Girls Basketball: Marian Catholic starts season as SouthtownStar No. 1
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org November 17, 2013 5:02PM
Marian Catholic's Dajhae Mullins (from left), Kauai Bradley, coach Dan Murray, Ashton Millender, Mercedes Winfrey and Teniya Page. | Supplied photo
Updated: December 19, 2013 6:07AM
The first time Kauai Bradley saw the replay of her last-second shot that gave Marian Catholic its first state basketball title, she wasn’t all that impressed.
“I think I looked a little awkward, but it looked nice (going in),” Bradley said, laughing. “It was good that I hit it.”
She can work on style points next time.
Bradley, going into her junior season, will be one of several Spartans who are returning from a 33-1 squad that ran the table in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, captured a sectional championship on a 25-foot bank-in buzzer-beater by Ashton Millender and created more heartstopping last-second magic in the Class 4A finals at Illinois State University.
What will 2013-14 bring?
Beyond Bradley and Millender, Teniya Page is a returnee. Senior Dajhae Mullins gets a fresh start after recovering from a knee injury.
One who isn’t returning is Megan Walsh, a team leader in many ways. She has moved on to Truman State.
Former coach Annie Byrne resigned July 20 to take a job as the director of operations at Legends Sportsplex in Bourbonnais.
“I didn’t see it coming. I don’t think anybody saw that coming,” Bradley said. “It touched us, but we have to keep moving forward.”
Dan Murray watched Marian Catholic compete in the state finals on the television set in his living room. He had just completed his third season as coach at Lisle, where he compiled a 61-27 record. Before that, he broke the all-time record for wins at Immaculate Conception.
He couldn’t have imagined then that on Aug. 12 he would be asked to help one of the south suburbs’ most storied programs of the 2000s defend a state championship.
“Not at all,” Murray said. “There’s no way you can know that. But it’s a very nice situation to be in, just from the school itself. There are a lot of good people and the kids are great, extremely hard working.
“It’s a little different situation, because we didn’t have the opportunity to work together this summer. Literally, Nov. 4 was Day 1 for us. So from that perspective, it honestly puts us behind to an extent. But we have a lot of returning talent, and a group that has been through a lot of battles.”
Page averaged 12.5 points and 4.6 assists per game last season, while Millender averaged 15.5 points and connected for a jaw-dropping 73 three-pointers. Bradley was the team’s leading rebounder.
“Basically, we’re just concentrating on taking things one day at a time,” Murray said. “Obviously, there are some different things that they’re learning. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel or anything, but we’ll try to play to our strengths as a team.”