Effort, teamwork help Dundee-Crown overcome adversity
Dundee-Crown's Cassidy Randl, Payton Schmidt and Katelyn Skibinski wiped away tears on their blue uniforms as they left the locker room following a 60-49 loss to Lake Park in the Class 4A South Elgin supersectional on Monday.
Still on the court, the state-bound Lancers passed around the supersectional plaque and posed for pictures.
In four years, Randl, Schmidt and Skibinski helped lead D-C to 89 wins -- or an average of 22 wins a season. They expected to be celebrating their 90th Monday, then maybe one or two more after that.
"They didn't take any of it for granted," D-C coach Sarah Miller said. "Never a satisfied attitude. They truly felt like it was a privilege for this opportunity. They had to step up in younger years when numbers were low. You just saw their growth into outstanding players and how they impacted those around them."
D-C (29-7) ended its season a win short of its second state berth and first since 1984. And, for the second time this season, Lake Park stopped a Chargers' 10-game winning streak. This one stung a bit more.
"It's been real special to be a part of this program," Schmidt said. "For it to come to an end is one of the hardest feelings, but it's also been one of the best times of my life. They're my sisters."
Randl, Schmidt and Skibinski have been on varsity all four years in high school under Miller, something that's pretty rare and worth applauding. But the three were a part of something even bigger, something the Chargers talk about after every game, win or lose: "11 deep."
No, these Chargers weren't about themselves.
Miller, in her seventh year at D-C, has never had a collection of players quite like this. All 11 are upperclassmen: eight seniors and three juniors. One sophomore, Kate Raby, was called up for the postseason run.
They welcomed her in with open arms, too. Now they just call it, '12 deep.'
The Chargers have improved in wins in each of the last four seasons. And it's probably no coincidence why, as this group has been lacing up their shoes on the same court and sharing bus rides since middle school.
That's probably why D-C didn't quit once, even when Lake Park took a 38-28 lead with two minutes left in the third quarter. The Chargers responded with a 14-2 run to take their first lead with 6:57 left in the fourth, with their season on the line.
"Being together and fighting for each other," Skibinski said. "That's what he had to do coming into this game. We have that motto, '11 deep,' and I think that's what got us this far. We got here when no one believed we could."
D-C overcame two injuries. First, a torn ACL to three-year starter Gianine Boado ended her season prematurely in December. Then, junior Arysia Harris broke her hand in January, further testing the Chargers' depth.
Seniors Emily Oldham, Erica Sanchez, Hannah Koehlert, Alaina Azar and Makayla Gotter were all up to the challenge.
"They wanted to be part of something bigger than themselves," Miller said. "Looking up videos at night, knowing they might not get into the game (the next day)."
The Chargers still have much to celebrate, even if they might not feel like celebrating right now.
D-C became the first area FVC 4A team since Huntley four years ago to play in a supersectional. That team was led by McHenry County's all-time leading scorer, Ali Andrews -- now a senior at Illinois.
The Chargers did not have one "super stud," Miller said, although junior forward Alyssa Crenshaw showed why she's one of the most dominant players in the area this postseason.
Since the start of the 2016-17 season, D-C won two Fox Valley Conference titles, two regional titles and a sectional title. The 2019-20 team, with a program-record 29 victories, cemented itself as one of D-C's best teams of all-time, not just in girls basketball.
"We didn't start as a great team," Crenshaw said. "We had to work our way up there."