WW South celebrates 50th season of girls basketball
The Wheaton Warrenville South girls basketball program is a family, even if the members may not be directly related.
The Tigers celebrated their 50th season of existence in a special ceremony at halftime of their 57-42 victory over Maine South on Tuesday. Former head coach Jim Allured -- one of only four the program has ever had -- was on hand and the memories were flowing like fine wine.
"My recollection for most of them is what they looked like when they graduated from high school," said Allured, who amassed a 138-75 record from 1994-2001. "They've grown up. So I have to reprogram my brain to realize they are women now, not girls. It's just terrific seeing them."
Elsewhere, former assistant coach Shelley Thompson -- who coached for 27 years under Rich Jarom, Allured and current headman Rob Kroehnke -- agreed.
"Kroehnke (talked about) relationships, and that's why I did it, the relationships you got to build with the kids," Thompson said. "It was so fun to see them mature and grow into good people."
Don't forget there was a game. The Tigers (7-5) took on Maine South's junior varsity team, as its varsity was shut down due to COVID-19 protocols, and had to survive a strong first half by the Hawks (6-6), who actually led 29-28 at the intermission.
But Wheaton Warrenville South righted the ship in the second half, with a 14-0 third-quarter run, which was punctuated by four 3-pointers from senior guard Campbell Bastian. Senior forward Lily Huntzinger chipped in a 10-0 run all by herself in the fourth quarter.
Both players were well aware of the historical aspect of their program.
"This was really cool, and I really liked that they did this, because I got to see players I played with for the last three years, some that I haven't seen in forever," said Huntzinger, who finished with 12 points and 3 rebounds. "And it's a good thing for Tiger basketball, but it's also 50 years of women's sports."
Added Bastian, who had 12 points of her own: "Especially seeing players we all look up to in the program and in general, it's really cool to be able to play. It's an important night."
Kroehnke, who grew up in Wheaton and orchestrated the halftime event, had glowing praise for his two stars.
"When (Bastian) gets started, she can do runs like that, and it's just being able to get the ball in the right spot," Kroehnke said. "I thought she did a nice job. I thought Lily did a nice job getting her the ball."
Across the court, while it was a loss for the Hawks, it was a great experience for its future stars, including freshmen Katie Barker (12 points) and Ally Pape (6 points).
"I was a little bit nervous at the beginning, but it was just like any other game I've played where there is going to be fans and a lot of cheering," Barker said. "I just kind of stuck with it and played hard."
"Definitely nerve-wracking at first," added Pape. "But once you start to play and everybody is cheering you on, it gets less scary throughout the game."