Glenbrook North girls basketball sees landmark season come to an end
A quality York girls basketball team ended Glenbrook North's landmark season at the Spartans' own Class 4A regional final Friday, Feb. 17.
The No. 2 seed Dukes recorded a first-quarter shutout and took it from there in a 54-33 win over No. 7 seed Glenbrook North in Northbrook.
"It helps when everyone on your team is, like, a knockdown 3-point shooter and can take it to the rim," said Glenbrook North all-conference senior guard Bryce Wolf.
York's all-guard lineup featured interchangeable athletes of the same skills and general size -- all around 5-foot-8, lithe and quick, as comfortable running half-court offense as they were committed to a trapping defense that created transition baskets.
Senior Lizzie Baldridge's team-high 14 points led five Dukes who scored at least 6 points.
"Every one of those players is fantastic, so we knew we were up for a tough challenge, but hats off to them, they played awesome," said Glenbrook North coach Nick Capalbo.
The Spartans finished with a 20-10 record that after researching all the records he could find, the fourth-year coach concluded was the program record for victories. Somewhat improbably.
"We lost five starters from last year and I think people really didn't think we'd have a team this year," he said. "And my girls worked harder than any team I've ever had. Such a hardworking team and didn't back down from anybody. They're just awesome kids."
Wolf, who will play at Oakton College her first two years of college, took it a step further.
"Going in I didn't think we were going to win a single game," said Wolf, who played on last season's 19-win team.
"Originally I just was going to play to improve for next year going into college," she said. "But then right after the (Maine East) Thanksgiving Tournament, when I realized maybe we can win some games, (the goal has) been to get everybody to all work together so that we could achieve things that no one here at GBN could before. We were trying to get a regional, but obviously fell short."
York (25-6) ensured that with a 12-0 first-quarter lead that ballooned to 18-2 at 6:50 of the second quarter when Anna Filosa converted a steal out of the Dukes' three-quarters court press.
Glenbrook North came out against York's 1-2-2 zone defense patiently working the ball around the perimeter between Wolf, Jami de Guzman, Kate Leverenz and Caitlyn Ethen as forward Megan Walther slid back and forth in the lane, seeking just the right opportunity.
After watching the Spartans control tempo, York coach Brandon Collings called timeout and the Dukes started sending two defenders to trap the ballhandler and create turnovers, upping the pace.
"We had to," Collings said.
"When they were looking to just move the ball around the perimeter and they wasted about 2 minutes we had to come out and try and get some opportunity traps, we call them. We started to get a couple turnovers, put on a little bit of pressure, and then from there momentum swung our way."
On the way to its 19th regional title, York held Glenbrook North in single digits until Wolf made 2 free throws in the last minute of the second quarter, trailing 25-10 at halftime. Wolf led the Spartans with 12 points, ahead of Leverenz and Ethen with 6 apiece.
Two 3-pointers and another three-point play by Baldridge helped boost York's lead to 47-24 after three quarters.
Leverenz said the game plan included stopping York's back cuts, breaking its press and avoiding their open 3-point attempts because "they all shoot 3-pointers," she said.
"The press was really hard in the first half, it's never been our strong suit. I think it was the turnovers, and then they were just very quick. Every time we lost the ball they were all the way down the floor scoring either a 3 or a layup," she said.
"We came up a little short to a really good York team, but I'm just really happy for all my teammates. We're going to have a lot of good talent coming up and I just can't wait to see them do well," said Leverenz, a senior looking to study journalism at Missouri or Syracuse.
When Capalbo cleared the bench in the last three minutes, Celestina Onyeise, a 6-1 senior who transferred from Maine West after her junior year, was among those closing out a record-setting season that will resonate beyond wins and losses.
"My first day here I met three of my current teammates. They were really welcoming and they made me feel part of the team even though I personally didn't feel it myself," Onyeise said.
"I created this new bonded connection with them that has lasted me this whole school year, and I will cherish it forever."