The second consecutive year of the Morton College Christmas Tournament did not disappoint me in my expectation of seeing competitive basketball played at a high level.
For the second consecutive season I saw big games that went down to the wire and have plenty to write about after the fact.
In a first, I covered high school games with a shot clock.
Great event as always at @MortonJCWBB. @JNBAhoops2018, that Chicken Parm may have been more clutch than the hoops were! And always happy to run into my dudes @PGHByron @bobnarang pic.twitter.com/I3qPgB9mvQ— Kaleb Carter (@Kaleb_M_Carter) December 31, 2022
Players from each team I enjoyed watching the most today from each team:— Kaleb Carter (@Kaleb_M_Carter) December 31, 2022
Geneva: Rilee Hasegawa
Fremd: Ellie Thompson
North: Abby Homan
Benet: Sam Trimberger
Hersey: Annika Manthy
Batavia: Addie Prewitt
DF: Aubrey Galvan
LZ: Avery Cooper
ETHS: Kailey Starks
Syc: Monroe McGhee
No Meghan Mrowicki (2023) for Hersey caused some problems for the Huskies, which dropped two games in the competitive tournament after the Huskies had won 14 straight.
That said, Katy Eidle (2023) dropped a big 32 points in a win over the Bulldogs, who came with a lot of bite to the tournament.
I caught the fourth quarter of this one and boy am I glad I got there for the end.
The Huskies entered the fourth ahead 48-39. Batavia responded with a 7-0 run keyed by energy from emerging guard Addie Prewitt (2025), who did have some turnover issues Friday. Batavia and Hersey combined for 40 turnovers on what was each team’s fourth game in as many days. Alexa Schorr sank a corner 3 to pull the Bulldogs within 2.
Prewitt put the Bulldogs up 51-50 on a tough bucket through contact and made the free throw.
A dagger of a corner 3-pointer from Katy Eidle with 1:05 left put Hersey back on top ad Annika Manthy slammed the door shut with an and-1 layup with 16 seconds to go.
Brooke Carlson(2024) scored 27, had 6 rebounds, 6 steals, 3 assists and 2 blocks. The Bulldogs are succeeding in a year of transition as a much smaller team than years past considering Tessa Towers isn’t manning the front court for Batavia.
Kelsey Neary, one of the state’s top assists leaders, assisted on 10 Hersey buckets.
Since moving to Illinois, this is the fifth season of basketball I’ve covered, and only in the covid-shortened 2020 season that was played entirely in Feb/March 2021, did I not see Sycamore play.
I used to cover the Spartans for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle and have seen them play a lot of good basketball. A handful of Division I caliber players have competed for the Spartans in recent years.
Evanston got going right away, erasing any early questions about inconsistent offensive play they’ve exhibited from time to time this season.
Zuri Ransom (2023) showed off the type of off-the-dribble pull-up game that should have more college coaches come calling. Unless I’m missing something, she’s not getting the attention her game should command.
The Wldkits’ 6-4 forward Ciara Gentile (2023) has been impacting games all season with her length, and caused a few problems, blocking 5 shots vs. a smaller Sycamore team that does boast Western Michigan commit Evyn Carrier. Carrier went on to sustain an ankle injury in the third quarter that ket her out the rest of the game.
Monroe McGee (2024) and Lexi Carlsen (2024) showcased Sycamore’s capable backcourt, combining for 22 points, but were outmatched by strong games from Ransom and Evanston’s much-improved Kailey Starks (2024) and Arianna Milam-Pryor (2024)
Starks, who has been doing a bit of everything statically as of late for the Wildkits, tied Ransom with a game-high 17 points, and had 8 rebounds and 5 steaks.
Any time I take a look at stats for Lake Zurich, I see someone else stepping up. The Bears are winning simple, relatively low-scoring basketball games, just the way coach Chris Bennett likes it.
Seemingly always under control and making strong decisions is Baylie Parks (2023)
“We have a lot of balanced scorers,” Parks said. We play team basketball. We do a really good job. It’s almost a different high-scorer every game.”
Nikki Kerstein (2025) scored 8 first-quarter points, and Aubrey Galvan heated up in the second quarter, scoring 11 points by half as Deerfield led 21-20. Deerfield even led 27-20 in the third.
But the Bears’ defense, as it tends to do, locked in. Parks hit a 3-pointer that gave LZ a 32-30 lead. Different players continued to make plays. A Layne Nordstrom (2026) shot-fake and floater. A Molly Friesen (2025) jumper. Anna Gilbertson (2024) pushed through contact for a make.
Vermont commit Lexi Kerstein (2023) was uncharacteristically quiet before sinking a go-ahead triple with 1:27 left for a 41-40 Warriors lead.
But 6-2, athletic forward forward Avery Cooper (2025) owned the boards and combined with Parks to sink 6 free throws over the final stretch to clinch the dub. Parks and Cooper each scored 11 apiece.
“She’s a real good player now,” Parks said of Cooper. “I know she’s going to be a beast. She’s only a sophomore. I really like playing with her.”
The Warriors executed several offensive play calls down the stretch to get looks they wanted, but couldn’t get them to go.
Galvan scored 17 and Nikki Kerstein contributed 12 points.
The Bears have the type of experience in Brooke Wahlund and Parks to feel confident about making a postseason run, but the type of underclassmen talent they have makes them truly a team to be excited about.
Naperville North came into Cicero and made a bold statement: Watch us.
That’s my perspective of the matter at least. The Huskies, were led on this day from a big effort on both ends of the floor from Abby Homan (2023, had 13 points) and scoring outputs of 15 apiece from Abby Drendel (2023) and Peyton Fender (2023).
With fellow senior Layla Henderson making plays and contributing, the experienced squad overcame a halftime deficit with a big third quarter and early 4th quarter run.
When all was said and done, Naperville North had held Indiana-bound Lenee Beaumont (2023) to 11 points. North came out of the tourney with a 4-point loss to champs Geneva, and wins over Mother McAuley, Hersey and Benet, three teams that have spent lots of time this season in the Illinois-Basketball.com rankings.
Fo large swaths of the game, both teams struggled to convert shooting, but Geneva repeatedly got to the charity stripe.
There, they put on a clinical free throw shooting display (28 of 36) in a win avenging a loss in the same event’s championship game a season ago. Considering Fremd had also beaten Geneva by 10 earlier this season, it was a huge victory for Geneva.
“They’re a good, strong, big, physical team,” Arni said. “We knew came in here and knew it was going to be aggressive. We just had to be be prepared and I think all of our players knew that.
Tournament MVP Cassidy Arni (2023, a Wisconsin-Parkside commit) scored 17, pulled down rebounds and blocked shots. Arni and Lauren Slagle (a 6-2, 2023 forward committed to Grand Valley State) had to have blocked at least 10 shots
“They played hard, they pounded us on the boards and they got to the free throw line,” Fremd coach Dave Yates said.
Arni hit big free throws, a huge 3-pointer that banked off the glass to end the third quarter, and defense plays throughout he game, which did not slow in the fourth quarter.
“She (Arni) had the big task of guarding Todd and she did a nice job on her and she had 29 against us the first time we played and we knew we had to limit her,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. “She’s going to score, but we didn’t want to give up 29.”
Rilee Hasegawa (2023) also had a stretch in which she sank an important 3-pointer, grabbed a defensive rebound on the other end, with lead to her feeding Arni for an open layup and a 7-point Geneva lead in the fourth.
“Those were huge, she reads me so well,” Arni said. I’ve played with her since we were little. She feeds me, she sees all the little cracks that are open.”
Ellie Thompson (2025), Maddy Fay, (2023 NIU commit)) Kace Urlacher (2023, IUPUI commit)) and Todd all made their contributions on the offensive end, but Geneva kept all of them from getting into a sustained groove. Thompson did get into a hot streak in the second quarter, but was shut out after that.
Having seen Fremd twice this year, I am of the opinion that the team is a bonafide 4A title favorite.
But I’m of the mind that Geneva also stands a good shot of making a run to Redbird Arena. I wasn’t sure where I stood on the mater before, but I do now. Geneva found a way to win in a high-pressure environment while it did not shoot the ball well from the floor. That spells a serious contender.