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updated: 7/21/2011 2:24 PM

Huntley eighth-grader one of Marlowe Middle School's best

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  • After sampling a variety of sports growing up, Ali Andrews of Huntley decided to focus on basketball about two years ago.

       After sampling a variety of sports growing up, Ali Andrews of Huntley decided to focus on basketball about two years ago.
    Mike McGraw | Staff Photographer

  • Ali Andrews of Huntley helped lead the seventh-grade team at Marlowe Middle School to an undefeated season last winter.

       Ali Andrews of Huntley helped lead the seventh-grade team at Marlowe Middle School to an undefeated season last winter.
    Mike McGraw | Staff Photographer

 
 

This probably fits into the category of a good problem to have.

Ali Andrews, who will be an eighth-grader this fall at Marlowe Middle School in Huntley, needed better competition in basketball.

She was already competing against girls two years older with the Kessel Heat's 15-under team, which includes her sister Samantha. The Heat coaches decided to take it a step further and place Andrews on the 13-under boys team.

In late June, she was the only girl in sight when the Heat competed in the Summer Blast tournament at the Libertyville Sports Complex. Needless to say, such a move is not common in high-level travel basketball.

"I thought it would be a good opportunity to play better competition," Andrews said. "It's a lot tougher and more physical. They just treat me like another guy out there."

Dennis Kessel was the boys varsity coach at Mundelein High School before starting the Heat program. He talked about the quest to find suitable competition for Andrews.

"The boys game is much quicker than the girls and going with the adage you play at the level of your competition, we have found that to be true with Ali," Kessel said. "All eyes are on her to see if she belongs and Ali plays with an intensity to prove she does belong."

Kessel also believes playing against boys helps encourage Andrews to get her shot off faster and with a higher release point.

After sampling a variety of sports growing up, Andrews decided to focus on basketball about two years ago. She's the third youngest of four siblings and other than her sister, there isn't much basketball history in the family.

Her mother, Pam, owns a running store in downtown Crystal Lake called "The Running Depot." Injuries derailed Pam's competitive running career in high school, but two of Ali's aunts and two cousins ran track in college.

Already closing in on 6-feet tall, Andrews' future goals are to make the varsity team as a freshman at Huntley High School and then play college basketball.

She helped lead the seventh grade team at Marlowe to an undefeated season last winter.

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