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Baranek: Marist girls poised to fill in the whole

Claire Ryan Marist moves ball up court against Rich Central Marist High School Tuesday November 22st 2011 Chicago IL. l

Claire Ryan, of Marist, moves the ball up court against Rich Central at Marist High School, Tuesday, November 22st, 2011 in Chicago, IL. l Gary Middendorf~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 14, 2013 7:25AM



They say that the best things are always worth waiting for.

Marist girls basketball coach Mary Pat Connolly sure would like that to be the case with the team she’s hoping to send out on the floor one of these days soon.

The RedHawks have been missing senior guard Claire Ryan, who is recovering from an ACL injury, and junior guard Bri Morrison, a talented transfer from Marian Catholic who is recovering from an ankle injury.

They also had some issues regarding Marquette-bound JeTaun Rouse, who had off-season arthroscopic surgery on her left knee and sat with some soreness during parts of the Marist Thanksgiving tournament.

Ryan is expected back in mid-January, while Morrison is expected to try out for the team after Christmas.

Rouse, I’m pretty sure, is 100 percent. It sure seems like it, anyway, considering she poured in 37 points Saturday against Fenwick.

The RedHawks as a whole — well, as a partial whole, anyway — have done pretty darned well for themselves. Ranked second in the area, they won their own Thanksgiving tournament and took Fenwick to overtime before losing 99-97.

I guess this team could be called “the one after.”

Last season Connolly proclaimed her Redhawks as a team she had been waiting for her whole life. They went a long way, rolling to an unbeaten crown in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, and winning Class 4A regional and sectional titles before losing to Edwardsville in the Bloomington Supersectional.

Two key players, Asianna Bey (University of Memphis) and Randyll Butler (Colgate), from that 30-1 team graduated. But Connolly still had plenty of reason to look ahead. Then, adversity came knocking.

Ryan’s injury had its origin at the Marquette University Shootout in June.

“She got misdiagnosed,” Connolly said. “They said it was just a sprain, and she started rehabbing it. But then, during July, she was playing and it wasn’t any better. I guess it tore all the way when she was playing club ball.”

By the time Ryan got another MRI and surgery was scheduled, it was September.

“It was a big blow for us,” Connolly said. “She was a two-year starter for us and our defensive stopper. She just did everything, including off the court stuff. And I felt bad for her, having it happen during her junior summer, during the recruiting period when she should have been deciding what school she was going to go to.”

Rouse, meanwhile, didn’t have anything in particular occur, just some nagging issues with her left knee that had to be checked out.

“There was a lot of stuff they had to clear up,” Connolly said. “There were bone chips in there that were locking her knee. There were, I think, about three things with her knee that she had issues with. So they cleaned that up, and it took six, seven weeks to rehab.”

Morrison, who played on Marian Catholic’s varsity as a freshman and sophomore, had her smooth transition into Marist’s program interrupted by a major ankle sprain from which she’s still finishing up rehab.

Truly, if it wasn’t one thing, it was another. In one sense, however, all of this may turn out to be a blessing for the team after the team of a lifetime.

Brooke Wyderski and Leah Bolton have stepped up and given a three-point shooting dimension to a team that a year ago lived pretty much solely for the fast break. Sophomore point guard Bria Stallworth has emerged as not only a playmaker, but a scoring threat.

Under the basket, Lizzie Zaleski and Hannah Michalek are shoring up the hole in the post left by Bey’s graduation.

The RedHawks have much more of an inside-outside game than they did a year ago. And if all things go well with those on the mend, this could be a very dangerous team come February.

“Yeah, I mean I think we’re real solid right now, but Claire Ryan can bring you really up to the elite level,” Connolly said. “She’s started jumping, and running, and she’s shooting free throws right now. So hopefully by mid-January the doctor will release her.

“We’re taking a whole season to put this whole thing together and reach our end goal that we’ve all been working for for the past four years.”



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