The Bartlett girls basketball team is hoping its late-season surge can continue this week when the Hawks play in the ultra-tough Class 4A Lake Park sectional.
"We've played a tough schedule against a lot of good teams," said Bartlett coach Denise Sarna. "We've learned a little bit from each game and now we're really coming along nicely."
The sixth-seeded Hawks (20-9) pulled off a 54-43 upset of No. 2 seed Elk Grove to win the Glenbard East regional and will now set their sites on another upset when they face 28-2 Proviso West at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday in Roselle. Bartlett is in the sectional for the first time since 2006 and the Hawks, who have won 11 of their last 12, have done so with a team void of senior stars. In fact the Hawks' only senior is reserve Nicolette Gutzwiller, who comes off the bench and provides valuable minutes in Sarna's deep 9-10 player rotation.
Bartlett's game starts with 6-foot junior Jacki Gulczynski, the area's second leading scorer at over 17 points per game. But she was held to 7 in the regional title game, while still providing 9 rebounds and 6 blocks.
"For Jacki to only score 7 and for us to beat a team like Elk Grove says a lot about our team," said Sarna. "Jacki draws a lot of attention from other teams and I think we took a big step forward with the way the team played as a whole (against Elk Grove)."
Sophomore Haley Videckis led the Hawks, who finished second in the Upstate Eight Conference, with 18 points in the Elk Grove win. Bartlett also counts on steady play from junior point guard Janessa Baker, who has improved by leaps and bounds this season, as well as junior forward Christina Carlson and junior guard Nicole Beck. Sophomore Kristin Conniff and sophomore Lisa Palmer have been key to Bartlett's success as well.
"We had the opportunity to scout Bartlett and they're a tough team. They're very aggressive," said Proviso West coach Kellee Robertson, whose team slipped past West Chicago 57-56 in overtime Friday night to win the program's first regional title since 2001.
Proviso West's only losses this season are to Hinsdale Central and to a team from Virginia in a tournament the Panthers played in Florida. They shared the West Suburban Silver title with Hinsdale Central.
The Panthers, who returned seven seniors from a team that went 21-11 last season, are led by returning starters Celeste Jones (point guard), guard Ashley Segers, center Britney Landers and shooting guard Chakese Williams, who had 14 points including the game-winning free throw against West Chicago.
No Proviso West basketball team, boys or girls, has ever won more than 28 games in a season. The 1984-85 boys team was 28-1 and lost in the sectional finals. Only the Panthers' 1996 boys team has ever won a basketball sectional title for the school.
"We're happy to still be playing," said Robertson. "It was nice to wake up (Saturday) and still be able to go to practice."
Robertson believes her team's chances of success Tuesday night lies in mastering Bartlett's defense.
"Teams that play us man-to-man have a hard time stopping us so we're expecting to see a 2-3 or a 3-2 zone," Robertson said. "The key will be if we can execute our offense against the zone. We have to attack the basket and drive and dish."
Both teams have high-powered offenses and if the game resembles a track meet that's OK with Sarna, who coached the Hawks to a state runner-up finish in 2005.
"They're good," she said of the Panthers. "They're fast, they're scrappy and they put a lof pressure on the ball. We'll have to work hard and play well to win. They play a very fast-paced style of basketball and that's kind of our style too."
Tuesday's first game has top seed and No. 7 Fenwick (28-3) taking on Proviso East (24-4). Fenwick features the odds-on favorite to win this season's Ms. Basketball award, Duke recruit Tricia Liston. Liston scored 41 points in a 77-33 regional final rout of Glenbard West to become Fenwick's all-time leading scorer.