Hopes haven't been this sky-high for Warren's girls basketball team heading into a season since sky-high Sarah Boothe patrolled the paint.
In their season opener Wednesday night, the Blue Devils fell short.
Petite point-guard short.
Holding Warren without a basket for an eight-minute stretch during the first half, and then pitching a third-quarter shutout, visiting Loyola captured a 37-31 win in the season opener for both teams as part of the New Trier holiday tournament.
"A lot of people have doubted us in past years," said senior guard Lexi Leneau, one of three four-year varsity players for Warren along with Division I recruits Amanda Barger (Youngstown State) and Jessica Prince (Wisconsin-Milwaukee). The trio arrived at Warren the same year (2008) that current Stanford pivot Boothe graduated.
"This year they have their standards set really high for us," Leneau continued. "So we're like, 'We have to be this good. We have to be this good,' when we should really just play to our strengths and not try to play to please the people sitting in the stands."
Warren coach John Stanczykiewicz said he knew his team was nervous before the start of the game when several players noticed their palms were sweaty.
The Blue Devils opened the game by hitting 4 of 5 three-point attempts (two apiece by Leneau and sophomore Cassie Christie) and led 12-2. Leneau's pull-up 18-footer from the corner had the hosts up 14-3 with 2:45 left in the opening quarter.
But Warren didn't score again until the 6-foot-3 Prince finished a feed into the post from Barger with 2:28 to go before halftime, stopping a 13-0 run by the Ramblers.
The two squads went into halftime tied 18-18.
Loyola senior K.C. Stralka opened the third quarter by hitting a jumper and rolling in a layup, and the Ramblers outscored Warren 10-0. The Blue Devils missed all 11 of their shots in the quarter and turned the ball over four times against man-to-man pressure.
"I thought we did a really good job defensively," Loyola coach Jeremy Schoenecker said. "I thought that was the key to the game."
Warren finally scored its first basket of the second half when Alyssa Phillips finished a Prince pass under the basket 1:29 into the fourth.
"We just didn't develop anything offensively," Stanczykiewicz said. "It was very disappointing with that many seniors on the floor that we didn't play with more purpose."
A steal and layup by Leneau got Warren within 33-26 with 2:27 left, but junior Anna Schueler answered with a 3 for Loyola.
"It's rough," said Leneau, who scored a game-high 17 points (four 3s) and added 4 steals. "But we just got to keep our heads up. We played hard."
Leneau was the Blue Devils' only double-digit scorer. Prince (9 rebounds, 3 assists) and Barger were held to 4 and 2 points, respectively. They combined to shoot 2 of 17 (both baskets by Prince).
"Lauren Kriz and K.C. Stralka did a fantastic job on Prince," Schoenecker said.
Stralka led Loyola with 13 points, while Schueler (three 3s) had 10.
"Give all the credit to Loyola," Stanczykiewicz said. "After the first four minutes, we just couldn't maintain any offensive rhythm. I thought, generally, we did OK defensively for the first game of the season."