Tough stretch coming up for surging Libertyville
The Libertyville girls basketball team is flying high with some big-time competition awaiting it over the weekend.
Coach Greg Pedersen's crew was 13-5 overall and 5-1 in North Suburban action after a 43-30 win over Lake Forest.
The Wildcats are preparing for a huge NSC game Saturday at home at 5:30 p.m. against 18-1 Stevenson before heading to Benet Academy in Lisle on Martin Luther King Day to face 15-1 Willowbrook in another 5:30 p.m. tussle.
Recently, Libertyville held Lake Forest to 10 points in the second half. Sophomore Kate Rule led the way with 16 points.
"We've been improving as a team throughout the season," Pedersen said. "Emily Fisher is one of the best players in the state and while teams focus on stopping her, we've seen development and increased production out of her teammates."
Fisher averages 14 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals per game. Pedersen also has been high on the twin sister combo of Kate and Rachel Rule. Kate averages 9.7 ppg.
"Kate and Rachel are playing an aggressive style of basketball, and the more assertive they are on the offensive end, the tougher we are to stop. Both are gym rates -- the time they have dedicated to training and their ability to absorb instruction. They are just sophomores, but they are getting more and more fundamentally sound and aggressive in key moments. Kate is a dynamic offensive threat. Rachel has a knack for making big-time hustle plays."
Pedersen noted the biggest factor in the team's improvement has been the play of the team's two seniors Libby Ryan and Kristina Kotzan.
"Libby missed her sophomore and junior seasons with injuries, and she's hitting her stride at the right time," he said. "She is a strong outside shooter and has helped us win games with her knack for finding driving lanes. Kristina played an excellent defensive game against Lake Forest, and as much as her scoring helps us, we appreciate her interior defense and her strong rebounding game."
Prior to Lake Forest, Libertyville won its own Winter Classic with a 45-28 win over Conant. Fisher and Rachel Rule were all-tournament there. The Wildcats also had recent games against Zion-Benton and Warren canceled. Zion was moved to Jan. 19 and the Warren reschedule is not on the books yet, Pedersen noted.
Grayslake North update:
The Knights won three games in a recent five-game stretch to move to 7-11 overall (1-5 in NLCC action).
Peyton Gerdes posted a career-high 35 points against Grant and Reagan Kuzyknowski had a career-high 15 points against North Chicago.
Gerdes recently broke the North single-season block record to go with the career rebound and blocks records.
"We are very close to putting everything together and beating some good teams, so we need to keep working hard and getting better in practice," coach Roger Lass said.
A key win over Grayslake Central moved Lakes to 3-1 in Northern Lake County Conference action (8-11 overall). The win broke Grayslake Central's longtime conference winning streak of 45 games.
Coach Brian Phelan gave high marks to Janae Pullen, who he noted is rapidly approaching the school record for 3s made in a season. CC Fleming went past the single-season Lakes mark for charges taken and also is now the career record-holder for charges taken at the school.
Lakes played four games last week and has three scheduled this week -- a busy stretch of seven games in 11 days.
"Ouch," Phelan said of the stuffed calendar. "We have great senior leadership with good, young talent. It's a fun group to lead and work with."
Grayslake Central update:
Rams coach Steve Ikenn likes the way things are headed, particularly on the defensive end of late.
"We have been playing much better defensively as of late and that has helped our offensive output, too," he noted. "We have had several close games lately, and more times than not, our defense has come through for us down the stretch."
Central lost a close 5-pointer to Lakes (42-38) and then came back and downed Wauconda 48-33 for a nice Northern Lake County win. Katie Dinsmore had a season-high 10 points against Wauconda, and also took 2 charges.
Carissa Guerrier followed up her 12-point effort against Lakes with 8 points against Wauconda. Piper Gallaher had 8 points against Lakes and 9 against Wauconda. "Piper has found her shooting touch," Ikenn said.
The Rams were 5-1 in NLCC play after the Wauconda win. The loss to Lakes broke a 45-game NLCC winning streak. Central has won the last five NLCC titles, including the previous three with undefeated league records. Central is now 46-1 over the last six NLCC seasons.
Round Lake update:
Another 5-1 NLCC team is Round Lake, which has won its last three conference games against Grant, Antioch and Lakes. The Panthers are 15-3 overall.
In the Grant game, Amari Cole had 19 points and 13 rebounds, while Taylor Major added 15 points, 5 assists and 4 steals. Major had 20 points and 5 steals against Antioch, while Lilli Burton had 10 points and 4 assists. Major had 21 points against Lakes, while Burton had 10 points.
Coach Molly Hennig pointed out Major has averaged 19 points over the last three games. "Taylor is playing incredible basketball that is very fun to watch and coach," she said.
Cole is averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks per game. "Amari has continued to improve throughout her four seasons on varsity," Hennig said. "Her energy is contagious on the team and helps our defense go."
Round Lake has forced its opponents into an average of 26 turnovers per game. "Defense is what we really pride ourselves on and to see it translate into our opponents' turnovers is rewarding," Hennig said. "Our girls continue to work together on both ends of the floor. It has been a special season for us so far, and we hope to continue playing at a high level as the season progresses."