It doesn't take a coaching genius to figure out that to slow down the Bartlett girls basketball team this season, you have to control the scoring of senior standouts Haley Videckis and Kristin Conniff.
But any team that is 29-1 at this point of the year better have more than two players who can carry the load, or it might just be jersey turn-in day before you expected it.
Lisa Palmer is one of those Bartlett players who doesn't get the attention Videckis and Conniff do — on the court, in the press, or by opposing coaches sometimes.
However, Palmer is that type of player you look at and say, “Yep, no way this team is 29-1 without her.”
Take Monday night in the semifinals of the Class 4A Hoffman Estates sectional for example.
West Chicago had a game plan to slow the high-flying Hawks down by running a deliberate offense and limiting Bartlett's touches. So the Hawks had to make every possession count, especially early in the game.
Palmer did just that. She scored the Hawks' only two baskets in a melancholy first quarter that ended with Bartlett ahead 6-2. Her defense was paramount to the Hawks' 22-9 lead by halftime as she didn't allow her girl — West Chicago's Laura Panicali — to penetrate the lane.
Then, with West Chicago knocking on the upset door and just over two minutes left in the game, Palmer shoved a nifty little pass to Conniff for a 14-footer that put the Hawks ahead 45-37 and stopped an 8-0 Wildcat run.
And when West Chicago's Claire Monroe misfired on a 3-point attempt with 45 seconds left, it was Palmer who hustled to grab the loose basketball away from two West Chicago players, allowing precious time to keep clicking off the clock as the Hawks eventually held on for a 52-46 win, a victory that puts them against Wheaton Warrenville South Thursday night, Bartlett's second sectional final appearance in the last three years.
“Every practice we work on 2-on-2 post drills,” said Palmer of her inside effectiveness early on in Monday's win. “We just went out there and did what we practiced.”
Staying true to a game plan means players staying true to their roles, and that's what Bartlett coach Denise Sarna likes so much about Palmer and this Hawks team.
“Lisa had a solid game with a double-double the last time we played (West Chicago),” Sarna said. “We had some size and we wanted to look at the inside game. We were able to get ball to Lisa early tonight and she hit her shots. Everyone knows their job on this team and they all accept it. That's not easy sometimes.”
You could say Palmer, who finished with 10 points, 3 assists and 2 blocks Monday, does Bartlett's “dirty work”. But to her it's just doing her job, as the coach prescribes.
“I feel like we all do the dirty work,” smiled the personable Wisconsin-Whitewater recruit. “My main goal is to play defense and rebound. If the points come they come.”
Palmer's value isn't lost for a minute on her teammates, especially Videckis, whose 12-stitch bandaged forehead cost the Hawks a few bucks Monday night as the entire team wore black headbands, as Videckis had to do to cover the bandage on her head.
“Lisa does an incredible job every game,” said Videckis, who led the Hawks' win with 23 points. “There's never a game where she doesn't crash the boards and pick up missed shots. She was focused and ready to hit those shots tonight. Lisa's a huge part of our team.”
And she's one of those players every coach loves to have on his or her side.
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