Round Lake's season becoming a memorable one
The Round Lake girls basketball team is on a nice roll.
The Panthers barreled into 2022 with a robust 12-3 record after going 4-1 and taking second at the 16-team Northern Illinois Holiday Classic.
Round Lake went 3-0 in pool play, capping things off with a key win against Woodstock North (46-37). A 14-3 run to finish the game helped Round Lake to a 38-36 win over McHenry in the semifinals.
Amari Cole and Taylor Major each averaged 12 points in the tournament, while Lilli Burton was right there at 10 ppg.
"Our team played five games in five days and grew together," Panthers coach Molly Hennig said.
Hennig pointed out Lisette Herrera, Allison Dittmer, Judith Cerroblanco and Isabel Montes are all new to the varsity this season.
"This tournament showed how much they have improved and their important role on the team,' she said. "The level of competition in the tournament has helped us prepare for the second half of our season and conference play."
Major is averaging 11 points, 6 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.4 assists per game. "Aside from her stat line is the important presence she brings our team," Hennig said. "She is our leader and helps us weather the storms on the court. I cannot say enough how special it is to have Taylor playing her senior season. She is a big reason why we are 12-3."
Hennig calls Dittmer, who teammates affectionately refer to as "Shorty," a spark for the team. "She plays the hardest on both ends of the floor, always willing to defend players much taller than her," Hennig said. "She may not be our leading scorer or rebounder, but she is usually involved in every play, whether it be getting a key deflection, tipping out an offensive board or putting in the layup off a big steal."
The Patriots are flying high after winning the Dundee-Crown-hosted Komaromy Classic in Carpentersville over the holidays -- an event long regarded as one of the toughest in the state.
The Patriots went 4-0, downing Barrington by a bucket, 53-51, for the title. Simone Sawyer, Emory Klatt and Ava Bardic earned all-tournament honors.
"It's hard to put into words what winning the D-C tournament meant," Stevenson coach Ashley Graham said. "It had been such a long time -- since 1995 -- and when you reflect all the way back then, those were the most prolific years for our program. To bring it back to Stevenson after all these years is a tremendous accomplishment for these kids. Throughout each game, our kids stuck together and showed a tremendous amount of belief, which is one of the most important things to have as an individual and as a team. These kids have it."
Graham pointed to the last play of the game as evidence of that when the initial play broke down. Sophomore Kendall Williams, under duress, passed to freshman Nisha Musunuri, who took it straight to the basket.
"Nisha never faltered," Graham said. "We will build on this and continue to put our head down and go to work each day to become the best we can be. I can tell you it has certainly propelled us into the new year.
"I think the team is in such a good place and playing really unselfish basketball and for one another. It is cool to see how much they have come together from the summer until now."
Sawyer averaged 19 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.8 steals at D-C. "Simone had a really great tournament," Graham noted. "She was extremely consistent for us over the four games. She did some really nice things for us both offensively and defensively."
Klatt heads into 2022 averaging a double-double at 14.6 points and 11.2 rebounds. "Emory is playing with a lot of confidence," Graham said. "Her instincts are tremendous, and that enables her to be in great scoring position, as well as rebounding. I would argue she is the best rebounder in the state."
Vernon Hills update:
The Cougars split four games at the Libertyville Winter Classic, which put them at 7-9 overall. Vernon Hills' two wins came against Streamwood and Wheeling, "playing better as the tournament went on," coach Paul Brettner noted.
Grace Koepke was named to the all-tournament team at Libertyville after averaging 14.5 points per game that included a 26-point explosion against Wheeling.
"We started to establish our identity of getting the ball inside on offense," Brettner explained. "We have recognized some key areas of improvement and have started to work on those. We look to have a great second half of the season."
In addition to Koepke establishing her presence in the post, Brettner added, Shyanne St. Louis has improved, "doing well having the ball in her hands for a large portion of the game," he said.
Brettner added the team hopes to get Alex Cieslinski back from injury this week. "She could not play in the tournament," he said. "This allowed for some opportunity for other payers and that additional experience will help us."
Lake Zurich update:
The Bears stood at 10-7 overall after a 2-2 outing at the Morton College tournament. Lake Zurich lost to Deerfield 50-46 in the consolation title game.
Alayna Soukup, a senior guard, was selected to the all-tournament second team.
"We competed with some of the best teams around, got two good wins against Batavia and Lincoln-Way West, and lost a close game with Deerfield," Bears coach Chris Bennett said. "Hopefully, that puts us in a good place heading into the second half of the season."
Junior Baylie Parks led Lake Zurich in scoring during the Morton tournament at 12 points per game, while Soukup was next at 10 points per game, and as Bennett pointed out, was stellar on defense, being charged with guarding such stalwarts as Elise Ward of Marist, Taylor Gugliuzza of Lincoln-Way West, Brooke Carlson of Batavia and Audrey Galvan of Deerfield.
Bennett also lauded sophomore Anna Gilbertson for her outstanding defensive play. He added Gilbertson, with the help of her teammates, helped hold Wisconsin-bound Tessa Towers of Batavia to 2 points.
Grayslake North update:
The Knights went 2-3 at the Northern Illinois Holiday Classic hosted by McHenry and Richmond-Burton. North beat Johnsburg and Crystal Lake South.
Of note, Peyton Gerdes became the Knights' career record holder for both blocks and rebounds, and still has a year-and-a-half to go. She's averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds per game.
Coach Roger Lass said Kayla Keaskowski is beginning to score more consistently for the team, with double-digit scoring efforts in two of her last three games.
The Knights were 6-9 overall to start the new year. "We are starting to put things together on the court, and I look forward to that transferring to more wins as we continue the season," Lass said.
Grayslake Central update:
After a tough 0-4 mark at the St. Viator Blenner Classic with losses to St. Ignatius, Prospect, St. Viator and Resurrection, the Rams got back on the winning track with a 37-29 win over Antioch in Northern Lake County action.
"Playing tough teams four straight days as we did showed us areas we need to work on, and gave us a clear picture of what we need to do to get where we want to be," Rams coach Steve Ikenn said. "The injuries and illnesses we have dealt with have also given some less-experienced players valuable minutes, which will help as the season goes on."
Madison Hoffmann has averaged 13.2 points and 7 rebounds over the Rams' last five games, while Monica Schleg, Ikenn noted, has picked up her scoring of late, "and is establishing herself as a defensive stopper," he said.
Piper Gallaher was praised by Ikenn for her "great post defense and rebounding as well."