When Jim Kelly and Kurt Kuehr decided to start the Antioch feeder program for girls basketball in 2004, there were only enough players to field a sixth-grade team.
But the program grew to include full sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade teams. They are members of the Northern Illinois Girls Feeder Basketball Association, which is made up of 33 teams from the North and Northwest suburbs in each of the three age categories.
"We just felt for Antioch (players) to get better, we needed a feeder program," said Kelly, an Antioch resident. "We know playing at their grammar schools wouldn't get them to the next level."
Kelly, a sales director at a consumer products company, stuck around to see the Antioch Junior Sequoits flourish.
"We're just a nonprofit. We have no affiliation with any of the grammar schools," he said. "We're a separate organization to offer girls competitive basketball to enhance their skills before they get to high school."
Players must live in the Antioch High School district and play games usually on weekends December through March. Seasons culminate in a tournament Kelly described as the March Madness of the program. Last year, his seventh-grade team won the championship. He coached the eighth-grade team this year that defeated Barrington 41-19, New Trier 34-4, Carmel 36-17 and Lakes 41-30 before losing to Hersey 37-30 in the championship game.
Kelly, who has run the program himself the past six years, decided to retire, after this past season. The final tournament was emotional but satisfying, he added.
"We send kids to the high school and they have the skills to perform on a really high level," he said.