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NORMAL -- If I had a dollar for every time this line has been written, I could think about retiring:
"Burlington Central, with just one senior on the roster …"
It happens often. A team has only one senior, whose playing time is limited and who is not "the star" of the team, and quickly that player becomes the "one senior on the roster."
Well, those seniors have names, and in this case the name is Kathleen Ratzek.
Ratzek is the only senior on Central's girls basketball team. She plays with a group that includes five juniors and five sophomores. But despite the fact she doesn't start and doesn't see as much time on the court as she does on the bench, she is a team captain and her contributions to the Rockets' success this season have been irreplaceable.
And on Thursday at Redbird Arena she was having the time of her life as the Rockets went through their shootaround and all the pomp and circumstance that comes with participating in an IHSA state tournament. BC will take on Montini at 12:15 p.m. Friday in the first Class 3A state semifinal.
"It's incredible, it really is," said Ratzek, just after finishing a TV spot promoting good sportsmanship with veteran sportscaster Lee Hall, of making state a year after the Rockets lost to Vernon Hills in the supersectional.
"I knew we could do it. Last year was unfortunate but to be a part of it this year is really special, especially with these girls. It's a memorable experience I'm sure I'll never forget."
Ratzek, who has scored 54 points and made 11 3-pointers for the Rockets this season, takes little time to think about any age difference between her and her teammates.
"I don't feel any age difference and I don't feel separated from them," she said. "We're all really close.
"I feel like it's my job to be a leader and to be there for them for whatever they need. They are amazing players. This whole playoff experience has been amazing. It's been so much fun."
Rockets' coach Mark Smith, in his second year with this young team, holds Ratzek and her contributions to the team close to his heart.
"What a joy to be around," he said. "I've never seen her down. Nothing fazes her when it comes to playing time. She has an incredibly positive attitude and it's been a complete joy to coach her and be around her.
"In 30 years of coaching she has to be one of the top five great teammates I've ever had. She's just a fantastic kid and I think the world of her."
Ratzek, an Elgin resident, is also spending this weekend getting a leg up on scoping out her home for the next four years. She will attend Illinois State University in the fall and study to be a speech pathologist with a minor in Spanish.
"That makes this even more cool," she said.
Home away from home: While much is made of Montini's dominance in Class 3A -- the Broncos are at state for the fifth straight year and sixth time in the past seven years -- the same can be said for Corry Irvin's Whitney Young team in Class 4A.
Irvin, nee Carter, a Larkin graduate and inductee to the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame, is now in her 13th year as Young's head coach and she has the Dolphins at state for the seventh straight year and ninth time since she took over the program. Young has two state titles under Irvin, the last coming in 2012 when they went 34-0. Irvin, whose 30-3 team plays Marian Catholic in the 8:15 p.m. semifinal Friday, is now 357-53 in her career at Young. Her teams have never had a losing season and since going 18-10 her first year, the Dolphins have won at least 21 games every season since. She also continues to be assisted by her dad, Deryl, who is a lifelong Elgin resident.
Local whistles: Scott Klingberg and Scott Sobeski of Elgin will be among the referees this weekend.