Brooke Sauer sported big bling, making the Grayslake North senior stand out much like her basketball team has in the last five weeks.
Sauer squeezed an elaborate trophy so tall it was nearly the size of 5-foot-3 teammates Jordyn Bowen and Kendall Detweiler. Sauer decorated the trophy by draping her individual medal over it.
"It feels great to hold it," a smiling Sauer said after she and her teammates defeated Marengo 46-31 in the championship game of the Northern Illinois Holiday Classic at McHenry on Thursday. "It'll look nice in our case."
It will be the first trophy the Knights will have contributed to their school's trophy case.
"It means a lot to us," said senior Allie Ceglarek, a three-year varsity player, who contributed 4 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals. "We've been working hard as a team. It's our attitude that basically wins the games for us. Our confidence level is so high. As seniors, the five of us, we are so proud to be on this team this year. It's amazing."
The trophy might not be Grayslake North's last this season.
The Knights won all five of their games in the tournament, while improving to 11-3 and extending their winning streak to 11.
The school record for wins in a season is 12.
"Grayslake North is a very good team," said Marengo coach Nick Rode, whose team got 15 points from Jessica Villie. "They deserved to win the championship. They play very hard."
The Knights feature five seniors in Sauer, Ceglarek, Katie McGrath, Sara Steinhoff and Christina Freese, all of whom have been on varsity since at least their sophomore year. The group has endured some tough times, including last season when the Knights went 9-19.
"I think it validates my seniors' four years of hard work," coach Jim Sarver of his squad's championship. "You go from last year to this year, and it's a completely different world."
In the sophomore Detweiler and 5-10 junior Joanna Guhl, the Knights have the best of both worlds offensively. Against Marengo (11-3, 4-1), Detweiler scored 17 of her game-high 19 points, including five 3-pointers, in the first half, helping Grayslake North take a 24-16 lead into halftime.
In the second half, Marengo hounded Detweiler on the perimeter, leaving Guhl often alone with one defender on her. The Knights found her.
Guhl had 13 of her 14 points in the second half. She grabbed 18 rebounds, too.
Sauer, Ceglarek, Christina Freese and Steinhoff also hit the score sheet after halftime.
"You think you just have to stop (Detweiler), and then the rest of the team scores," said Sarver, whose team was up 39-23 after three quarters. "That's why we're 11-0 in our last 11 games. We're not just one-dimensional."
"Teamwork," said Sauer, who had 8 rebounds and 3 assists. "Communication is the big thing."
While Detweiler and Guhl took care of the majority of the Knights' scoring, Bowen again spearheaded the defense. The junior recorded 5 steals and forced a five-second violation.
For the second straight day at McHenry, Grayslake North did not allow its opponent to score in double digits in any quarter.
The Knights haven't lost since Nov. 17.
"It feels amazing," Sauer summed. "We have persevered through thick and thin. These girls work so hard. Even our bench, they support us through everything."