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Chrissy Baird, Wheaton North
A kid who just cares. A coach's dream, this junior was an unanimous all-DVC selection for the second straight year, helping lead the Falcons to their first 20-win season since 1997 and first sectional final since 1986. Baird averaged 11.8 points and 8.0 rebounds, setting the school's single-season defensive rebounding record. She made the game-clinching block in the sectional semifinal. Baird grabbed 24 boards in a game as a sophomore. "She doesn't care who scores," Falcons coach Dave Eaton said, "as long as we win."
Stefi Bazigos, Glenbard South
A fearless competitor who plays with an edge, the Raiders junior guard was an extension of coach Julie Fonda on the floor. Bazigos wasn't afraid to take the big shot and showed no fear taking it to the basket. Bazigos averaged 10.8 points, 2.4 steals and hit 34 3s for the 23-7 Raiders team that advanced to their first sectional final under Fonda. "She has such a love for the game," Fonda said. "For me her potential is endless."
Sierra Bisso, WW South
The senior guard missed her sophomore year with a torn ACL and had this year cut short with another torn ACL. In between Bisso had quite a varsity tenure. Bisso hit 55 3s at a 37 percent rate, averaging 9.0 points. Unanimous all-DVC, Bisso broke a school record with eight 3s and scored a personal-high 30 points in a McDonald's Shootout win over Hillcrest. She will play at Cornell College. "It made it a lot easier on Meghan (Waldron) and everybody else when Sierra could sit out there and shoot 3s," Tigers coach Rob Kroehnke said.
Allison Hedrick, Neuqua Valley
This third-year varsity player enjoyed a coming-out party as a senior. An athletic post who worked the high-low well with teammate Bryce Menendez, Hedrick averaged 11.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.4 steals. Hedrick was named the Upstate Eight Valley Player of the Year for the 27-4 sectional finalists. "She waited her turn," Neuqua coach Mike Williams said. "She's proof that you don't always have to have instant success."
Malayna Johnson, Montini
Part of a three-post rotation last year, this athletic 6-4 center came into her own as a senior. Johnson finished better around the rim, averaging 8.2 points with 21 against Fremd and 17 against Fenwick, and 7.3 rebounds. An Associated Press Second-Team All-State pick, Johnson anchored Montini's matchup zone with 154 blocked shots. She will join sister Michala at Wisconsin next year. "She made big strides," Montini coach Jason Nichols said.
Kelly Karlis, Montini
In Broncos' biggest games, Karlis was at her best. The athletic 6-2 junior scored 16 points in a win over Rolling Meadows, 14 against Whitney Young and 18 in the second half of the Class 3A semifinal. Karlis has guard-like ability to get to the rim, and her length is key at the top of Montini's zone. She averaged 8.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists. "I think she's going to have a huge senior year," Montini coach Jason Nichols said, "because she had a pretty darn good junior year."
AnnaBell Lansdowne, York
For her size and stature, this 5-6 senior guard is as tough as they come. A repeat All-Area selection, Lansdowne averaged 13.0 points and hit 51 3s for the fast-finishing 17-12 Dukes. When point guard Alyssa Kovatchis went down in November with a broken collarbone, Lansdowne assumed ballhandling responsibilities, rarely leaving the floor. "She had to be everything in every game for us," York coach John Constable said. "For the most part, she was."
Lori Obendorf, Metea Valley
What can you say about this senior? "Not enough," said coach Kris Kalivas, and she wasn't kidding. Carrying Metea on her back at times with two other senior starters lost to torn ACLs, this lanky 6-2 center averaged 15.8 points and 11.7 rebounds as the 22-7 Mustangs set a program win record. The all-Upstate Eight pick scored a personal-high 28 points in the Oswego East Tournament final and 24 in regional final — 16 straight points for Metea at one point. She will play at Loras College. "She's a kid we couldn't take off the court," Kalivas said.
Laura Panicali, West Chicago
With all due respect, Panicali was the Wildcats' offense. The senior guard set West Chicago's single-season scoring record with 543 points, averaging 20.1 a game for a team that scored 39.7. She became the fourth Wildcat to score 1,000 points. Overcoming a thyroid condition, playing through a bone bruise, playing almost every position, this unanimous all-DVC pick shot 44.1 percent, 80.7 on free throws and also averaged 5.7 rebounds. She will play at Beloit College. "She had a good attitude about the game," Wildcats coach Kim Wallner said.
Christen Prasse, Benet
Benet graduated four starters off a sectional finalist, started two sophomores and a freshman and still went 20-10 playing one of the area's toughest schedules. Prasse was the biggest reason why. She scored a personal-high 34 points, including her 1,000th in the regional semifinal. For the season she averaged team-high 13.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists. Prasse, who will play at St. Louis, was named honorable mention All-State by the Associated Press. "She was the heart and soul of our team," Benet coach Peter Paul said.
Toni Romiti, Hinsdale South
As entertaining to watch play as any area kid, an explosive scorer, Romiti put the Hornets on her back. She scored 38 against Hinsdale Central, 40 against Proviso East and had 30 against Willowbrook, part of a 6-0 January stretch when she averaged 28.3 points. Despite graduating four starters, the Hornets repeated as West Suburban Gold champs behind their senior guard. For the year Romiti averaged 19.8 points, 5.0 assists and 3.2 steals, hit 84 3s and shot free throws at an 85 percent clip. "She always put her teammates first," Hornets coach Jen Belmonte said.
Gabrielle Rush, Hinsdale Central
Sophomore slump? Hardly. The Red Devils guard followed up an All-Area freshman debut with an even better sophomore season. The area's leading scorer averaged 21.2 points, made a school record 99 3s, shot free throws at an 84.8 percent rate and also averaged 3.3 assists and 3.0 steals. Rush scored 32 to beat Hinsdale South and 30 in a win over Oak Park. "She's one of the best players I've ever coached," Red Devils coach Tom McKenna said. "It's hard to imagine how good she can be."
Najee Smith, Neuqua Valley
Always a tremendous rebounder and defender, this junior's offensive game took off with expanded range on her shot. Smith averaged 8.8 points, making 21 3s at a 35 percent clip with a team-high 6.4 rebounds and 3.6 steals. A jack of all trades on the court, Smith was huge in the playoffs with 14 points against Metea and a season-high 21 against Naperville Central. "Her versatility is the key for us," Neuqua coach Mike Williams said.
Caitlin Soane, Glenbard West
The Hilltoppers senior is just scratching the surface to her potential. A former soccer player, the lanky 6-3 Loyola recruit with a soft shooting touch averaged 15 points, 5.7 rebounds and blocked 129 shots, all team highs. She also led team in assists and with 6 charges taken and scored 21 points to beat Silver champ Proviso West. "Her best basketball is still ahead of her," Hilltoppers coach Mike Hofland said.
Kateri Stone, Montini
Montini's No. 1 scoring option, Stone's value was shown at the state tournament when an ankle sprain limited her. The Broncos' best 3-point shooter and clutch at the free-throw line, Stone averaged 11.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and hit 88 3s. She was named second-team All-State by the Associated Press and is a repeat All-Area selection. "She required the attention of a lot of team's defenses," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "They keyed on her, and she still found ways to score."
Anita Sterling, Willowbrook
A third-year varsity starter, Sterling took charge in the second half of Willowbrook's breakthrough season. Sterling, who had season averages of 13.1 points and 6.9 rebounds, led the 22-6 Warriors in scoring in every game after Christmas break and led them in rebounds in all but two. Converted to a guard as a freshman, Sterling still has a wide assortment of post moves and routinely guarded the opponent's most athletic post. "There were games where she was unguardable," Willowbrook coach Terry Harrell said.
Zoe Swift, Naperville North
An electric talent, a game-changer when she was on the court for the Huskies the last four years with her speed and athleticism. Scary to think how good Swift could be if she just played basketball, but it's soccer that she'll play at Kentucky. She scored 2 goals in the state semifinal for the Class 3A soccer champion Huskies last spring. Swift, an unanimous all-DVC pick, averaged 12.3 points and also led the Huskies in assists and steals. "She sees girls who are open before they even realize they're open," Huskies coach Jacquie Discipio said.
Mandy Traversa, Wheaton North
The four-year varsity player expanded her offensive game as a senior. Still, Traversa will always be known for her shooting. At 6-foot-1 with a quick release, Traversa made 97 3s this season at a 40.7 percent rate and hit 200 on varsity. An all-DVC pick, Traversa scored a personal-high 32 points to lead Wheaton North past Elk Grove in the regional final. She also hit eight 3s against Hersey and scored her 1,000th point in the sectional final. She will play at Hope College. "For my money she's the best shooter in the state," Falcons coach Dave Eaton said.
Victoria Trowbridge, Naperville Central
Perhaps the area's most complete post, the Redhawks senior was a tenacious rebounder with athleticism that aided her on the blocks. Trowbridge averaged 12.3 points and 11.1 rebounds, with 80 blocks. An unanimous all-DVC pick who will play at Missouri-Kansas City, Trowbridge hit a last-second free throw to beat Neuqua Valley in December and had game-winning basket to cap the Redhawks' rally from 15 down to beat Benet in regional final. "As good as she was in the paint, she might have been an even better leader," Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum said.
Meghan Waldron, WW South
A repeat selection as the Daily Herald's All-Area Captain. Waldron, a junior guard committed to DePaul, carried the 29-4 Tigers to a 14-0 DVC championship and the school's first sectional title since 1997. Waldron, a second-team All-State selection by the Associated Press, averaged 18.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists, passing 1,000 varsity points. "If we were going to take that next step Meghan needed to fill the gap," WW South coach Rob Kroehnke said, "and she did."