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One last look at Fox Valley girls basketball
By John Radtke | Daily Herald Columnist

Freshman Ali Andrews, left, and her junior sister Sam, will be back to lead Final Four qualifier Huntley next season.


Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/5/2013 10:52 PM

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The time has come to clean out the notebooks from a long weekend at the girls basketball state tournament, as well as from the 2012-13 season.

The just-completed state tournament had its usual spills and thrills, but one of the overriding themes of the Class 3A and 4A Final Four was that youth was being served.

In Class 4A, eight of the 10 starters in the championship game were non-seniors. Four of the five Huntley starters were non-seniors. Whitney Young only had three seniors on its roster, two of them starters.

In Class 3A, 13 of the 20 starters were non-seniors.

Think some of those teams are eyeing a return to Redbird next season? You bet they are. But they’ll have strong competition along the way. Our annual all-area team will publish in Friday’s editions of the Daily Herald and on and on Thursday evening, and in the Fox Valley at least, the youth is abundant.

One thing I marvel at when covering state tournaments is how conversation inevitably gets around to “the old days.” While it’s fun to reminisce, spending too much time complaining about four classes, format and low attendance will just end up frustrating you. If you come from the “old school” of state tournament basketball like I do, it’s hard to accept how the state finals are run now, but it’s also not going to change anytime soon if ever.

Like the format or not, the Class 4A championship game this past Saturday between Rolling Meadows and Marian Catholic was one of the best state title games I’ve ever seen, boys or girls. Any state title won on a buzzer-beater will be on remembered for a long time.

Now, it’s on to a look back and forward at Fox Valley schools.

Huntley (26-8): The Red Raiders’ run to the Class 4A fourth-place trophy was remarkable for a team with only one senior starter and two freshmen in the lineup. While Huntley may not have had the Division I standout, it had chemistry and sometimes that’s all you need to catch lightning in a bottle for a couple weeks. What coach Steve Raethz and his staff saw at Redbird was what they want their team to become, and one thing you can bet on is that they’ll work harder than ever to make that happen. With four starters back, including top talents in junior Sam Andrews and her freshman sister Ali, the Red Raiders will certainly head into 2013-14 as the team to beat in the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division, and they expect to win that elusive conference title next year, plus much more. They will sorely miss the leadership and athleticism of senior Haley Ream, so the No. 1 question will be who steps into her role?

Burlington Central (27-5): The Rockets went well beyond expectations this season, advancing to the program’s second supersectional (first since 1984) and first Elite Eight appearance. That they lost to eventual Class 3A state runner-up Vernon Hills in the super will do nothing but fuel BC’s hunger for next year, and with the abundance of talent returning, there’s no reason to think the Rockets can’t make a run for Redbird next year. They’ll certainly miss the leadership of senior Camille Delacruz and the defense of Erika Haynes, but remember, there’s a sophomore team that only lost one game coming up and when you add that to the talent already returning, another great season should be a no-brainer. The schedule will be tougher with the addition of the McDonald’s Shootout and the Dundee-Crown Christmas tournament but you give this team another summer of the D-C summer league and AAU ball, and they’re going to be really fun to see next year. Coach Mark Smith deserves plaudits aplenty for the job he and his staff did this year, and he’s clearly excited for the future.

Westminster Christian (26-5): Speaking of youth, take a good look at the Warriors’ roster. No seniors. And this is a team that only didn’t get to play in the Class 1A state finals because it had to run into the Freeport Aquin buzz saw and all-stater Sophie Brunner in the supersectional. Brunner led Aquin to the state title for the second year in a row and joins Bartlett grad Haley Videckis at Arizona State next year. Meanwhile, Westminster coach Ken Flickinger and his group will have their sites set squarely on the Final Four next year and there’s no reason to believe the Warriors can’t get there.

Streamwood (22-9): Oh so close. The Sabres won the program’s first regional title in 25 years and came 4 points from a sectional crown. The trio of seniors Jessica Cerda and Deja Moore and junior Hannah McGlone elevated Streamwood to a place of respect, a team you had to fear every night. If we gave a coach of the year award it would be really tough to choose between Raethz, Smith and the Sabres’ George Rosner, who has McGlone and Holly Foret back to build around next year. Rosner will enter next season needing 14 wins for 400 in his career, and 4 for 350 victories at Streamwood

Cary-Grove (23-7): Four straight FVC Valley Division titles and a fourth straight regional crown highlighted the Trojans’ season, although it ended a bit too soon for their liking with a sectional semifinal loss to Streamwood. Olivia Jakubicek, Joslyn Nicholson and Megan Leisten and Kylee Smith graduate, but coach Rod Saffert does return super soph Katie Barker, among others, and one thing we know about Cary-Grove is that the Trojans will always be in the championship mix.

Crystal Lake South (23-7): The Gators will be a team to be reckoned with next year. Coming off a credible 23-win season, coach Kyle McCaughn returns several of his top players from this season, including juniors Sara Mickow and Rachel Rasmussen and freshman Chantel Fanter. This is a team that won 16 of its final 18 games and took Huntley to double overtime. The future looks bright at Gator Alley.

South Elgin (17-12): The Storm sat at 10-19 when junior Savanah Uveges returned from an ACL injury, and went 7-3 down the stretch, losing only to Upstate Eight Valley champ Neuqua Valley, Metea Valley and then in the regional final to Streamwood, while notching quality wins over Burlington Central and Bartlett. With Uveges, junior Kennede Miller and freshman point guard Nadia Yang among the returnees, and a strong sophomore group coming up, coach Tim Prendergast is optimistic for another good season in 2013-14.

Bartlett (15-13): When you’ve been to the mountain, coming back to sea level can be frustrating sometimes, but Bartlett turned into a very competitive team this season, a year after its run to third place at the Class 4A finals. Senior transfer Alyssa Hernandez brought a competitive fire with her from Lake Park and helped the young Hawks mature into a team that had several quality wins and finished third in the UEC Valley. With juniors Ally Giampapa and Liz Arco leading the returning group, coach Denise Sarna’s Hawks are looking forward to more wins next season.

Elgin (9-20): Maroons’ coach Dr. Nick Bumbales softened up Elgin’s schedule this season and the move turned into more wins. Elgin also beat Larkin in 3 of 4 games and if nothing else Bumbales got some confidence going with a still young team. Elgin loses only two seniors and should be even more competitive next season.

Hampshire (11-17): The Whip-Purs came back from an 0-9 start to go 11-8 the rest of the way and is another team with some good young players returning, including freshman post Emma Benoit. The Whips will have a new coach and we’ll miss Ed Haugens, one of the good guys, on the sidelines. Hampshire will also miss the senior leadership of Jen Dumoulin but with three more Dumoulins returning, there won’t be a lack of competitiveness.

Dundee-Crown (4-24): It was a tough season for the Chargers that was made better with a regional win over Jacobs, but — and remember, I told you this was a theme — there’s a good young group coming back for coach Michelle Russell, including sophomores Lauren Lococo and Jess Laboy.

Jacobs (3-23): First-year coach Joe Benoit never wavered in what he wants to bring to the Golden Eagles’ program and that process has begun. Junior Kelly Grady and sophomore Jen Barnec give Benoit a good nucleus to start next season with.

Larkin (3-25): It was another tough year for the Royals, but there’s some hope for the future with sophomore Quixmia Washington, one of the top scorers in the area, returning for coach Ruben Flores.

St. Edward (4-25): Injuries to senior Rena Ranallo and junior Katie Swanson that took the better part of the season to heal hurt the Green Wave tremendously, yet they were able to salvage a Class 3A regional win. With Swanson, Clarissa Ramos and CeCe Rapp leading the returning group, coach Michelle Dawson is looking for a much better season next year.

Harvest Christian (7-20): When Sydney Doby decided not to play this season to rest her nagging knee soreness and concentrate on volleyball, it took a lot of needed size out of the Lions’ lineup, yet coach Kelly Friestad’s group still managed 7 wins. Harvest should improve next year also with sophomore standout Kylee Knox leading and 6-foot freshman Rachel Oostdyk among with top returning players.

Elgin Academy (10-16): Another young team that showed some good signs this year, the Hilltoppers return sophomore Alysson Whittmeyer and freshman Rachel Cain, among others, for coach Bill Rodriguez.

So that’s it. The close of another season. We hope you enjoy our all-area presentation online Thursday evening and in print Friday morning.

And then, yes, it’s softball season!