Cook County girls basketball notes: Raymond moves to top of St. Viator's all-time wins list
When Jason Raymond was chosen to be the 12th girls basketball coach for St. Viator's girls basketball team in 2015, it meant he was coming home to his alma mater where he graduated in 1992.
"It was special to be able to come back to my old school," he says. "It seems like a hundred years ago when I walked the halls here as a student."
Well, it's now more than 100 wins for Raymond at St. Viator, where he has become the winningest girls basketball coach in program history with 126 triumphs.
The only other coach to win 100 games as the Lions coach is Bill Murmann (104 from 1997 to 2003) while Paul Bjerkness was close with 95 wins from 2006 to 2012.
Raymond's success has included six regional championships in six tries, including one sectional crown in 2019.
On Dec. 7, Raymond got to coach the Lions' in their 1,000th game when they defeated Joliet Catholic Academy 61-49.
"It's special having graduated from the school," he said. "I did not know I was the winningest coach. I'm just taking it one game at a time. To be a part of this now is something special for me."
When he started the job, one of Raymond's goals was to stabilize the program and provide some consistency.
"And I think we've done that through the years," he said. "I've had some tremendous coaches work for me. We've done a lot of great things the last few years and I think it's because of the girls in the program and the consistency of our coaching staff. We've been able to win six out of seven regional titles and think that's something special as well."
This year's team is very young. Junior standout Mia Bergstrom recently committed to St. Louis University.
"We've got 21 players on our junior varsity and varsity," Raymond said. "And we were down to almost 10 players last week with injuries and illness. I give our girls a lot of credit."
The Lions host the Blenner Classic next week. Included in the eight-team field is Prospect, which defeated St. Viator last week at Cahill Gymnasium.
"We love having Prospect on our tourney," Raymond said. "It would be nice to see them in the championship game. They've got a really nice shot to be there."
The above-mentioned Bill Murmann is now an assistant coach for Wheeling. He got to watch quite a feat on Dec. 14.
That's when Wheeling junior Marlena Miloucheva made history in the Wildcats' 61-49 nonconference victory over Streamwood, scoring a program record 48 points.
The previous record was 38 held by former Alabama-Birmingham standout Deanna Kuzmanic, now the head coach at Maine West.
Wheeling head coach Beth Christell said that scoring is only part of the 5-foot-8 guard's game.
"She has so many assets to her game," Christell said. "She has really refined her craft over the past three high school seasons. Even while being box and oned, double teamed and even triple teamed, she continues to attack the basket to score or find her open teammates."
Miloucheva's big game included just one 3-point basketball.
"That demonstrates how versatile a player she is," Christell said. "Twenty-six of her 48 points were in the paint and she was 17-of-20 from the free-throw line."
Miloucheva, who is averaging 24 ppg, rounded out her record performance with 14 rebounds and 4 steals.
In the fall, Prospect girls basketball coach Matt Weber is the wide receivers coach for the Knights' football team, which this year included one of the best pass catchers in the state, Northwestern-bound Frank Covey.
"I think he's one of the best receivers in Mid-Suburban League history," Weber said. "He's really special."
While his football job entails working with the offense, Weber says what he loves about basketball is the other side.
"What's funny with basketball is that I'm more of a defensive guy," Weber said. "With football, I'm more of an offensive guy. So I get the balance between the two to keep my sanity and stuff like that.
"Coaching is coaching. I love coaching. The scheming is the fun thing about it. I think it's fun to play defense because it's truly the best team game where you have to have five people constantly working together on the same page."
Weber's offensive scheming for basketball this season has been centered around team balance.
The Knights have had nine different players reach double figures, and those nine include at least one player from each class, including a freshman, Alli Linke.
Junior Skylar Splinter is the team's top scorer, averaging nearly 16 points per game.
But Weber emphasizes Splinter's play on the other side of the court.
"Skylar is our leader defensively and she really sets the tone with her energy," Weber said. "She's very active on defense. She flies around, she takes risks and she has a motor that never stops. Her teammates feed off that energy. She definitely sets the tone for us."
Twenty-eight years ago, forward Corinne Vossel Ginder was starting for coach Linda Mass' state-ranked Hersey team that won one of the program's two sectional championships in 1994.
Today, her daughter, Mackenzie Ginder, is playing forward for another state-ranked Hersey team under hall of fame coach Mary Fendley.
"I never imagined that (she would play for a state-ranked team)," Mackenzie said. "But it was always a hope and a goal with her coaching me ever since I was young to follow in my mother's footsteps. It seems like I just grew up with a basketball in my hands. My grandpa showed me videos of my mom playing in high school and college and so that was an inspiration for me."
Corrine, now on the faculty at Buffalo Grove High School, scored 1,523 points at Hersey with a career-high of 35 points. The former all-stater also ranks as one of the program's all-time rebounding leaders with 1,061.
"My mom wore No. 3 (at Illinois State where she was a two-time all Missouri Valley selection finishing with 1,229 points) and I wore that number when I was younger," Mackenzie said. "So when one of my teammates had No. 3 (in high school) I took No. 33 instead, the same number my brother (Griffin) wore when he played at Hersey and now at Wisconsin-Lacrosse."
Mackenzie is unsure at the moment about where she'll study collegiately.
For now, she is playing on the No, 1 Class 4A team in the state.
"It's very exciting," she said. "But now we have to prove it."
Former Driscoll and Elk Grove standout center Courtney Lindfors is back as head coach in the Mid-Suburban League.
"I see a lot of people I know," she said with a smile after a game at Prospect last week. "Someone came up to me here and was talking about when I played here (Jean Walker Field House) and I said that was a long time ago."
Lindfors was an all stater at Driscoll whereas a junior she helped lead the Highlanders to the state title in 2009, scoring a team-high 14 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks. The school closed that year and Lindfors went on to earn special mention all-state honors as a senior at Elk Grove High School.
Lindfors went on to play college basketball at Milwaukee and Loyola University.
""It feels good to be back here (in the MSL as a head coach after serving three years as the junior varsity coach) and on the other side of things," she said.
Michigan recruit Katy Eidle added another significant accomplishment to her remarkable resume at Hersey.
The senior guard set the single-game program record for 3-pointers in a game when she connected on nine in a 69-36 win over visiting Rolling Meadows on Dec. 9.
The former record of eight was held by Megan Rogowski, the former DePaul standout who happened to be at Eidle's big game. The two took a picture after the game holding the game ball.
Eidle had 33 points in the game and 3 assists.
All one has to do to realize the strength of the Mid-Suburban League is check the local and state poll.
Three of the top 10 teams in the Daily Herald poll are Fremd (1), Hersey (2) and Barrington (10).
The Class 4A poll has Hersey on top and Fremd No. 3 while Barrington checks in at 11.
"Our conference is a special conference for girls basketball," said Prospect coach Matt Weber, whose team is tied for first in the MSL East with Hersey (both are 3-0). "There are a lot of great teams and a lot of great coaches. It's going to be an interesting battle throughout the season with all the teams just kind of going at each other. The more we play good teams, the better we're going to get and it's all about setting yourself up for the long haul at the end of the season."