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

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

By Kaleb Carter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Kaleb Carter

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

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

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

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

Coach Jason Raymond said he expects continued growth from Bergstrom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Notes From Teams at Stevenson’s Summer League

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 High School Basketball Rankings: Week of January 23

Illinois Girls High School Basketball Rankings: Week of January 23

Stevenson's Simone Sawyer sets up to play defensively as Whitney Young's Destiny Jackson handles the ball.

By Kaleb Carter

These rankings are an attempt to contextualize how the top teams in the state stack up with one another, regardless of the size of the school. There will be a lot of movement on these in the coming weeks, don’t you fret. Sound off in our replies as to who you think belongs and which teams deserve a better ranking. 

Notes:

  • is how many positions improved 
  • – is how many positions fallen backward
  • UR is previously unranked

1. Stevenson (23-1, No change)

Single-digit wins over Lake Forest and Downers Grove North.

2. Benet (19-2, No change)

Beat Waukesha West, Carmel Catholic and Rock Island. Big game coming up against Nazareth on Monday.

3. Kenwood (15-4, No change)

Won Red South/Central Conference with unbeaten 8-0 record, finished off unbeaten conference slate with 72-30 win over Simeon. Fell to one of Indiana’s best teams, Crown Point, 82-76 in double overtime.

4. Loyola Academy (22-2, No change)

Beat Lincoln-Way West, St. Ignatius and Moline.

5. Naperville North (22-2, No change)

Wins against Butler College Prep, Downers Grove South and Neuqua Valley by an average of 34 points.

6. Sycamore (20-0, No change)

Beat Ottawa, Rochelle and Hampshire.

7. Geneseo (24-0, No change)

Defeated St. Ignatius and Galesburg.

8. Nazareth (19-1, +5)

Win over Marist; scheduled to play at No. 2 Benet on Monday.

9. Bolingbrook (12-3, +3)

Defeated Joliet West and Sandburg, lost to Incarnate Word of Missouri. They should return guards Kennedi Perkins and Yaheira Bueno to action soon.

10. Hersey (22-4, -3)

An unfortunate season-ending knee injury took Meghan Mrowicki out of action in a thumping by Fenwick, but the Huskies bounced back with wins over Rolling Meadows, Prospect and Deerfield.

11. Joliet West (15-2, -2)

Almost found a way to overcome a big deficit against Bolingbrook, then beat Plainfield South, Yorkville and Metea Valley, all by at least 20 points.

12. Barrington (14-5, +5)

After winning convincingly over Fremd this past week, the Fillies and the Vikings each have a win over one another. Barrington’s last two losses are to Stevenson. The Fillies defeated Hoffman Estates and Fremd this past week, the latter 62-47 with Sophie Swanson scoring a program-record 40 points. She also committed to Purdue this past week and sophomore forward Molly O’Riordan received an offer from Loyola.

13. Fremd (20-5 -3)

Wins over St. Viator and Palatine, loss to Barrington by 15.

14. Geneva (17-4, +1)

On a six-game winning streak and 9-0 in the parity-filled DuKane. Wins this last week over Wheaton-Warrenville South, Glenbard North and Lake Zurich.

15. Marist (17-5 -4)

Wins over Marian Central Catholic and Butler College Prep, lost to Nazareth.

16. Lyons Township (19-3, -2)

Handed losses to York, Provost West, Batavia and Fenton, unbeaten in West Suburban.

17. Edwardsville (18-4, -1)

Coasted its way to victories over Althoff Catholic and Missouri defending state champion Whitfield.

18. Peoria Notre Dame (19-1, +1)

Mya Wardle playing strong in defeating Brimfield, Manual and Elmwood.

19. Okawville (22-1, -1)

Earned a second win over O’Fallon before falling to Civic Memorial in the championship of the Highland Tournament. 

20. O’Fallon (18-4, +1)

Defeated good programs in Teutopolis and Alton, but fell to Okawville for a second time.

21. Whitney Young (14-5, +1)

Has won seven straight games and enters the CPL Playoffs as the No. 2 seed behind only Kenwood.

22. Peoria (19-3, +2)

Raced past Canton and Bloomington before earning two very good wins against Galesburg and Lincoln.

23. Morton (17-3, +2)

Bounced back from a loss to Peoria with wins over Galesburg and Lincoln.

24. Winnebago (23-1, -4)

Beat Byron, lost at Saint Viator and handed Stillman Valley defeat.

25. Deerfield (18-3, -2)

Came back against Maine South, beat Maine East and lost to Hersey.

Just Missed Out

  • Montini (UR)
  • Homewood-Flossmoor (UR)
  • Quincy Notre Dame (UR)
  • Civic Memorial (UR)
  • Prospect (UR)
  • Downers Grove North (UR)
  • Metamora (UR)
  • Washington (UR)

Teams to Watch

Montini, Quincy Notre Dame, Lincoln, Alton, Carmel Catholic,Washington, Metamora, Peoria Notre Dame, Peoria, Fieldcrest, Libertyville, Paris, Providence Catholic, Sandburg, Normal, Lincoln-Way Central, Marian Catholic, Civic Memorial, Butler College Prep, Homewood-Flossmoor, Springfield, South Elgin, Mt. Vernon, Illini West, Mattoon, Brimfield, Downers Grove North, Galesburg, Pana, Fenwick, Saint Viator.

Photo Gallery: Coach Kipp Hoopsfest at Benet

Benet Academy hosted the second day of the Coach Kipp Hoopsfest, with 10 games played on Monday, Jan. 17. It was the 32nd annual edition of the event.

Here are the scores from the games played that weren’t photographed by Kaleb Carter on Monday. 

Evanston 49, Thornwood 43

Loyola Academy 66, Lincoln-Way West 49

Homewood-Flossmoor 70, Rolling Meadows 29

Marian Catholic 44, Trinity 29

Fenwick 73, Hersey 39

Bolingbrook 49, Joliet West 44

Libertyville 58, Willowbrook 51

Wheaton North 44, Mother McAuley 42

Benet 56, Waukesha West 30

Naperville North 72, Butler College Prep 50

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