Lake County girls basketball notes: Libertyville, Carmel among teams to watch in postseason
The girls high school basketball postseason is upon us with Class 3A and 4A action kicking off early next week.
Lake County area teams were grouped into two sectionals hosted by Deerfield in Class 3A and Highland Park in 4A.
The Highland Park sectional has Libertyville as the No. 2 seed, while Lake Zurich earned the No. 4 seed and will host a regional next week. Stevenson is the No. 5 seed, while Warren is No. 8 and will also be a regional host. Mundelein (10), Round Lake (11) and Grant (13) round out the local Class 4A contingent. The only Lake County vs. Lake County regional action here to start is a Valentine's Day game with Lake Zurich and Grant at Lake Zurich.
The local Deerfield roster has Carmel as the No. 1 sectional seed and Vernon Hills at No. 4. Grayslake Central is at No. 6 and Grayslake North is the No. 7 seed. Antioch (11), Wauconda (12) and Lakes (13) are also in the Deerfield sectional. Vernon Hills will host a regional next week and will face Lakes on Valentine's Day. Grayslake Central and Antioch will square off for a third time this season at Lake Forest this coming Tuesday.
If the Wildcats (25-4, 12-1 to start the week) beat Mundelein today, they win the North Suburban Conference title outright.
In wins over Lake Zurich (45-19), Maine South (52-47) and New Trier (45-36), Kate Rule averaged 16 points, while Emily Fisher averaged 13 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists.
Consistency for Libertyville has come in the form of Maddy Kopala, Talya Tillman and Rachel Rule this season. "Maddy and Talya have provided strong interior defense all year," coach Greg Pedersen said. "They have size and energy to make multiple plays on the same possession. Rachel has done great work in tracking talented guards, trying to contain shooters and scorers."
Coach Ben Berg's squad was 21-7 overall and finished second in the East Suburban Catholic tournament and took third during the regular season with a 4-2 mark.
Carmel defeated Benet 35-34 in the ESCC semifinals and lost to Nazareth Academy 48-24 in the final. The Corsairs also recently dropped a 50-47 contest to Libertyville, a 4A No. 2 sectional seed, where Jordan Wood had 19 points and Ashley Schlabowske had 11 points.
Wood is averaging 14.9 points, 7 rebounds and 3.1 assists, while Mia Gillis is at 9.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3 assists. Berg has been thrilled with the consistency he has received from seniors Wood and Gillis along with junior Schlabowske.
Also of note has been the play of junior Molli Ward.
"Many times, Molli covers the best perimeter player on the other team," Berg pointed out. "She has covered players such as Katie Eidle (Hersey), Lenee Beuamont (Benet) -- three times -- Emily Fisher (Libertyville) and many others at a very high level."
Berg feels his team is battle-tested heading into regional action.
"We feel having played the toughest strength of schedule in the state in 3A and the second-toughest in the state, only behind Benet, has prepared us well for the 3A tournament," he said.
Lake Zurich update:
The Bears started the week 21-7 overall and 10-2 in North Suburban action. Coach Chris Bennett pointed out Lake Zurich has four players who average more than 9 points per game in Avery Cooper, Baylie Parks, Molly Friesen and Anna Gilbertson. Brooke Wahlund, Lake Zurich's fifth starter, averages almost 9 rebounds per game.
Bennett had high praise for veterans Parks and Wahlund. "Baylie and Brooke, our two seniors, have both played like the four-year varsity players they are," he said. "They always are steady as a rock when things haven't gone well. We are 8-2 in games decided by 5 points or less and their experience is the reason why."
Also providing key help of late has been freshman Layne Nordstrom, who is averaging 4.6 assists over the last three weeks.
"Recently, Layne has been thrown into a bigger role due to our injuries," Bennett explained. "She has played the point guard position with energy, done an outstanding job on the defensive end and has contributed to the offensive end."
Bennett explained Lake Zurich has been stung by injuries. Parks is back healthy, but Cooper has a knee injury that will require surgery this week, Bennett said. Friesen missed time as well but will be back for the playoffs.
"That being said, we were a six seed last year that played in a sectional final and we look forward to trying to get on a similar roll this year," Bennett said.
Patriots standout Emory Klatt recently went over the 1,000 career point mark and coach Ashley Graham noted she's quickly encroaching upon 1,000 career rebounds.
"Emory has been our most consistent player from an offensive standpoint," Graham said. "She consistently has a double-double. I believe there are only 4 games where she has not recorded one this season."
In fact, Klatt has 25 double-doubles this season.
Klatt is averaging 19.2 points and 12.5 rebounds, while Nisha Musunuri is at 10.1 points and 3.5 rebounds and Kate Arne averaged 8.5 points and 3 rebounds for a Patriots team that started the week 19-9 overall and 9-4 in North Suburban action.
"We definitely like our position in the postseason and are looking forward to the playoffs," Graham said. "We hope this is a good week of practice and games for us and that we come hungry and determined once playoffs begin."
The Mustangs started the week 12-17 overall and 5-8 in North Suburban play. Mundelein recently scored wins against Grayslake Central (42-35) and Warren (37-34).
Junior Rylan Foster is averaging 13.3 points and 7 rebounds, while hitting on 80% of her free throws (92-for-115). Freshman Casey Vyverman averages 11 points and has drained 62 threes and is shooting 41.8% from beyond the 3-point line and 48.1% overall from the field. Senior Gracie Werner averages 7 points, 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists.
"Casey, Rylan and Gracie provide strong defense, confidence, scoring, positive leadership and consistency daily along with their toughness," coach Sarah Teipel said.
Senior point guard Diana Nanos, Teipel noted, falls into the unsung hero category for Mundelein.
"Diana may not shine in the spotlight for stats, but she is one of the best teammates I have ever coached," she explained. "She is one of our captains, works 110% every day, is a positive leader, holds her teammates accountable n the right ways, is completely selfless, and finds reward in making everyone around her better. She is someone I wish I had a few more years to coach because of what a great teammate and person she is."
Teipel likes where he team is headed. "We have been making big strides in the last few weeks in our consistency on team defense and confidence on offense," she said. "I have been very proud of the way we have come together as a team. We are working on finishing the season in the right way -- four quarters of competitive team basketball."
Round Lake update:
The Panthers are 17-11 overall and 6-6 in Northern Lake County Conference play after a recent 55-53 overtime win over Grayslake North in a game where Lilli Burton had 18 points and 15 rebounds and Aniyah Moody had 16 points and 20 rebounds.
Burton is averaging 15.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.8 assists per game, while Moody is at 13.1 points and 11.9 rebounds to go with 1.8 steals. Judy Cerroblanco averages 6.6 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals.
"Lilli and Aniyah have been our top two scorers in most games," Round Lake coach Molly Hennig pointed out. "They play very well together and really complement each other on the offensive end. Judy has also helped us on both ends of the floor by finding ways to get us points or a big stop defensively."
Hennig also has been pleased with the play of Allison Dittmer and Layah Glover. "Allison does all the little things that do not always show up in the stats," she explained. "She is the energy to our defense and the glue to our team. She sets the tone at the top of our defense and gives 110% every moment she is on the floor. Allison is a huge reason for our success the past two seasons."
Hennig pointed out Glover was starting on the JV 2 team a year ago. "Layah came in her freshman year not having played much organized basketball," she said. "As a sophomore, she has done everything and more that we could have hoped for. She is a varsity starter, able to defend at multiple positions, and only continues to improve on the offensive end. I am looking forward to seeing all that she accomplishes the next two years."
The Bulldogs started the week 14-14 overall and stood at 8-4 in Northern Lake County action. Grant sat in third place in the NLCC to start the week and coach Andrea Weaver noted her team could still secure the No. 2 position depending on the outcome of league games against Lakes and Round Lake.
In a recent 59-41 win over Antioch, Melissa Ketter poured in 31 points. She has 412 points this season, while Nevada Holm is averaging 8 points and 7 rebounds.
"Melissa is a leader and continuously puts up good points for us," Weaver said. "Nevada is also a very consistent player for us."
Weaver calls Lily Capulong the team's most prized ballhandler. "Lily's ball-handling skills are impressive, and we consistently win games because she seems almost impossible to stop," she said.
Sophomore Makyla McNeal has come on strong as well for the Bulldogs. "MK became a starter for us after a few games into the season," Weaver said. "She has a winner's mindset and is really fun to watch. She takes the ball to the paint with her impressive moves and can get around anyone that is in her way. She has really picked up momentum this season and I imagine her last two seasons will be impressive."
Weaver noted she's proud of the season-long progress the Bulldogs have made. "We racked up injuries and losses at the start of the season," she said. "Now, we are close to taking second in our conference. We are looking ahead to finish our next three regular-season games strong and hopefully walk away with second place. This team is really young and has paved the way for the next couple of years to encourage girls coming into the program to be extremely competitive and hard working. I am really looking forward to summer league and continuing the success we have found this season."
Vernon Hills update:
The Cougars were 18-10 overall and took second in the Central Suburban North with an 8-2 mark with the two setbacks coming to loop champion Deerfield.
Vernon Hills recently defeated Grayslake Central 60-40 at its Think Pink cancer awareness night. Coach Paul Brettner noted that together with Grayslake Central more than $550 was raised for the fight against cancer.
Grace Koepke had 21 points in the Central win and put up 27 points in a 60-21 win over Maine East. Elyse Davis is shooting 37% from the 3-point line, while Ava Barszcz is averaging 9 points a game. Alexa Cieslinski is averaging 7.3 points and 5.2 rebounds.
"This is a senior-laden team and the six seniors are extremely dependable," Brtettner said. "They give us a consistent practice environment and keep a high standard. In games, there is always some variability from game to game. We have gotten more consistent since the calendar turned to 2023."
Brettner also likes how freshman Keira Thomas has played. "Keira comes off the bench with a mostly defensive role and does a great job every game," he said.
The Cougars will host a regional next week.
"We are playing well on both ends of the floor," he said. "We are fortunate to have the No. 4 seed in our sectional, which puts us in position to contend for a regional title and more. Whatever happens with this group, I feel lucky to have spent the season with them."
Grayslake Central update:
The Rams are NLCC champions after recent wins against Lakes (60-33) and North Chicago (58-8) upped their league mark to 12-1. Central started the week 17-10 overall.
Madison Hoffmann leads Central in scoring (15.3 points), assists (2.2) and steals (2.6), while Annie Wolff is the team leader in rebounding at 7.2 and Mosey Drevline is tops in 3-point percentage at 34.4. Central coach Steve Ikenn pointed out Hoffmann and Wolff have been the team's No. 1 and No. 2 scorers and rebounders for much of the season.
Ikenn explained senior Katie Dinsmore, the team's only senior starter and captain, also has been instrumental in the team's success. "Katie quietly does her job," he said. "She plays great defense, handles the ball well and is a good shooter. She does a little bit of everything, including being tied for the team lead in charges taken. She plays a nice all-around game and does the little things to help make us a better team."
Ikenn is hopeful the Rams are getting back to full strength and noted his squad is playing more consistently down the stretch.
"Our young players now have some experience, so hopefully that will translate into some playoff success," he said. "No game will be easy, but hopefully we continue to play well and give ourselves a chance to string some wins together."
Grayslake North update:
The Knights split a pair of recent Northern Lake County games, losing to Round Lake 55-53 in overtime and defeating Lakes 47-38.
Peyton Gerdes continues to lead the Lake County area in scoring at 25.1 points per game. Makayla Campbell averages 8 points. Gerdes is tops in rebounds at 10.8, while Campbell averages 8.8 rebounds. Reagan Kuzynowski and Dani Hanson each average 2.2 assists. Gerdes is tops in steals (2.4) and blocks (2.6).
Gerdes has scored more than 15 points in all but two games this season for the Knights and has hit for more than 20 points in 22 of North's 28 games. She has more than 1,900 career points and has gone over the 1,000 career rebounds marker.
Coach Brian Frericks lauded the efforts of Kyzynowski, who is charged with guarding the opposing team's best player. "Reagan works her butt off every day and the effort and energy has been contagious to our entire team all season," he said. "While she doesn't put up huge stats, her impact on the team cannot be ignored."
North will head to the Crystal Lake South regional next week to face Fox Valley Conference entrant Cary-Grove.
"We have played a few tough games recently, but we are using those experiences to prepare for the postseason," Frericks said.
A couple of Eagles school records were broken of late. Janae Pullen broke the program career 3-pointers made mark in a recent game against North Chicago, while Clarity Turney broke the career steals mark in a game against Grayslake North.
The previous career 3-point record was 108, while the previous career steals mark was 173.
Lakes hosts its senior night Tuesday against Grant where Kendall Phelan will be honored.
"Kendall and I have been together for four years, so it will be fun," Lakes coach Brian Phelan said.
The Bulldogs moved to 12-13 overall after a recent 45-42 win over Warren in nonconference action. Wauconda was 6-7 in NLCC play to start the week.
In the Warren win, Helen Macey had 11 points and 11 rebounds, while Grace Parker and Alexia Manalo each had 8 points, as did Ella Frank. Kayla McCarthy had 6 points and 5 rebounds. Parker also had 6 rebounds.
The Blue Devils started the week 10-17 overall and 4-9 in North Suburban action.
Juniors Shay Love and Nari Powers continue to lead the way for coach John Stanczykiewicz's squad.
"Our most consistent players this year have been Shay and Nari," he said. 'Shay is our point guard and is the emotional leader of our team, even though she is one of the smallest players in the conference at 5-feet tall. She consistently scores tough points attacking the paint and taller players. Nari is our leading scorer and continues to improve. She is tough matchup because she can hit the 3-pointer, but also can get to the rim off the dribble."
Another junior making headlines for the Blue Devils has been Faith Gaston, who is usually tasked with guarding the other teams' best player or post player. "Faith is hard-nosed and readily accepts the challenge," Stanczykiewicz said. "She doesn't score a lot of points, but makes her presence felt on the defensive end of the floor."
Warren is gearing up for the start of next week's IHSA postseason.
"We have been struggling of late to put it all together to win games," Stanczykiewicz said. "we need to eliminate our fouling and play more consistent and patient on the offensive end of the floor. With No. 1 seed (sectional) Fremd and a tough Palatine team in our regional, we definitely have our work cut out for us."