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Warren honors Volpert with court-ordered excellence
By Joe Aguilar | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/31/2013 11:35 PM | Updated: 2/1/2013 1:00 AM

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Patti Volpert retired from the Lincolnshire Police Department after 30 years Thursday (her birthday), so she’s familiar with theft.

“That was the best steal of the night!” Volpert, the Warren girls basketball team’s longtime “team mom,” said with a laugh after watching senior/prankster Alyssa Phillips swipe and then speed off with a chocolate-chip cake while the Blue Devils sang happy birthday to Volpert.

“I was hungry,” Phillips said with a sheepish smile.

Warren had more to celebrate than Volpert’s birthday and retirement from the police department. Freshman Kylie Nedelka came off the bench to score 9 points, and Phillips added 8 points and 8 rebounds, as Warren defeated host Lake Zurich 50-33 in North Suburban Lake Division action Thursday night.

Warren (14-11, 7-4) won for the seventh time in its last 11 games.

“I’m real happy with the way we’re playing,” Blue Devils coach John Stanczykiewicz said. “I think we’ve improved quite a bit since the beginning of the year.”

Lake Zurich, too.

The Bears (5-22, 1-10) started a pair of sophomores and freshman guard Abby Pirron against Warren. Senior Sarah Stefaniu led Lake Zurich with 13 points, 4 assists and 3 steals. Sophomore Eleanor Daleske had 6 points and 2 steals, and took a charge.

“We’re not young anymore. It’s been three months,” coach Chris Bennett said. “We had a bad week two weeks ago, had a little soul-searching meeting about a week and a half ago, and then we had a great week. ... We played our best ballgame of the year Tuesday night against Stevenson (34-28 loss). We had a really good 10 days. We grew up and looked like a really solid basketball team. Today, we just didn’t have the effort.”

Actually, Bennett has liked the effort he’s received all season from seniors Stefaniu, Sara Gazdacka and Kayla Stavnes. Stavnes came off the bench against Warren and drained a pair of midrange jumpers. Gazdacka was held to 2 points but grabbed 7 rebounds.

“All three seniors play their hearts out every single day,” Bennett said. “There could not be any better role models for our younger kids — diving for loose balls and trying to make hustle plays — than those three.”

Even Phillips noticed the Bears’ ferocity.

“It’s really hard guarding their little back cuts,” Phillips said. “They’d come up and then scoot back.”

Nedelka’s long jumper just before the opening-quarter buzzer had Warren up 10-4, and the visitors kept building on the lead. Rachel Brown and Sammie Jo Nixon knocked down 3-pointers in the second quarter for Warren, which went into halftime up 24-15. By the fourth, Stanczykiewicz had emptied his bench. Ten Blue Devils scored.

Brown, Cassie Christie and Kristin Jacobs chipped in 6 points apiece.

The “team” win was a perfect gift for Volpert, who’s also been the Blue Devils’ statistician for years. Is it any wonder she worked in the records department all those years for the police department?

“Patti just loves the kids to death,” Stanczykiewicz said. “She’s Mother Confessor and a shoulder to cry on.”

“She’s just so loving and caring,” Phillips said. “She’s always watching out for us, making sure everybody is there, bringing us stuff.”

Smiles and laughs included.