Girls Basketball: Lincoln-Way East battles to replace Big Three
By Matthew Bruce For Sun-Times Media July 2, 2012 8:20PM
Lincoln-Way East's Erin Hayes eyes the basket against an Antioch player at the Morris Shootout. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
One in an occasional series on Southland athletes and teams gearing up for the 2012-13 high school season.
Updated: August 4, 2012 6:03AM
When Lincoln-Way East made its push to the brink of the Elite Eight in last season’s Class 4A state playoffs, the team was fueled by three seniors who collectively pumped about 35 points into the Griffins’ gas tank each night.
But when East takes the floor for the 2012-13 campaign this fall, it no longer will have the luxury of Taylor Johnson, Caitlin McMahon and Amy Jacobsen. That trio powered a Griffins squad that tied the best record in the school’s 11-year history (26-5), and was one win away from advancing to the Elite Eight.
This season, East will be looking for new players to step up and carry that offensive load.
“We’re trying to find out who’s going to be that scorer,” Griffins coach Jim Martin said. “Trying to kind of fit and mold each other and see who’s going to step in among our younger kids.”
Martin already has gotten a boost from two of those younger players so far this summer. Claire McMahon — Caitlin’s younger sister — showed an unexpected spark at the recent Morris Ladies Shootout. The incoming freshman nearly didn’t even make the cut for the trip to Grundy County, but caught Martin’s eye with her abilities on the perimeter.
“Claire’s been a real nice surprise,” Martin said. “She’s come in almost 6-foot tall, plays the wing for us, handles it and shoots it.”
Junior sharpshooter Kara Krolicki, who will come off the bench as a backup to starting point guard Dana O’Grady, also has made a strong showing with her outside sniping. The duo helped steer the Griffins to a 5-1 mark at Morris, their lone loss coming to eventual champion Homewood-Flossmoor.
“She (Krolicki) really has done a nice job shooting the basketball for us with the three,” Martin said. “Those two have been very pleasant surprises for us offensively and that’s been nice. It really gives us another scoring threat.”
East will need all the help it can get to shore up the slack from losing last year’s Big Three. Johnson tossed in better than 15 points per game last season and eclipsed the single-season school record for steals, averaging 4.7 per contest.
Caitlin McMahon, a 6-1 forward, gave the Griffins size in the post.
This year, they will play small ball. Senior forward Meaghan McMahon, another of Caitlin’s younger sisters, figures to be East’s tallest player at 5-11. She also will be the Griffins’ most productive player returning from last season, when she averaged 6 points and 3.7 rebounds.
East has had its reasons to be optimistic, and it has translated to the scoreboard. At a shootout at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington in June, the Griffins won four of five games. They also won five of their first six games in summer league.
“To replace Taylor and (Caitlin McMahon), we’ve got to play better team defense — who’s going to rebound, and all that stuff,” Martin said. “Really, it’s been about who’s going to step up and play for us, and I’ve been very pleased this summer.”