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posted: 2/10/2010 12:01 AM

It's a gender first in NSC championship game

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  • Libertyville's Kaca Savatic shoots over Stevenson's Anna Morrissey during play earlier this season.

      Libertyville's Kaca Savatic shoots over Stevenson's Anna Morrissey during play earlier this season.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer


The girls can play.

And coach.

History will be made Wednesday night when Wauconda (19-5) hosts Libertyville (22-5) in the North Suburban Conference girls basketball championship game (7 p.m.).

It's not only the first appearance for either team in the game, which debuted in 2001, but it's the first time the contest will feature a woman head coach. In fact, both coaches are female.

In her fourth season, Kathie Swanson has guided Libertyville to its most wins since the Wildcats went 26-4 under head coach Tom Murphy during the 1993-94 season.

Meanwhile, Jaime Dennis has her Wauconda squad on the verge of equally the 21 wins it compiled in her first year on the job last season. The former Jaime Weber, she was a longtime assistant under coach Tim Bartusch.

There are other similarities between the two teams, as well, and not just that both Wauconda (Nicole Biskupski) and Libertyville (Melissa Gorski) even have female assistant coaches.

Case in point: Both squads feature difference-making point guards in Kate Martino of Wauconda and Savannah Trees of Libertyville. The two players have been their team's best player this season, able to run offenses, score and disrupt on the defensive end.

"We have similar teams in that the guard play is the driving force," Dennis said. "Again we will look for our defense to give us some momentum."

Martino is a four-year varsity starter who surpassd 1,000 career points this season. The 5-foot-4 guard is the Bulldogs' only double-digit scorer at 12 points per game and also averages 4 assists and nearly 5 steals per game.

"Martino is clearly the leader of that team," Swanson said. "She is a hard-nosed, scrappy player who provides a lot of energy. They do a nice job of running their offense through their backcourt and trying to create offense through their defense."

Wauconda's three-guard offense also includes juniors Tammy Ellis (8.6 ppg, 50 steals) and Melanie Prudhomme (49 steals). With Ellis missing the Bulldogs' first five games with a back injury, they went 3-2.

Wauconda averages 46.2 points per game and allows only 37.8.

"Wauconda is a team that plays hard and likes to apply a lot of pressure on defense," Swanson said. "They like to get up in the passing lanes and apply full-court pressure. They do a nice job of running the floor."

Libertyville also prides itself on defense. The Wildcats have held their opponent to fewer than 40 points in 17 games.

Amd like Wauconda, Libertyyville relies on balanced scoring. The 5-7 Trees averages 11.4 points per game, while sophomore guard Alex Haley averages right around 10 per game.

Senior guard Katelynn Jennings can fill up the basket when her 3-point shot is on, and junior guard Olivia Wilcox also can hit perimeter shots.

"What has allowed us to be successful this season is the fact that we are pretty well-balanced," Swanson said. "I like the fact that we don't have to rely on one or two players to do all of the scoring. On any given night, you could see a number of kids lead us in scoring. Our philosophy is that it doesn't matter who scores, as long as the team scores. I will often give more credit to the kid making the assist than the person who scores the basket."

Both teams also boast height in the paint. Libertyville features 6-foot sisters Nicole and Leah Kruckman, while Wauconda has 6-foot Roslyn Summerville and 6-1 Erinn Hellweg.

Libertyville and Wauconda are relatively young teams, as well. Wauconda has two only seniors on its roster in Martino and Kelsey Mills, both of whom start, while the only two seniors who play regularly for Libertyville are Jennings and Leah Kruckman.

"Libertyville is a very athletic team," Dennis said. "They like to run and can handle the ball well. I think we match up well with them."