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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Per the Quad City Times’ Jackson Stone, Ludwig: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Kaleb Carter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

13. Sycamore (32-3)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Katie Krupa led the Potters to state one last time. 

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

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

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

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

24. Marist (23-10)

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

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

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

Glenbard West Finishes Dominant Season, Beats Young in 4A Title

Glenbard West Finishes Dominant Season, Beats Young in 4A Title

Glenbard West celebrates the first state title in program history. (Photo: Chaqwonn Jones)

By Jakub Rudnik

CHAMPAIGN — Glenbard West proved without a doubt that it is the best boys basketball team in Illinois for the 2021-22 season.

The Hilltoppers began the season at the top of the polls, and it closed out the year with a 56-34 win in the 4A state title over No. 2 Whitney Young.

Glenbard West dominated the game much like it did the season: from beginning to end. The Hilltoppers led 13-6 after the first quarter and 25-16 at halftime. A 17-4 third quarter in favor of Glenbard West put the result out of question.

No Illinois team beat the 37-1 Hilltoppers, who only fell to California’s Sierra Canyon — a nationally ranked team — on a buzzer-beater. 

“The accomplishment and the goals that these guys had at the beginning of the season and summer, to maintain them; to never look ahead, to respect all opponents; to play the right way, to have the sportsmanship, the caliber of character they have,” Jason Opoka said. “Words can’t explain how proud I am to be their coach.”

Guard Paxton Warden scored a game-high 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting, including 3-of-4 from beyond the arc. Gonzaga recruit Braden Huff scored in a variety of ways, finishing with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting. Forward Ryan Renfro had eight points and four rebounds.

“Especially this game, just being the last with these guys, it was for sure one I was ready for and not willing to lose,” Huff said. “Big games like these, I just get really amped for and excited for. I think we all do.”

Glenbard West’s all-senior starting lineup of Warden, Huff, Bobby Durkin, Ryan Renfro and Caden Pierce proved once again that it had too many weapons to be stopped. The seasoned group won the first state title in season history. 

“It’s kind of a sad moment, for sure, because it’s our last moments together [as a basketball team,'” Warden said.

Whitney Young matched its second-place finish of 2018. It won a state title the previous year.

Young was the only Chicago team in Saturday’s championship games. Its loss guaranteed the first season without a Chicago state title team since 2006. A Chicago team had one at least one state title every season since Illinois moved to four classes in 2008.

Senior forward Xavier Amos led Whitney Young (25-10) with 14 points and five rebounds. Senior forward AJ Casey and senior point guard Dalen Davis each finished with six points and four rebounds.

Miracle Shot Gives Sacred Heart-Griffin 3A Title Over Metamora

Miracle Shot Gives Sacred Heart-Griffin 3A Title Over Metamora

Sacred Heart-Grffin's Zack Hawkinson embraces coach Tim Allen after winning the 3A title. (Photo: Chaqwonn Jones)

By Jakub Rudnik

CHAMPAIGN — Keshon Singleton’s last-second heave hit the rim, the backboard and then the rim two more times. 

But it went in, and Sacred Heart-Griffin won the 3A boys state title, 53-50.

It wasn’t what the Cyclones drew up with the game tied in double overtime. Instead, a kicked ball forced Singleton to throw up a fadeaway three as time expired. 

“The ball was loose and I was like, ‘Ok, I’ve gotta throw up a prayer to even have a chance,’” Singleton said. “It went in … I’m just so proud we can call ourselves state champions.”

The Cyclones needed many bounces to go their way late to even have the chance.

With 5:11 remaining in the fourth quarter, Metamora scored to go up 38-32. But Sacred Heart-Griffin held Metamora to four points the rest of regulation, forcing six turnovers with a frenetic press. 

“If you start playing defense like that, the whole team will be fouled out,” Cyclones coach Tim Allen said of turning up the defensive pressure. “You have to pull that out fourth quarter, maybe overtime. … That’s exhausting to play that hard.”

Junior forward Zack Hawkinson scored in the paint with four seconds remaining to complete the comeback. He led all players with 27 points and 13 rebounds.

Metamora led 50-46 in the second overtime after two Drew Tucker free throws. Hawkinson answered with a basket in the post to cut the lead to two.

On the other end, Metamora appeared to have a clear lane to the basket but a timeout was called by coach Danny Grieves. Instead of a Metamora basket, J’veon Bardwell made two free throws after a steal and fast break.

On the next Metamora possession, Hawkinson forced Metamora junior Ethan Kizer to dribble off his leg out of bounds. 

The possession change led to the final possession of the game.

Sacred Heart Griffin was in the 2019 state finals before they were cancelled as the pandemic began. The team started the 2021-22 season in 2A before learning they’d be bumped up to 3A. The Cyclones won two other overtime games in the state series.

“When he shot it and it hit the front of the rim, I was just like, ‘It’s going in,’ I just had a feeling,” Allen said. “Our season had been like that. 

“There’s no better ending than the ending we had today,” Allen said. 

Jake Hamilton and Singleton each finished with nine points and four rebounds for the Cyclones.

For Metamora, Tyson Swanson scored a team-high 17 points, including a 10 in a row in the third quarter. Zack Schroeder had 11 points and nine rebounds, and Drew Tucker scored 10 points.

Hoepker’s Heroics Clinch 2A State Title for Nashville over Monticello

Hoepker’s Heroics Clinch 2A State Title for Nashville over Monticello

Nashville celebrates its 2A state title. (Photo: Chaqwonn Jones)

By Jakub Rudnik

CHAMPAIGN — With 2:40 remaining in the boys 2A state title game, Monticello layup put the Sages up six. In a 31-25 game, Nashville’s deficit seemed enormous.

Twelve seconds later, Nolan Heggemeier’s three cut the lead in half. With a minute to go, Kolten Gajewski’s basket made it 31-30 Monticello. 

On the other end, Monticello’s Tanner Buehnerkemper missed a layup, rebounded by Saxton Hoepker. Hoepker slashed to the rim on the other end, finishing his own layup to put Nashville up 32-31.

After a timeout, Monticello wound down the clock. Ben Cresap was forced into a mid-range shot. 

Hoepker was there to deny him, sealing the comeback win for Nashville.

“I feel like we stole one there,” Nashville coach Patrick Weathers said. “I can’t say enough about how resilient this bunch of guys are sitting up here with me.”

Hoepker averaged 15 points per game this season, but he was scoreless until 4:31 remaining in the game. He finished with four points, five rebounds and two blocks — and arguably the two biggest plays of the game.

“For that [block] to seal the game, that’s huge,” Hoepker said. “Kilten [Gajewski] had a great game and carried us most of the way, but that block at the end felt great.”

Gajewski led all players with 14 points and 11 rebounds. He averaged less than six points and six rebounds for the season.

“I think it just goes to effort — I like playing hard,” Gajewski said. “I don’t know really what I’ve changed, but it’s been working lately. Just to go out there and play on this stage has loosened me up a little bit I guess.”

Kilten Gajewski and Saxton Hoepker embrace after winning the 2A state title.

Nashville finished as the 2A runner-up in 2019. Its football team was the football 2A runner-up in 2020. Those experiences helped 30-4 Nashville in its biggest game of the season.

“It’s a huge factor,” senior guard Isaac Turner said. “If it’s your first time playing in a state tournament, you’re going to have nerves. Since I’ve been a part of four of them, it helps me stay calm and play it like another game — not try and force, not try and do too much.”

Monticello was led by seniors Dylan Ginalick (11 points), Cresap (eight points) and Buehnerkemper (three points and 10 rebounds).

Monticello finished 33-4 and advanced further than any team in program history.

“It says here we shot 11-for-31,” Buehnerkemper said. “But I really wanted that last one to go in. I knew if I would have made that we would have won. 

“But one shot doesn’t define me,” he added. “One shot doesn’t define us. One shot doesn’t define the season. We’ve got to keep our heads up high, we did a great job.”

Yorkville Christian Overcomes Slow Start to Beat Liberty for 1A Title

Yorkville Christian Overcomes Slow Start to Beat Liberty for 1A Title

Yorkville Christian senior K.J. Vasser holds the state championship trophy. (Photo: Chaqwonn Jones)

By Jakub Rudnik

CHAMPAIGN — Down 10-8 after the first quarter, Yorkville Christian was in uncharted territory.

The Mustangs had been untested in its run to the 2022 state title game. In order, its win differentials: 62, 44, 40, 44, 34, 38 and 43 points.

Coach Aaron Sovern made sure his team knew there was plenty of game left to be played.

“I said, ‘We can’t play a whole lot worse offensively, and I don’t know that they can play a whole lot better,'” Sovern said. “‘So we’re fine.’ I think I even said, ‘Take a deep breath, let’s go.'”

Liberty played Yorkville Christian tougher than any other team in the state series, but Yorkville won each of the next three quarters to earn the first state title in program history, 54-41.

The game was a defensive struggle early on. The teams combined to shoot 7-of-24 with six turnovers in the first quarter. They were a combined 17-of-48 and 6-of-21 from three in the first half as Liberty clung to a 21-20 lead.

Liberty keyed on Yorkville Christian senior shooting guard and Duke commit Jaden Schutt. He finished with 12 points on 4-or-12 shooting, just 1-of-6 from beyond the arc.

“We looked at film in the preseason, because we knew if we were getting to the championship game we’d be facing him,” Liberty senior forward Logan Robbins said. “I just tried to look for some points I could pick up on, just to try to maybe get a little edge.”

Photo: Chaqwonn Jones

In the second half the Mustangs found their offense without Schutt. Senior guard K.J. Vasser attacked the basket, making 5-of-12 baskets overall and hitting all four of his free throws. He led the team with 15 points. Tyler Burrows hit 5-of-7 shots for 13 points. David Douglas Jr. scored 11.

Vasser was key early in the fourth during a Yorkville Christian run that broke the game open, with a pair of steals and seven points in the span of minutes.

“We went into halftime down one,” Schutt said. “When we play a lot of tough teams [during the season] we’re going to get down. I want to give a shoutout to K.J. [Vasser], just his leadership, keeping guys in it with his intensity. Him and Tyler [Burrows] just being great leaders out there.”

Yorkville Christian finished 25-13 after playing a brutal regular-season schedule filled with 4A and 3A opponents.

“It’s definitely been a grind, and definitely mission accomplished,” Sovern said. “As we’ve said forever, this was our goal at the beginning of the year. I can’t say enough about these guys, they definitely found a way.”

Liberty finished 30-6 for the season, advancing further and winning more games than any team in program history. 

An emotional coach Greg Altmix paused for 10 seconds in the post-game press conference when answering a question on how proud he was of the team.

“Players who are willing to come out and play this way and do what you ask as a coach, they make my job easy,” Altmix said.

“Knowing that a couple of guys didn’t even have the chance to even take the court last season and seeing them come back,” Altmix continued. “You have young men who are going to be successful in life because they’ve learned a lot of life lessons through basketball.”

2021-22 IHSA Girls State Basketball Notebook

2021-22 IHSA Girls State Basketball Notebook

By Kaleb Carter

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

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

Title Game Superlatives

Best performance

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

Best effort in losing performance

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

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

Model of consistency

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

Under the radar

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

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

Numbers galore

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

Returning to state in 2022-23

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

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

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

Three-Point Showdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whitney Young Bests Kenwood for Super Sectional, City Superiority

In the eyes of Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter, there’s no rivalry with Kenwood. His team beat the Broncos 75-62 at UIC to win a 4A Super Sectional, send his team downstate and take bragging rights.

“There is no rivalry,” Slaughter said. “They have no state championships, we have five. They’ve never really beaten us in anything substantive. I don’t know how that ‘rivalry’ has come together.

“As of today, we have shown that we are the superior program, we are the superior team,” Slaughter continued. “Our girls beat their girls in the state playoffs, sent them home. Our boys have done likewise. … There is no rivalry, that myth is over. You have to beat someone to have a rivalry.”

It was an intense, often chaotic rubber match between the city’s top two teams. Young jumped out to a 23-13 lead on a Dalen Davis jumper to beat the first-quarter buzzer. Kenwood clawed back many times, but the early hole was too much to dig out of.

“You can’t come into these games, in the [Super] Sectional final and jump down to a team like Whitney Young,” Kenwood coach Mike Irvin said. “They’re a veteran team, they’ve been there. We started from behind and never could get over that hump.”

Young got contributions from across its veteran stars. Senior forward Xavier Amos had eight points in the first quarter and the first five of the final frame, finishing with 19 points. Senior forward AJ Casey scored 14 points, including six points and an assist over the final 2:34. Junior forward Daniel Johnson added 15 points and nine rebounds.

But the star of the night was Davis, who scored 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, adding seven assists. He hit a number of contested mid-range jumpers and seemed to get to the rim at will for his patented left layups.

“We have the best guard in the city,” Slaughter added.

Whitney Young heads back downstate for the first time since 2017-18, when it finished second. It won its most recent state title the year before, in 2016-17.

“It was our last time here, so we wanted to leave a mark,” Davis said.

Kenwood’s junior stars Darrin Ames and Davius Loury were electric: Ames scored 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting; Loury scored 16 points and added 11 rebounds. Sophomore big man Calvin Robins scored 12 points and added seven boards.

But 13 turnovers and 3-16 shooting from beyond the arc cost the Broncos. Senior and Nevada commit Trey Pettigrew went 3-for-10 from the field. Fellow senior and backcourt starter Darius Robinson went scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting.

The Broncos project to return several top-rated players in their respective classes to a team that went further in the playoffs than any in program history.

“Next year, with what we have coming back, we should be in position to be No. 1 in the state,” Irvin said. 

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