Vernon Hills falls to Deerfield, former Cougars' assistant coach

By Bill McLean
Daily Herald Correspondent
Updated 2/26/2021 10:00 PM

Deerfield girls basketball coach Danielle Hoveydai (nee Ripkey) said "I do" to former Vernon Hills two-sport standout Riaz Hoveydai years ago.

Mrs. Hoveydai -- the leader in career points at Deerfield and a former Vernon Hills girls hoops coach -- faced her husband's alma mater and her former employer in a Central Suburban League North matchup in Deerfield Friday night.


She made another vow, this time to herself: Don't ever rest against Vernon Hills, even if the Cougars fall behind by a considerable margin.

"I'm always nervous against Vernon Hills, because (Cougars coach) Paul Brettner is a very good coach," Hoveydai said after her Warriors' 62-49 victory, during which Vernon Hills trailed 48-31 after three quarters but pared the lead to 56-47 on a 3-pointer by junior guard Mia Soto (14 points, 3 steals) at the 2:30 mark of the fourth frame.

"I knew this would be a tough game, and I'm not sure we would have won had we played another quarter," Hoveydai added.

Vernon Hills guard Daniella Jarrell -- the lone senior among members of both squads -- played gritty, savvy basketball from start to finish, scoring 8 points to go with her game-high 11 rebounds and a pair of blocks. The 5-foot-11 Cougar also dished an assist to junior guard Grace Guillaume (15 points) at the start of the first quarter and delivered 2 more assists to Guillaume at the start of the second quarter.

"Daniella gets after it, doesn't she?" Brettner said of his fourth-year varsity hoopster. "Her leadership -- it's strong, like it's always been. But, as a player, she's looking to dominate more this year."

Jarrell never doubted Vernon Hills (4-5, 3-3) would make a run at the hosts. Back-to-back buckets (by junior guard CJ Leuck and Soto) to open the fourth quarter prompted a concerned Hoveydai to call a timeout. Some two minutes later, Soto started a 10-5 Cougar stretch with a field goal; her 3-pointer capped it.

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In between? All Soto, again. The 5-7 starter had hit another field goal and another trey in a 26-second span.

"We've been focusing on being competitive," Jarrell, nicknamed DJ said. "We showed our competitiveness tonight. Everybody played with a lot of heart."

Dynamic sophomore guard Alexis Kerstein, blessed with speed and a highly effective hesitation-dribble move, paced Deerfield (6-2, 4-1) with 18 points, edging classmate Olivia Kerndt by one point for game-high honors. Kerndt came down with 9 rebounds -- one more than Kerstein's total -- and netted all three of her 3-pointers after halftime.

"She's as quick as sin," Hoveydai said of Kerstein. "You can't teach that."

"Deerfield has a great team," said Brettner, whose program featured a freshman coach named Danielle Hoveydai from 2013-2015. "It's deep, fast, big and outstanding on defense."

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