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Meri Bennett-Swanson Vernon Hills
Spotting her on the court was easy, and not just because she stands 6 feet 2. The senior center was especially demonstrative and vocal. "She's got this great enthusiasm," coach Paul Brettner said. "I think it was just more consistent this season because, as a senior, you want to leave your mark and make sure that things go the right way. Her way of doing it was being enthusiastic and cheering on her teammates, giving them the 'Let's go,' and they responded real well to it." Bennett-Swanson's impact on the Vernon Hills program? Loud and clear. Signed with DePaul, she leaves as Vernon Hills' all-time leader in points (1,394), rebounds (718) and blocked shots (280). The tall lefty shot 74.8 percent from the foul line for her career and sank 48.5 percent of her field-goal attempts. A four-year All-North Suburban Conference selection and three-time all-area choice, she averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds per game this season in helping the Cougars finish second in the state in Class 3A for the second year in a row. She was named fourth team all-state by the Illinois High School Basketball Coaches Association and was selected honorable mention all-state by the AP. In her four seasons, the Cougars won 91 games, including a school-record 31 this season. "She's leaving some pretty big footprints at our school," Brettner said. "You look at what she's done and how we've grown from her freshman year to her senior year. As she's taken steps as a basketball player, we've taken steps as a team, and it's not coincidental. She just had a really great season this year."
Megan Borries Antioch
Smart player. Top-of-her-class brilliant. The senior guard scored a 32 on her ACT and nearly duplicated that number on the basketball court this season. A three-sport athlete, she ranks No. 1 in her class. She excelled on both ends of the court. "When it was time to have someone guarded, I put Megan on them," coach Tim Borries said of his daughter. "She was just so smart on the court. ... Megan is the player every coach wants on the floor because she understands the game so well." Borries and Paige Gallimore complemented each other in the backcourt, helping the Sequoits win 17 games. Borries, who was called up to varsity the second half of her freshman season and started for three seasons, was on teams that finished with a winning record each of her four campaigns on varsity. A two-time All-North Suburban Conference selection, she sank 55 3-pointers this season. Seven came in a 29-point effort against Taft at Niles North's Thanksgiving tournament. For the season, she averaged 11.3 points, 3 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. She made 144 3-pointers in her career. "In the bigger games, she came up big," her dad/coach said. "Against Grayslake Central (in the Chicago Northside regional final), she hung in there and led us, and almost won the game."
Morgan Dahlstrom Grayslake Central
The Rams got more from Morgan, and more was better. With the graduation of all-area guards Skyler Jessop (last year's all-area captain) and Claire Brennan, the Rams asked the 6-foot-1 junior center to elevate her game, especially at the offensive end. Dahlstrom responded by averaging a team-best 12.3 points per game, as well as 10.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. She was named special mention all-state by the Illinois High School Basketball Coaches Association. "She's come a long way since she was the extremely quiet freshman who was backing up Bekka (Llorens, Hope College)," coach Steve Ikenn said. "She definitely upped her game big-time, and she needed to. Last year, Skyler was the go-to kid. And we had Claire, too." Dahlstrom accepted her new role immediately. She nearly had a triple-double against the host school in Buffalo Grove's Thanksgiving tournament, as she finished with 17 points, 12 rebounds and 9 blocks. She scored a career-high 22 points against Hampshire and produced a pair of 21-point games. "When she first came to the varsity, she had a really good inside game, but that was all," Ikenn said. "This year, she was stepping out and shooting jump shots, and hitting them consistently. That made her a much tougher player to guard." The three-year varsity player also led the Rams in taking charges, all while continuing to be a dominant rebounder. "She just has a nose for (rebounding)," Ikenn said. "She doesn't shy away from the contact, and she boxes out well."
She's grown. Listed on the varsity roster at 5 feet 3 her freshman and sophomores years, she checks in at a towering 5-5. She's grown — on the court, too. "She came a long way on the defensive end of the floor," coach Nate Flannery said of the junior. "We were able to put her on the other team's top player at times." And to think, as a freshman and sophomore, Detweiler was pretty much known for her long-range shooting only. This season she advanced to the three-point contest finals downstate for the second time in three years. Detweiler moved to point guard in her second season as a varsity starter and averaged 10.7 points per game in steering the Knights to a school-record 26 wins. She sank 46 3-pointers in 129 attempts (36 percent) and also shot 75 percent from the foul line. She boasted 2.1 steals per game, as well. An All-Fox Valley Conference selection, she played — and acted — like a veteran. "Just great leadership for a junior," Flannery said. "We're looking forward to having her back for another year."
Kathleen Felicelli Carmel Catholic
She posted good numbers, and the Corsairs had an impressive win total. And to think all of those numbers might have been even better if Felicelli had been healthy. After the season, an MRI revealed that the hardworking junior guard had a broken tibia, which she played on the entire season. The injury was originally thought to be a calf strain or shin splints. Coach Kelly Perz said Felicelli will be in a walking boot for the next 4-6 weeks, which will keep the all-area shortstop off the softball field. "She's so tough," Perz said of the lone All-East Suburban Catholic Conference selection on her 20-win squad. "We basically had to tell her that she was injured. She basically didn't practice the whole second half of the season to try to give herself as much rest as possible." Despite the lack of practice time, Felicelli still performed at a high level in games, Perz added. The second-year varsity starter was named all-tournament at Mundelein's Turkey Shootout and averaged 10 points per game. She was tenacious at pressuring the ball and helping create turnovers that helped fuel Carmel's offense. "She was excellent at that this year," Perz said. Felicelli also averaged 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. She attacks the net in another sport, too — tennis.
Olivia Mayer Libertyville
A prolific attacker on the lacrosse field, the senior plays with the same zeal on the basketball court. Mayer, a 5-foot-5 guard, was the only returning starter for the three-time defending North Suburban Conference champions. While the Wildcats started the season by dropping their first five games, they finished with a winning record. Their tenacious playmaker led the way at both ends of the court. Her pullup shot with eight seconds left lifted the Wildcats to a win over ranked Streamwood at Mundelein's Christmas tournament. She had 18 points and 4 steals in an overtime victory over New Trier, and two days later she produced 16 points and 4 assists in win at Warren. "Olivia does it all," coach Greg Pedersen said. "She handles the ball, moves us up the floor with speed, attacks the basket, defensively harasses other ballhandlers, and she added a nice touch to her outside shot this season. She would tire out our opponents' point guards so that we were very efficient in fourth quarters." The all-conference selection averaged 9.6 points, 3 assists and 3 steals per game. She plans to play both lacrosse and basketball at Augustana.
Terese McMahon Lakes
The Eagles played 30 games this season. McMahon didn't miss a single contest. The result? With McMahon scoring the basketball at a 14.6-point-per-game clip, Lakes captured a school-record 17 victories. The 5-foot-11 forward opened the season with a career-best 29-point effort against Rolling Meadows and followed up with 22- and 21-point games. She cracked the 20-point mark four more times during the course of the season. "She toughened up a little bit, which helped her," coach Pete Schneider said. "She was not scared offensively to handle the ball, and she wanted the ball. Those were big pluses." A three-time All-North Suburban Conference selection, McMahon became the first girl in school history to score 1,000 points, finishing with 1,051 for her career. In helping Lakes earn its first berth in a regional final, she nearly pulled off a triple-double against Gordon Tech, totaling 19 points, 10 rebounds and 8 steals. "I know she's going to play in college," Schneider said. "I wish her the best. I think that's great for her."
She arrived as a petite point guard who made the varsity as a freshman and quickly became a starter. She left as a giant in a proud program. "She got better and better every year," coach Tom Dineen said of the 5-foot-5 senior, who directed the Patriots to a regional championship this season. "She entered as a very good ballhandler and probably a below-average shooter and an average defender. She left as an above-average ballhandler still, a tremendous penetrator, and very good shooter and defender. She really grew up both on and off the court. She was a very good leader and very good captain." Moffat averaged 7.9 points and 2.9 assists per game, sank 73 percent of her foul shots and chalked up 50 steals. A three-time All-North Suburban Conference selection and repeat all-area selection, she helped the Patriots win 85 games, including at least 20 in each season, during her four years. She will play Division I basketball for Lehigh. "She's just a gym rat," Dineen said. "She loves the game, and I'm very happy that she's going to be able to go on and continue to play in college. She put in a lot of time to get where she's at. I'm going to miss her. She's been huge for our program."
Claire Ogrinc Carmel Catholic
Clearly, Claire improved. Called up to varsity during her sophomore season, the 5-foot-10 forward enjoyed a breakout campaign as a senior. She got better in all facets of the game, from scoring the basketball, to taking care of it, to defending. "Something clicked over the summer and it all came together for her," coach Kelly Perz said. "She carried that over into the season. She worked hard. She didn't play much her sophomore and junior years, but she always worked hard in practice, and I felt it really paid off for her this year." Ogrinc was named all-tournament at Warren's Blue Devil Classic in helping the Corsairs win the championship. She averaged 9.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 steals per game. Like fellow all-area selection and teammate Kathleen Felicelli, she excelled at the defensive end, Perz said, exemplifying the Corsairs' goal of pressuring the ball with relentless effort. In an upset of Grayslake North in January, Ogrinc led all scorers with 17 points.
Alyssa Phillips Warren
Relying on their trusty Phillips, the Blue Devils built a winning season. In her third varsity season, the athletic 6-foot senior became more of a scorer, which complemented her low-post game. Phillips embraced her turn to be a leader on a squad that counted only three other seniors. She averaged 11 points and 8 rebounds per game, while also racking up 37 steals, 35 blocks and 34 assists. She had 6 double-doubles, including a 19-point, 13-rebound effort against Grant, and she scored a career-high 24 points in a near-upset of Zion-Benton. She shot an impressive 61 percent from the floor. "Alyssa made a lot of big plays inside, especially defensively getting rebounds," coach John Stanczykiewicz said. "And she was a tough match on the offensive end for players. I don't know if her offensive skill set is as developed as it is ultimately going to be, but her athleticism made her a real tough matchup. I think she was one of the best baseline players in Lake County."
Sydney Smith Vernon Hills
The Cougars' strong start mirrored hers. As Vernon Hills busted off an 18-game winning streak to start the season, the junior forward might have been her team's best player. Her game had clearly grown. "I think going to the basket was a big focus for her," coach Paul Brettner said. "She did a nice job in a lot of games of attacking the basket and adding another dimension. She wasn't just a spot-up three-point shooter." Smith sank 53 3s in her third season on varsity, while averaging 12.7 points per game. She had a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds in the Cougars' regional-final win over Lakes. An All-North Suburban Conference choice since her freshman year and repeat all-area selection, she was named third-team all-state by the Illinois High School Basketball Coaches Association and honorable mention all-state by the AP. She was the Cougars' top rebounder at 6.3 per game and also averaged 2.1 assists. Late in the season, she verbally committed to play Division I basketball for Vermont. She heads into her senior campaign with 1,048 points and more than 500 rebounds. "Her defense, too, has come a long way," Brettner said. "She's smart. There were some games where she was maybe going against someone with a little quicker foot speed, but she made up for it in positioning, intelligence and timing."
Carson Sparkman Grayslake Central
She's fast — in more ways than one. Take last summer, for example. Rams coach Steve Ikenn presented a challenge to the junior guard, who suited up on varsity last season but didn't play heavy minutes on a veteran team. "We talked with her over the summer and basically said, 'Carson, we graduated all of our guards, so it's time to step up here.' And she did," Ikenn said. "She took that ball from the first day of summer and started running the point." Her fast adjustment carried into the season. Sparkman sparked the Rams all winter, averaging 7.6 points, 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals per game. She was named All-Fox Valley Conference, as the Rams won 20 games. Using her speed, she showed an ability to drive to the hoop and score with either hand. "She just had a great year," Ikenn said. "She has that second gear that most kids don't have in terms of speed. Sometimes she'll just make that move and get a step on you. You'll be like, 'OK, I'll catch up to her.' You can't."
Brittney Thibeaux Grayslake North
The black-rimmed goggles could make her seem as mild-mannered as Clark Kent. But the girl was super, man. "Brittney, athletically, is amazing," coach Nate Flannery said. "When she went into last summer, I would say her skills were a little bit raw in terms of ballhandling and things like that. But she picks up on things, drills, quickly. She improves quickly. She's all basketball all the time." The junior was an instant contributor in her first varsity season, scoring 24 points in a game before the calendar read December and later in the season pouring in 28 points against Woodstock. She helped lead the Knights to 26 wins and the Fox Valley Conference Fox Division championship. She averaged 12.9 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. She swatted 13 shots in back-to-back games. When the Knights employed a 1-2-2 trap in the second half of the year, their 6-foot post was stationed up top. "Probably our biggest game-changer on the defensive end of the floor," Flannery said of his All-FVC pick. "Most posts couldn't go up to the top on defense and be able to trap players. She got a lot of steals, a lot of blocked shots. She's just a tremendous player."
Sophia Way Stevenson
Way good. Way improved from last season. "Her one-year jump was just remarkable," coach Tom Dineen said. "It's nice to have her back for a couple of more years." Way, a sophomore guard, made the varsity last season but didn't log a lot of minutes. This season, she emerged as one of the top players in the North Suburban Conference. "Nobody on our team or in our program worked harder to get better than Sophia," Dineen said. "She put in an awful lot of time to become a better shooter." A first-time all-area and All-NSC choice, Way averaged a team-leading 11.1 points per game for the 20-game winners, while also handling the ball a lot, including on inbounds plays. She shot 79 percent from the free-throw line and drained 31 3-pointers. She scored a career-high 23 points against Mundelein. Way was way good on defense, too. "She stepped up as a very good defender for us," Dineen said. "She's just a real good competitor and a wonderful young lady that just wants to get better and better."
Lauren Webb Vernon Hills
It was a tall task for a tall girl. After displaying her low-post skills as a forward her first two seasons on varsity, the 6-foot junior accepted the responsibility of being the top ballhandler on a Cougars team that had expectations of earning a return trip downstate. "When she was asked to be our primary point guard, she embraced it," coach Paul Brettner said. "She did a nice job." Webb had a phenomenal season. She ran the attack, averaging a team-best 13 points per game, as the Cougars finished second in the state in Class 3A for the second year in a row. Named captain of the Daily Herald All-Area team, she showed an ability to face the basket, attack and make the right decisions with the ball in her hands. Her postseason play was particularly impressive. She scored 21 points in the Cougars' state-semifinal upset of three-time defending state champ Montini. She had a double-double of 17 points and 10 rebounds in the state championship game against undefeated Quincy Notre Dame. A repeat All-North Suburban Conference and all-area selection, Webb surpassed the 1,000-point mark for her career against Montini. The AP all-state honorable mention selection heads into her senior season with 1,024 points and more than 500 rebounds. And if the Cougars need her to play the point again, that's what she will do. "She's a great teammate," Brettner said. Webb has Division-I scholarship offers from several schools, including Central Michigan, Evansville, Loyola and Kent State.
2012-13 All-area roster
Player School Pos. Yr.
Meri Bennett-Swanson Vernon Hills C Sr.
Megan Borries Antioch G Sr.
Morgan Dahlstrom Grayslake Central C Jr.
Kendall Detweiler Grayslake North PG Jr.
Kathleen Felicelli Carmel Catholic G Sr.
Olivia Mayer Libertyville PG Sr.
Terese McMahon Lakes F Sr.
Kari Moffat Stevenson PG Sr.
Claire Ogrinc Carmel Catholic F Sr.
Alyssa Phillips Warren F Sr.
Sydney Smith Vernon Hills F Jr.
Carson Sparkman Grayslake Central PG Jr.
Brittney Thibeaux Grayslake North F Jr.
Sophia Way Stevenson G So.
*Lauren Webb Vernon Hills PG/F Jr.
Brie Bahlmann (Vernon Hills Sr. G), Jordyn Bowen (Grayslake North Sr. G), Taylor Buford (Stevenson So. F), Natalie Busscher (Mundelein So. F), Alex Elzinga (Stevenson Sr. F), Paige Gallimore (Antioch Jr. PG), Sara Gazdacka (Lake Zurich Sr. G), Joanna Guhl (Grayslake North Sr. C), Kaylie Kanzler (Grant Jr. G), Dana Kym (Libertyville Sr. F), Maggie Mahar (Mundelein So. G), Bianca Mahoney (Round Lake Sr. PG), Maddy Miller (Grayslake Central Jr. F/G), Kyle Nedelka (Warren Fr. G), Lauren Nee (Wauconda Jr. G), Kristen O'Brien (Warren Jr. G), Kayla Quinn (Carmel Catholic Sr. C), Amanda Smith (Lakes Sr. PG), Sarah Stefaniu (Lake Zurich Sr. G)
Selections and profiles by Joe Aguilar
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