By the time Lake Zurich's girls basketball team starts putting together consistent hot streaks, Kaylee Grant likely will be basking in consistent heat.
In one month, the junior will be moving back to Keller, Texas, outside of Dallas, where she attended high school as a freshman, before transferring to Lake Zurich.
"We enjoy the weather and southern hospitality down there," Grant said. "The things I'm going to miss the most are the Lake Zurich basketball and softball teams. You get attached to your teammates and coaches. That's going to be hard to leave."
An all-area softball catcher last spring, Grant also played varsity basketball as a sophomore for the Bears. She came off the bench to score 4 points and grab 4 rebounds Monday morning, as Lake Zurich opened the Mundelein Mustang Holiday Classic with a 51-38 loss to Prairie Ridge.
"I'm excited to go back (to Keller)," said Grant, a St. Louis native whose move is due to her dad's job. "I did like my old high school, but it's rough because we're so close (on the Lake Zurich basketball team) and I feel like we're starting to get in a groove a little bit."
One reason for the Bears' improved play is Grant, a 5-foot-7 forward.
"She's been great," Lake Zurich coach Chris Bennett said. "The last two weeks we've been playing a lot better. We're starting to figure some things out, and I think that's coincided with her picking up her game. She's understanding what we want her to do. She's just tenacious on the defensive end."
Theresa Bauman led Lake Zurich (3-8) against Prairie Ridge (9-4), coming off the bench to score a team-high 13 points (7-of-9 foul shooting) and grab 7 rebounds. Her baseline move and bucket gave the Bears their second 1-point lead (16-15) with 2:56 left before halftime.
"She's getting confidence and being stronger with the ball," Bennett said of the 6-foot junior. "We're trying to get that attitude in her of running people over, throwing a shoulder as she goes up for a post move and then finishing. We're getting there."
Bennett is happy with his team's approach, despite its won-lost record. The Bears won only five games last season. Last Thursday against Deerfield, they rallied from 18 points down in the fourth quarter to win the nonconference game on Abby Pirron's 3-pointer.
Sophomores Pirron and Rachel Kuhr started against Prairie Ridge, while their classmate Frankie Nasca came off the bench in the second half to score 9 points, including a 3-pointer, on 4-of-5 shooting. Nasca usually starts but missed a couple of practices last week due to a wedding, Bennett said. Another promising sophomore, Vanessa DiVincenzo, has been sidelined due to an injury.
"We definitely struggled last year," Grant said. "I think we've improved more than our record is showing. Last year there were a lot of games where it was over in the first half. This year we're playing tight games. I think we just need to work on finishing."
Center Maddie Drain led Prairie Ridge with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocked shots. The 6-3 senior is a three-sport star for the Wolves.
"Their big girl is hard to guard," Bennett said. "We don't really zone, and I don't know if that would have helped anyway. Even if you had a zone, you would have to put two players in front and back of her, and they'd just throw it over the top of you."
A Bauman free throw had Lake Zurich within 19-17 late in the first half, before Prairie Ridge finished off the half with 2 free throws by Sarah Kilhoffer and a layup by Drain. The Wolves then started the second half with a 9-0 run, which ended with Grant's turnaround jumper, and increased their lead to 18 points late in the fourth.
Sarah LeBeau (three 3s) added 11 points. Drain shot 8 of 11 from the floor. On three occasions, the Wolves lobbed the ball over the net to her.
"They're taught to go to the basket and, if they can't get a nice look at the basket, go big. Which means go to Maddie," Prairie Ridge coach Rob Baker said of his players. "Our philosophy, too, is that a missed shot is not a big deal. We want to make sure we get a shot every time down the floor. If we have a missed shot, we got the biggest kid on the floor that's going to have a good chance to rebound the basketball."