Baranek: Memory bank full of deposits from 2013
By Tony Baranek email@example.com December 31, 2013 8:22PM
Teniya Page gives the number one signal with the trophy and the 4A state champion Marian Catholic girls basketball while they pose for photos during a rally for the team at Marian Catholic High School in Chicago Heights, Illinois, Sunday, March 3, 2013. | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 3, 2014 2:36PM
A few snippets from what yours truly saw, learned and wrote about on the high school sports scene in 2013.
One of the first stories I wrote in 2013 was an amazing one involving Lincoln-Way East’s Claire McMahon. She not only beat the odds in earning a spot on the varsity girls basketball team as a freshman, but did so not long after undergoing brain surgery to alleviate a neurological disorder called Type I Chiari malformation. She’s a team leader as a sophomore.
The most interesting young man I had the pleasure of writing this year involved Andrew senior Nick Diaz, who refused to let the effects of being autistic stop him from being a wonderfully competitive cross country runner and an inspiration to his teammates.
And anyone who thinks volleyball players aren’t the tough athletes needs to meet Kevin Hartley, of Providence, and Michelle Frederick, of Queen of Peace. Hartley played with a steel bar in his chest (the result of surgery for a rib cage abnormality) and Frederick with a two metal rods in her back (the result of scoliosis). Frederick was the team captain and leader during the season in kills and aces. Hartley helped Providence to a regional championship match.
The cream of the crop
The Southland has had plenty of state success in softball and volleyball, but hadn’t had a girls basketball champion since Mother McAuley reigned in Class AA in 1990-91 before Marian Catholic finally ended the drought with a sterling 33-1 season to capture the Class 4A title.
Another drought also came to an end in November, when McAuley — which hadn’t won a state volleyball title since 2004 (its longest stretch without one) — finished a 40-2 season with the program’s 14th first-place trophy.
Marian Catholic’s girls hoopsters provided two during their postseason run to the Class 4A state title. One occurred in the Mother McAuley Sectional final, when Ashton Millender hit a 25-foot bank-in at the buzzer to stun Marist 54-52. The other was the final shot of the season, when Kauai Bradley scooped up an offensive rebound and put it in with a sliver of time remaining to give the Spartans a 48-47 win over Rolling Meadows.
There was nothing dramatic about Tinley Park’s 7-0 victory June 4 over Peoria Notre Dame in the Class 3A supsersectional softball game. But there are few high school sports sights as unforgettable as the faces of the players on a team making it to the state finals for the first time in the program’s history. It was priceless.
Any time Brooke Wyderski steps to the plate for Marist, you don’t want to look away. She had so many big hits during her junior season, to pick one would be like throwing a dart. Maybe the best example of her ability was shown in a Class 4A sectional final against Sandburg, when she twice was intentionally walked with a runner on first base.
Another dominating performer who has one more season left is McAuley’s Kelsey Clark. If the new setter is anywhere as accurate with her quick-sets to the middle as Courtney Joyce was in 2013, Clark is going to explode a volleyball. Nobody in the state puts a quick-set straight to the floor faster and harder than Clark.
I watched opponents use a box-and-1, a double-team, a triple-team, every trick in the book to try to stop Bloom’s Bria Gaines last season, to no avail. She was 6-foot-2, and played even taller, recording a double-double in every game but the final one. And even in that one, a sectional loss to Marian Catholic, she had 11 rebounds. She recently had her first double-double for Western Kentucky.