Baranek: Girls hoops season offers surprises
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org February 21, 2013 7:52PM
Oak Lawn's Brooke Annerino (22). | File photo
Updated: March 23, 2013 6:25AM
Taking time for a look back before we move ahead with the last teams standing on the final week of the girls basketball season:
Let’s start with the surprises.
The early season upsets that seem to be a yearly event began with Rich South dethroning Hillcrest as the Galaxy champion for the first time in eight years. But that was nothing, really, compared with Crete-Monee’s start.
The Warriors, under new coach but former player and assistant Christina Cobbins, exploded out of the gates at 11-0. Beating Andrew on Dec. 4 most definitely got my attention, and it was cool giving some attention to such kids as Ashley Henry, Alexia DeBose and Marsha Howard.
But were they truly the real deal? I think to a point they were. The Warriors had problems with ranked teams Bloom and Rich South in their four Southland Conference meetings, and got whacked pretty hard by Mother McAuley in the regional final after beating Homewood-Flossmoor in the semis. There is a lot of youth on this team, and Cobbins seems to have injected a newfound confidence into the atmosphere there.
A job well done, it says here.
Another really nice surprise this season was Oak Lawn. I mean, I figured the Spartans would be pretty good with LaTondra Brooks, but the development of Brooke Annerino as a solid point guard, the improved play underneath by Jannah Mahmood and the emergence of sophomore Brianna Markusic resulted in a fantastic 12-1 run in the South Suburban Conference and a 21-6 record.
It could have been a clean sweep in the conference. Oak Lawn led Hillcrest more than once Dec. 13 despite playing without a concussed Brooks.
As far as unheralded individuals whose efforts were noticeable, we had a few.
Stagg definitely became a more effective team when Ali Conrad, a front-line volleyball player, came on this season to provide a much-needed presence underneath the basket. Marist’s stars have done a lot of eye-popping things, especially lately, but the emergence of junior Brooke Wyderski as a tenacious rebounder has been interesting to watch. And where in the heck did Tinley Park’s Caitlyn Sudduth come from? It would really be fun to see the multipurpose guard have one more season to run in tandem with Diamond Beatty.
On the flip side, what a bizarre up and, more often, down season for Homewood-Flossmoor. Noting some returning talent and a talented transfer, I started them out at No. 3. I never dreamed they’d barely be .500 and go 1-2 and out at the Hillcrest Holiday Classic.
The Vikings did have some bright spots later on behind the efforts of Sydni Johnson, but something just didn’t click with this group. Dana Noble is too good a coach for that to happen again next season.
More than a couple of people have asked me if Hillcrest would have beaten Rich South in the Class 3A regional finals had suspended star Dana Gettis been in the lineup. The easy answer is yes. But it’s not a slam-dunk.
The Hawks lost to Rich South with Gettis in the lineup at the Galaxy. And while she did score 35 points in the rematch at Christmas, Hillcrest was winning by just a point when she fouled out with 6:52 left to play. The Hawks, without her, went on to shut down Rich South the rest of the way and win by six.
They also led the regional final by 12 points before forgetting how to shoot free throws. Rich South, meanwhile, played well down the stretch and deserved to win.
Let’s turn to the IHSA. Look, I know you guys and gals don’t care about having the best teams downstate. You’ve said it, and while I don’t like it, I get it. Just know how embarrassing it looked to have 10-17 Queen of Peace as the No. 1 seed in one area Class 3A sectional while Hillcrest, Rich South, Morgan Park, Tinley Park, Providence, Joliet Catholic, Bishop McNamara and Oak Forest were stacked together in another.
Phillips, which eliminated Queen of Peace in a Solario Sectional semifinal, and Harlan, which knocked out Evergreen Park the same night, both competed at the Hillcrest Holiday Classic. Any of those four teams could have been put in the Hillcrest or Thornridge regional fields and gotten there on a couple of gallons of gas. And if you don’t think Hillcrest, Tinley Park, or Oak Forest would have been happy to drive to Solario after winning a regional, you need a clue.
It wouldn’t take an overhaul of the system, just a handful of competent people midway through the season analyzing regions, looking at records, and putting together reasonably geographic sectional fields. Pretty please?
Finally, I’ve got to say the most heartwarming moment occurred at Marist, when Claire Ryan took the court for the first time since undergoing knee surgery in the regular-season finale against Morgan Park. She got a rousing ovation when introduced as a starter and another rousing ovation when she scored Marist’s first basket. Her tears of happiness after the game would have melted a man of steel.