It's been a few years since we've presented our season-ending look at the Fox Valley girls basketball season this far into March.
Thanks, Bartlett -- and we mean that in a good way.
It had been five years since a Fox Valley team had made it to Redbird Arena, so this was my first state tournament under the four-class system. I've covered a couple state volleyball tournaments with four classes and didn't like it very much, but basketball? Not a fan.
Sorry, but I'm still old school, and the Friday quarterfinals at the state basketball tournament -- boys and girls -- were always special. You got to see a true cross-section of teams from around the state, not the geographic clumps we have with a four-class system. Six of the eight teams at this year's Class 3-4A girls tournament were from Chicago or the suburbs.
If that's the trend that's going to continue, let's move the 3-4A tournament to the Sears Centre and save some people some time and expense. Nobody shows up at Redbird anymore anyway. Fortunately, the monster crowds from Vernon Hills and Bartlett saved Friday a little but by the time Loyola was playing Edwardsville Friday night, there might not have been 500 people in the place, players included. We love ISU and Redbird -- it's an awesome venue. But so is the Sears Centre and you can't tell me attendance wouldn't be better than it is in Normal. And you can't tell me it's all about the experience anymore either. Kids today travel so much playing club sports, staying in a hotel at the state tournament with your teammates is nothing more than an "only the names change" experience.
I also doubt there are many coaches out there who would be opposed to knowing their players were sleeping in their own beds as opposed to being in a hotel.
I know, I know, times change and we have to roll with it. So we will. But that doesn't mean we can't remember the hey day of basketball in Illinois now and then. Those are memories we'll never get back.
Soapbox now stored in the closet, we present today a look back and a look forward at girls basketball, team-by-team, in the Fox Valley.
Bartlett: The leader of the pack around here and one of them in the state this season, the senior-laden Hawks were one brick wall named Whitney Young from a likely Class 4A state championship (no doubt here Bartlett also would have run past Edwardsville). This will be one of those teams we'll remember for a long time. Great athletes, hard-nosed team players, great personalities, and a coach that let them do their thing within the framework of the game plan. 32-2 and third place in the state tournament. Well done, Hawks. Next year at Bartlett? Well, anytime you graduate eight seniors you have to rebuild, but Sarna's been able to do that since Bartlett opened in 1998 and she likely will again.
Cary-Grove: Another nice run to the sectional finals resulted in a second straight heartbreaking 2-point loss in what the IHSA now calls the Super Sixteen round (come on, do we have to change everything?). Coach Rod Saffert's Trojans were 21-9 and may have overachieved a little. But with junior standouts Olivia Jakubicek and Joslyn Nicholson returning Saffert has a good base again. Junior Megan Leisten, sophomores Sarah Kendeigh and Abby Glaysher and freshman Katie Barker saw significant PT this season so, a fourth straight division title in the Fox Valley Conference is not out of reach.
South Elgin: Things are definitely on the upswing along Kenyon Road. A 19-11 season and a regional championship were school firsts and there's no reason to believe the winning won't continue. Coach Tim Prendergast knows he can't replace all-area co-captain Becca Smith and all the things she brought to the court each night, but there's a really good nucleus of experienced players back, including sophomore starters Savanah Uveges, Kennede Miller and Anna Tracy. Add junior Kara Rodriguez, who will be back from her knee injury, and those coming up for a 25-1 sophomore team and South Elgin could be a pick to click next year.
Hampshire: After four straight regional titles, the question will be can the Whip-Purs do it again? Coach Ed Haugens loses three top seniors from a 17-15 team that was ultra-competitve in its first year in the Fox Valley Conference, but he has experience back in junior Lizzy Panzica and sophomores Jenny Dumoulin and Sara Finn. Haugens always gets the best out of his teams, so look for Hampshire to be a winner again next season.
Streamwood: If we gave out a character award, the Sabres would be a runaway winner this season. Depleted by injury more than any other area team this season, coach George Rosner's Sabres still managed a 15-14 campaign and made it to a regional title game. It's too bad they lost spunky senior point guard Amanda Patterson to an ACL but with juniors Jessica Cerda, Deja Moore and Brittany Delao and sophomore Holly Foret all returning to build around sophomore center Hannah McGlone, don't be surprised to see another Streamwood winner in 2012-13.
Dundee-Crown: Chargers' coach Michelle Russell and her team did a commendable job of turning things around this year, recording a winning record (15-11) for the first time since 2004-05. The senior trio of Ali Sanders, Diamond Williams and Carlin Faulkner will be hard to replace, but there is promise with junior Jillian Weichmann, sophomore Emily Michalski and freshman call up Jesenia LeBoy.
St. Edward: The Green Wave had another 21-8 season but fell short of their goal of winning a regional title, and they'll have to reload with Callie Johnson, Maddie Kerr, Alex Lee, Katherine Von Ahnen, Paige Gannon and Kelly Tripicchio all graduating. Junior point guard Rena Ranallo is back and she's one of the best in the area, and promising sophomore Katie Swanson will be looked at to step up next year as well.
Crystal Lake South: While the young Gators finished just 12-18 they showed great promise in stretches and they have one of the best sophomores in the area returning in Sara Mickow. Add in the varsity experience of junior Lauren Delvecchio and sophomore Rachel Rasmussen and coach Kyle McCaughn's nucleus for 2012-13 looks solid.
Huntley: Another team that had its good moments and bad moments in a 13-15 season, the Red Raiders and coach Steve Raethz have all-area returnees Haley Ream and Sam Andrews back to build around.
Jacobs: The Golden Eagles graduate six seniors including their top three scorers, so it will be an important summer for them to start building a new nucleus.
Burlington Central: Jenna Real's first season at the helm of her alma mater's program had ups and downs during the 13-16 season but that's to be expected with a new coach. As Real continues to install her system, the Rockets will get better and better. There's a good group back that includes juniors Camille Dela Cruz and Erica Haynes and freshman Alison Colby, who all got valuable varsity experience this year.
Elgin: Another tough season with just 1 win for the Maroons, but coach Dr. Nick Bumbales has been successful at bringing the participation numbers up and the hope is that will lead to the varsity team being more competitive. Two-time all-area standout Bri Hamilton will be tough to replace but there's hope in experienced sophomores Jessica Ramirez and Maggie Powers.
Larkin: The Royals (5-22) are on the right track with new coach Tissanie Simmons, who won't stand for anything less than your best effort. Sophomore Tori Patterson will be the Royals' top player back next year.
Westminster Christian: A 22-win season and a trip to the Class 1A sectional finals bodes well for a team laden with underclass players. Keep an eye on junior Porsche Griggs and sophomores Claire Spweiek and McKaila Hays, among others.
Harvest Christian: The Lions won 17 games in their first year in IHSA competition and that surely could have been 20 or more had 6-foot-2 sophomore Sydney Doby not gone down with an ankle injury. With Doby and point guard freshman Kylee Knox back, among others, coach Kelly Friestad could have a team that can challenge for a Class 1A regional title next year.
Elgin Academy: The Hilltoppers will miss senior all-area selection Ashley Barnes, who led them to a 10-win season.
So there it is -- another girls basketball season in the books.
What was that the umpire just yelled? Play ball!? Gotta go now.