Lips pursed, armed crossed and standing a few feet away, Carmel Catholic girls basketball coach Kelly Perz listened as Claire Ogrinc tried answering a question modestly.
As Ogrinc pondered whether she thought her game has improved since the beginning of the season, Perz smiled and nodded repeatedly.
"I'm just trying to see the floor a lot more, trying to get my teammates open," Ogrinc said. "I think that works. My teammates are making a lot of good passes and setting a lot of good screens."
Know who's also gotten better?
The Corsairs handed visiting Grayslake North just its second loss of the season Thursday night, getting a game-high 17 points from Ogrinc in a 46-37 nonconference victory. Kathleen Felicelli added 13 points and 7 steals, and Kayla Quinn grabbed 11 rebounds and scored 6 points for the winners.
"We were fired up about this game," Perz said after her Corsairs improved to 12-7.
"Highs and lows of high school basketball, I guess," Grayslake North coach Nate Flannery said with a smile after his Knights couldn't sustain the energy they played with a night earlier, when they earned an emotional win over their crosstown rival.
Grayslake North (15-2) might have lacked some of the fire it had Wednesday night in snapping a 10-game losing streak against Grayslake Central, but the Knights weren't making any excuses.
"It was hard," acknowledged Grayslake North center Joanna Guhl, who had 16 rebounds, 5 points and 3 blocked shots. "We were definitely pumped up still. (The Grayslake Central game) was just such an emotional drain. We just needed to go back to what we had emotionally and mentally, but unfortunately we didn't follow through here."
Grayslake North defeated Carmel 41-28 on Nov. 14 at Mundelein's Thanksgiving tournament. Since then, however, the Corsairs have gotten better, in part thanks to playing a rugged East Suburban Catholic Conference schedule. They lost to Fenwick by only four points last Saturday.
"They've improved a lot," Flannery said. "Their defensive intensity was just completely different. That shows, to me, that building a tough schedule pays off. They played well."
"We have (improved)," Perz acknowledged. "We're a different team. I think our defense is a lot more intense, and we're just smarter on offense with the ball."
Ogrinc, who was named to the all-tournament team at Warren and scored 16 points against Fenwick, helped Carmel pull away down the stretch. With Carmel clinging to a 33-29 lead midway through the fourth, the senior forward had a steal and layup and then sank 2 free throws.
She scored 8 points in the fourth, going 6 of 10 from the foul line. Ogrinc also finished with 5 rebounds and 5 steals.
Back-to-back layups by Cassidy Kloss early in the fourth helped Carmel extend its lead that was 28-25 after three. The advantage stretched to as many as 11 points. Leah Lach added 3 steals for Carmel, while Nicole Bitter and Paige Gauthier had 2 apiece. Emma Rappe took a charge.
"They run the floor a lot more," Guhl said. "They're really organized. They know what they're doing. It was good to play them because it helps us see what we need to improve on for the future."
Grayslake North got double-digit points from Kendall Detweiler (13 points, three 3-pointers) and Shyanne Ludwick (11), in addition to 6 steals from Jordyn Bowen, but 32 turnovers killed the Knights.
Moreover, leading scorer Brittney Thibeaux sat most of the game due to foul trouble. The 6-foot junior had only three minutes of playing time in the final three quarters, and finished with 3 points before fouling out.
"We've had frustrating nights where she was getting fouls away from the basket, but tonight it was going after rebounds, being aggressive inside," Flannery said. "It was just a tough situation."