lake Zurich gets a shoutout from me for playing an extremely enjoyable brand of basketball, not because it’s high-octane and explosive, but because of its balanced, fundamentally-focused ways.

Fun bench units

Mother McAuley, Resurrection, Amundsen, Naperville North, Geneva, Batavia, Whitney Young, Stevenson.

Most hectic atmosphere

Stevenson versus Kenwood at the Midwest Hoops Spotlight Classic, as previously mentioned, was a blast. In addition to the families and fans in attendance, college coaches and those just curious about the matchups and buzz on the floor made it a wild evening at Trinity’s gym in River Forest.

Way-Too-Early Player of the Year Watchlist

1A: Amiah Hargrove, Christopher (2024); Alayna Kraus, Okawville (2024); Grace Nelson, Altamont (2024); Abby Compton, Goreville (2024); Klare Flynn, Brown County (2023); Grace Furlong, Galena (2025); Sophia Hoffman, Carlyle (2025); Sydney Richards, Neoga, (2023).

2A: Abbey Schreacke, Quincy Notre Dame (2023); Xamiya Walton, Butler College Prep (2024); Ellie Cahill, Eureka (2023); Amayah Doyle, Carterville (2024); Ensley Tedeschi, Benton (2023); Megen Senaj, Latin, (2023). 

3A: Kloe Froebe, Lincoln (2024); Janae Kent, Oak Forest (2023); Jordan Wood, Carmel Catholic (2023); Claire McDougall, Washington (2023); Mya Wardle, Peoria Notre Dame (2024); Aaliyah Guyton, Peoria (2024); Amalia Dray, Nazareth (2024); Evyn Carrier, Sycamore (2023).

4A: Lenee Beaumont, Benet (2023); Skylar Jones, Whitney Young (2023); Destiny Jackson, Whitney Young (2025); Alyssa Latham, Homewood-Flossmoor (2023); Sophie Swanson, Barrington (2023); Katy Eidle, Hersey, (2023); Tahj-Monet Bloom (2024); Lisa Thompson, Joliet West (2023); Emily Fisher, Libertyville (2023).

2022 Illinois-Basketball Girls Players of the Year

2022 Illinois-Basketball Girls Players of the Year

By Kaleb Carter 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.”

*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.”

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.
« Older Entries