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Girls basketball all-area team: Lake County
By Joe Aguilar | Daily Herald Staff

Amanda Barger

 

Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

Katie Batman

 

Meri Bennett-Swanson

 

Claire Brennan

 

Ashlee Cunningham

 

Dori Darras

 

Alex Haley

 

Skyler Jessop

 

Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Nicole Kruckman

 

Lexi Leneau

 

Sarah McHugh

 

Kari Moffat

 

Sydney Smith

 

Cathryne Spear

 

Picasa

Lauren Webb

 

 1 of 15 
 
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Published: 3/8/2012 11:53 PM

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Amanda Barger Warren

She played as many positions this winter as she played varsity seasons - four. The senior started the Blue Devils' first couple of games this season at power forward. She then started moving all over the court. Small forward. Off Guard. Point guard. "What strikes me about Amanda is her versatility," coach John Stanczykiewicz said of the Youngstown State signee. At 5 feet 10, Barger could play against bigger players, handle the ball and shoot from the outside. She inbounded the ball all the time. "You could put her at any position and know she could do the job," Stanczykiewicz said. Barger's statistics reflected her all-around game. She averaged 7.8 points, 4.8 rebounds 4.3 assists and 2.5 steals per game. Her season-best efforts included 16 points against Hoffman Estates, 12 rebounds vs. Mundelein and 10 assists against Zion-Benton. She sank 22 3-pointers. She is a first-time all-area and All-North Suburban Conference selection (honorable mention as a junior). "She had a knack for finding the open person. Sometimes she'd pass the ball too hard," Stanczykiewicz said with a laugh. "If the kids were ready for her passes, she could find them on the floor."

Katie Batman Stevenson

The Patriots' Batman could hit. Without swinging. She could hit shots. Tom Dineen found that out quickly when he became the Patriots' coach. "It's been a neat transformation for her," Dineen said of the 5-foot-10 senior guard, a first-time all-area and All-North Suburban Conference pick. "When I got here (in 2009), I wasn't sure if she was a post player or a guard. Once I saw her shoot the ball, I said to her, 'You're a guard.' She worked really hard to perfect her shooting, and she really did." Batman sank a school-record 60 3-pointers (36 percent) this season, while averaging a team-leading 11.9 points for the 23-game winners, and shot 75 percent from the foul line. She was named MVP at Maine West, where she was the leading scorer in the season-opening tournament (career-high 26 points vs. Marian Catholic) and also earned all-tourney honors in the Suburban Holiday Showcase. The three-year varsity player and first-year full-time starter also led the Patriots in steals with 73, while her 68 assists ranked second. "She was a tremendous captain," Dineen said, "on and off the court." Dineen said Batman plans to attend college, but will not play basketball.

Meri Bennett-Swanson Vernon Hills

The Cougars reached new heights, and their tallest player had a big (left) hand in it. Bennett-Swanson averaged 11.6 points and 5.9 rebounds in her third varsity season, each of which has seen the 6-foot-2 junior center earn All-North Suburban Conference honors. This season she is repeat all-area choice after helping the Cougars place second in the Class 3A state tournament. Her variety of post moves and ability to shoot midrange jumpers also were beneficial in helping the Cougars go undefeated in the North Suburban Prairie Division. She was an 82-percent shooter (32 of 39) from the free-throw line. "Her quest for excellence never stops," coach Paul Brettner said. "She had a fantastic year for us scoring and rebounding, as well as protecting our basket. Such a great kid, too."

Claire Brennan Grayslake Central

The senior captain had a new role heading into the season. Then it changed again. Early in the season, coach Steve Ikenn moved the first-year starter from off guard to point guard. "She had the responsibility of being our main ballhandler and running the offense," Ikenn said. The switch didn't hurt Brennan's offense. She averaged 9 points and 2.3 assists per game, while also averaging 3.3 rebounds and 2.1 steals for the Fox Valley Fox Division champs. She also shot 39 percent from beyond the arc and 63 percent from the line. "Claire provided great leadership - both verbal and in her actions on the court," Ikenn said. "She also was an underrated defender who could guard point guards to forwards. She was a great outside shooter, but she was also very adept at driving to the hoop and drawing fouls. That is a great combination of skills to possess." Brennan, who logged plenty of minutes coming of the bench last season for a sectional-championship squad and advanced downstate in three-point contest, was named all-tournament at Buffalo Grove (Thanksgiving) and Warren (Christmas). An all-area softball player, as well, she plans to attend college but not pursue athletics.

Ashlee Cunningham Lakes

Pete Schneider called the two-year starting guard "the most consistent player, by far" he's had in his three seasons as coach. She's also the first Eagle to be named all-area in the program's seven-year history. "She never missed a game, never missed anything," Schneider said of his lone senior, who also earned All-North Suburban Conference honors in leading the Eagles to a school-record 12 wins. Cunningham not only averaged 12.8 points per game but also was the Eagles' leading rebounder at 9.8 per game, despite standing only 5 feet 9. She averaged 3 assists and 2.3 steals per game, as well. "On the court, her instincts and anticipation defensively were phenomenal," Schneider said. "She had the ability to shoot the 3, finish in the paint and handle the ball. She was very versatile. Off the court, she grew into a great young leader. She did what was best for the team, and she befriended everyone very easily. ... She was a leader in all the many charitable events that we provide," Schneider added. "Whether it was helping out at Victory Lakes (senior living community) or helping with Special Olympics, she not only attended but also encouraged others to jump in. She is always there to lend a hand and to help a teammate out with a ride or just showing concern for them. She will be missed next year." Carthage is among the schools that has shown interest in her.

Dori Darras Lake Zurich

Her fourth varsity season - after receiving few minutes as a freshman, playing the role of sixth man as a sophomore and missing several games with a broken hand as a junior - was worth the wait. The 5-foot-10 forward averaged 10.1 points and 5.5 rebounds, while also leading the 21-game winners with 4.1 assists and 2.8 steals per game. "We asked Dori to do a lot this year - score in the post, score from the three-point line, rebound, feed her teammates, guard the other team's best post player, and she excelled in all those roles," coach Chris Bennett said. The Bears started the season 8-1, struggled slightly and then finished the season with 9 wins in their last 11 games. Darras overcame what Bennett called a "mini slump" to be a key factor in the last few weeks of the season. "She came in, did some extra work, fixed some things and had a great last third of the season," Bennett said. "Not coincidentally, we started playing better when she did. Without a doubt, she was the most versatile player on our basketball team." Darras, a two-time All-North Suburban Conference pick, hopes to continue playing basketball, Bennett said, at the University of Chicago.

Alex Haley Libertyville

She signed a letter of intent to play college basketball in a state (North Dakota) where it's cold. She then started the season hot. The three-year varsity starting guard poured in a career-high 25 points in the Wildcats' third game, and she rarely cooled off during the season. The 5-foot-7 Haley, who will play for Division II Minot State, led the Wildcats to their third straight North Suburban Conference championship, averaging a team-leading 14.1 points per game. She shot 43 percent from the field and 70 percent from the stripe, while also averaging 3.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists. "Alex had the responsibility of shouldering the offensive load this season with the graduation of many key contributors from last year's team," coach Kathie Swanson said. "This is a role that she embraced and thrived in. She knew that the opposition would focus their defense on her every game but still was able to find ways to adjust. When she sets her mind to it, she has the ability to be a major difference-maker on both sides of the court." Take the NSC title game. Haley poured in a game-high 20 points, hitting clutch shots while also playing tough defense. She is a two-time all-area and All-NSC player. "Her love and enthusiasm for the game," Swanson said, "will be missed next year."

Skyler Jessop Grayslake Central

While Vernon Hills was putting together a season that ended with a runner-up finish in the Class 3A state tournament, the former Vernon Hills resident was putting together a season that finished with her being named captain of the Daily Herald Lake County All-Area team and earning honorable mention all-state honors in Class 3A. Jessop, who moved to Grayslake from Vernon Hills when she was 7, averaged 13.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3 steals per game. She also sank 38 3-pointers and shot 76 percent from the free-throw line for the Fox Valley Fox champs. "Offensively, Skyler can beat you from the outside, drive and score, as well as beat you with a great pass," coach Steve Ikenn said of his three-time all-area player. "Her court vision is off the charts, as is her will to win. Skyler will do whatever the team needs her to do - pass, score, defend, rebound. You name it, she does it. She is also a lockdown defender who always guarded the opponent's best scorer and routinely shut them down." Named all-tournament at Buffalo Grove (Thanksgiving) and Warren (Christmas), the four-year varsity guard finished her career with 1,136 points.

Nicole Kruckman Libertyville

Few Lake County teams have been tougher defensively than the Wildcats the last three years, and their 6-foot pivot was often the center of attention, so to speak. "Nicole played an integral role in our defense over the past three years," coach Kathie Swanson said. "We could always count on her to provide excellent help defense and to cover up for any mistakes made on the perimeter. There were also a number of times in which she came up with rebounds in key moments to help us secure the win. This is a role that she relished and took a lot of pride in." Kruckman, who along with guard Alex Haley was a starter on three North Suburban Conference championship teams, averaged 6.3 points and 5 rebounds per game, while shooting 54 percent from the floor. She is a first-time all-area and all-conference pick. "She is a very tough, physical player who has a great understanding of the game," Swanson said. "She was never interested in stats or gaining personal attention. To her, it was about always working hard and doing whatever it took to help her team be successful. Her work ethic and approach to the game will be greatly missed next year."

Lexi Leneau Warren

There were so many clutch shots, so many heroic plays during her four-year varsity career. This year alone, coach John Stanczykiewicz noted the senior guard's 2 free throws with no time on the clock in the fourth quarter of an overtime win at Zion-Benton. He recalled her steal, three-quarters-court dribble and game-winning shot against Andrew at Willowbrook. And then there was what Stanczykiewicz called Leneau's "signature game" on senior night, Jan. 27, against Zion-Benton. With teammate Amanda Barger having fouled out, Leneau took over. She scored 19 points in lifting the Blue Devils to victory. "She got every big basket, every big rebound, made her free throws down the stretch," Stanczykiewicz said. "She refused to lose. To me, that's Alexis in a nutshell." The three-time all-area and All-North Suburban Conference pick led the Blue Devils to 21 wins, as she averaged 10.7 points, 3 steals, 2.9 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game. She hit 40 3-pointers and had a career-high 28 points and 8 steals in a win over Mundelein. Stanczykiewicz called her the team's emotional and vocal leader. "Alexis was not a big screamer or yeller," he said. "But you knew she was on the floor." She has drawn interest from Grand Valley State and Lake Forest College.

Sarah McHugh Carmel Catholic

The Corsairs got a big kick out of their Division I-bound soccer player. The 5-foot-11 senior forward paced the 18-game winners with averages of 9 points (second on the team) and 7 rebounds (first). She also led the Corsairs in steals with an average of 2.5 per game. "There are not many high school girls that are 5-11, 6 feet and are as athletic as her," coach Kelly Perz said. "We were really a pressing team all year, and she was at the heart of that." A three-year varsity player and first time All-East Suburban Catholic Conference and all-area choice, McHugh has signed to play soccer for the University of Northern Iowa. She plays soccer with the same passion and physicality as she does basketball. "We're going to miss her so much next year because she did so many things," Perz said. "She was not just a scorer, a rebounder or a defensive stopper. She was all of those things for us."

Kari Moffat Stevenson

Patriots coach Tom Dineen would sometimes walk by the trainer's room and spy his veteran point guard. "She would be hiding," Dineen said with a laugh. "She didn't want me to see her. ... She played banged up most of the year. That says a lot about her. She's a competitor." Heck of a player, too. In her third varsity season, Moffat continued to get better. The repeat All-North Suburban Conference and first-time all-area selection averaged 8.5 points with a team-leading 136 assists (4.4 apg) and 69 steals. "Her role has changed each and every year," Dineen said of his three-year varsity starter. "This year was no exception. We turned to her as our top defender, which hadn't been her responsibility. Asking her to run the offense and defend, that's asking a lot of her." Moffat's season also included a career-high 22-point effort in an overtime loss at Libertyville. She has been offered scholarships by Loyola and Illinois-Chicago.

Sydney Smith Vernon Hills

During the second half of the Cougars' Feb. 4 win at Lakes, "Syd the Kid" made a bid. Her shot from beyond the arc found the bottom of the net, giving her a school-record eight 3-pointers in the game en route to a career-high 26 points. The 5-foot-10 sophomore forward finished the season averaging a team-best 12.9 points for the Class 3A state runner-up. She sank 62 3s, including 5 downstate, shooting 35 percent from three-point range. She also averaged 5.7 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game, and shot 78 percent from the stripe. The first-time all-area choice made the All-North Suburban Conference team for the second year in a row. "She made a big jump from her freshman year," coach Paul Brettner said. "Sydney was a consistent scorer all year and an offensive leader. Off the court, she is someone that the entire team enjoys being around."

Cathryne Spear Lake Zurich

She shoots free throws and jump shots with only one hand on the ball. It's not her one and only skill. Take the Bears' regional final, when the 5-foot-9 guard posted a double-double of 12 points and 12 rebounds against Stevenson. "That's what she gives us every game," coach Chris Bennett said of Spear's effort. "She gives us some rebounds, she gives us hustle, she gives us a few assists here and there, a couple of steals. I mean, she does everything. She's an athlete playing basketball." A three-year varsity player, Spear averaged 9.1 points, a team-best 5.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. She is a first-time All-North Suburban Conference and all-area selection after helping the Bears win 21 games.

Lauren Webb Vernon Hills

The Webb gems included a career-high 22 points and 12 rebounds in a supersectional win over Belvidere North and another double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds in the Cougars' upset of top-ranked Springfield in the Class 3A state semifinals. The 6-foot sophomore forward had a pair of 21-point efforts during the season. "Lauren did so many little things all year, along with her offensive contributions," coach Paul Brettner said. "We would not have gotten where we did without her and how she was playing at the end of the year." A second-year varsity starter who is a first-time all-area and All-North Suburban Conference selection, she averaged 10 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 74 percent from the foul line. She also sank 19 3-pointers, including a pair against Springfield downstate.

All-area roster

Player School Pos. Ht. Yr.

Maura Benson Prospect F 5-10 Sr.

Diamond Boyd Elk Grove F 5-10 Jr.

Brittany Collins Maine West F 6-1 So.

Nicole Collins Barrington G 5-9 Sr.

Erin Fabbri St. Viator G 5-8 So.

Alexis Glasgow Rolling Meadows G 5-10 So.

Haley Gorecki Fremd G-F 5-10 Fr.

Jen Hall Hersey G 5-5 Sr.

Maggie Hogen Hersey F 5-11 Sr.

Amanda Hoye Maine West G 5-6 Sr.

Amanda Kelly Schaumburg G 5-6 Jr.

Jackie Kemph Rolling Meadows G 5-6 So.

Natalie Kutramanes Conant F 6-0 Sr.

Deanna Kuzmanic Wheeling G 5-8 Fr.

Kellie Kuzmanic Wheeling F-G 5-10 Sr.

Ann Marie Lynch Rolling Meadows G 5-8 Sr.

Kaitlyn Mayer Palatine F 5-11 Sr.

*Ashley McConnell Fremd G 5-9 Jr.

Bailey North Buffalo Grove F 6-0 Jr.

Nia Pappas Palatine G 5-5 Jr.

Alyssa Saklak Schaumburg F 5-11 Sr.

Jenny Vliet Rolling Meadows F-G 6-1 So.

Jessi Wiedemann Fremd G 6-1 Sr.

Taylor Will Prospect G 5-10 Fr.

Destinee Young Hoffman Estates F 6-1 Jr.

* Honorary captain

Special mention

Allie Bauch (Conant, Sr. G), Christina Brucci (Prospect, Sr. G), Emily Cho (Buffalo Grove, Sr. G), Ashley Collins (Maine West, Jr. F), Adriane Falagario (Prospect, Sr. G), Amanda Gunn (Rolling Meadows, Sr. G), Jeanine Hannoun (Sr. F), Megan John (Maine West, Sr. G), Angie Kirchoff (Barrington, So. G), Marilyn Lortz (Fremd, Jr. G), Leah Malsom (Wheeling, Sr. F), Michele Molini (Prospect, Jr. G), Jess Moriarty (Christian Liberty, Fr. G), Kelly Naughton (Elk Grove, Jr. G), Jessica Petrovski (Prospect, Sr. G), Mary Pettit (Hoffman Estates, Sr. G), Renee Poulos (Hersey, So. F), Lauren Rooney (St. Viator, Sr. C), Jayna Rowland (Christian Liberty, Sr. F), Sarah Macius (Fremd, Sr. G), Laura Schweikert (Palatine, Sr. G), Kelly Skorzcewski (Schaumburg, Sr. F), Becca Stoczynski (Hoffman Estates, Jr. F), Megan Sullivan (Christian Liberty, So. G), McKenzie Wiedemann (Palatine, Jr. G), Bernie Williams (Fremd, Jr. F-G)

All-area capsules by John Leusch Amanda Barger Warren Sr. G

Katie Batman Stevenson Sr. G

Meri Bennett-Swanson Vernon Hills Jr. C

Claire Brennan Grayslake Central Sr. G

Ashlee Cunningham Lakes Sr. G

Dori Darras Lake Zurich Sr. F

Alex Haley Libertyville Sr. G

*Skyler Jessop Grayslake Central Sr. G

Nicole Kruckman Libertyville Sr. C

Lexi Leneau Warren Sr. G

Sarah McHugh Carmel Catholic Sr. F

Kari Moffat Stevenson Jr. G

Sydney Smith Vernon Hills So. F

Cathryne Spear Lake Zurich Sr. G

Lauren Webb Vernon Hills So. F

* captain

Honorable Mention

Katherine Anderson (Lake Zurich, Sr., G), Megan Borries (Antioch, Jr., G), Jordyn Bowen (Grayslake North, Jr., G), Aaliyah Chastang (Round Lake, Jr., F/G), Maisie Cox (Lake Zurich, Sr., G), Julia Dabrowski (Stevenson, Sr., C), Morgan Dahlstrom (Grayslake Central, So., C), Amanda Davis (Mundelein, Sr., G), Kendall Detweiler (Grayslake North, So., G), Alex Elzinga (Stevenson, Jr., F), Diana Enriquez (Wauconda, Sr., G), Kathleen Felicelli (Carmel Catholic, So., G), Lindsey Gofron (Antioch, Sr., G), Joanna Guhl (Grayslake North, Jr., C), Morgan Jahnke (Grant, Sr., G), Eileen Knauff (Libertyville, Sr., G), Terese McMahon (Lakes, Jr., F), Julie Pecht (Vernon Hills, Sr., G), Alyssa Phillips (Warren, Jr., F), Adrianna Pitts (Round Lake, Sr., G/F), Jessica Prince (Warren, Sr., C), Kerry Risley (Libertyville, Sr., F), Stephanie Schmid (Lake Zurich, Sr., G), Abby Springer (Vernon Hills, Sr,. G), Kassie Stimpson (Grant, Sr., G), Olivia Whalen (Stevenson, Sr., G), Becca Woit (Mundelein, Sr., G)