Scouting the Upstate Eight

Bartlett Coach: Tanner Gardon (First season).

Last season's record: 15-3 overall, 9-0 UEC (conference champions).

Top returning players: Sophia Desarden, sr. (G, 5-1); Laney Stark, soph. (5-5, G).

Top new players: Samantha Blanchard, jr. (5-5, G); Cecilia Desarden, fr. (5-1, G); Isabelle Kline, jr. (5-7, F); Emily Linkevich, fr. (5-6, G); Amadea Montijo, soph. (5-5, G); Diana Ricardez, jr. (5-7, F); Johnyea Wyatt, jr. (5-8, F).

Worth noting: The Hawks will certainly have a different look with the graduation loss of 4-year all-conference guard Lexie Sinclair (now at St. Bonaventure) and transfer departure of Daily Herald Fox Valley All-Area Captain Kenzie Hare (Naperville North), who scored 1,838 points in her 3 seasons at Bartlett. In addition, Bartlett has its fourth new head coach in as many seasons in Larkin grad Tanner Gardon. "It'll be a fresh start for a lot of young players - and a young coach," said Gardon. "I think we're going to improve while competing in the Upstate Eight."

East Aurora Coach: Lee Clayborn (13th season).

Last season's record: 3-5 overall, 3-5 UEC.

Top returning players: Anastasia Bellamy, soph. (F/C, 6-0); Julianna Hernandez, sr. (G, 5-0); Delamarea Willis, sr. (5-2, G).

Top new players: N'Dya Fields, sr. (G, 5-3); Mika Fields, jr. (F, 5-8); Jazmin Kuppler, sr. (F, 5-9); Melanie Lopez, jr. (F, 5-9); Mia Moore, jr. (G, 5-6); Crystal Torres, soph. (G, 5-8); Kanylah Young, soph. (G, 5-6).

Worth noting: The Tomcats return 21 points and 14 rebounds per game with Bellamy, Hernandez, and Willis. Moore transferred from Oswego East where she averaged 12.8 points and 7.8 rebounds last year. Clayborn feels Bellamy has great potential while Hernandez has worked hard on her outside shooting in the off-season. "We are young and talented with some good pieces," said Clayborn. "We have to learn how to play together to reach our potential. We plan to compete in conference. We'll play hard and learn every game. I think we can finish in the middle of the pack in our conference."

Elgin Coach: Dr. Nick Bumbales (13th season).

Last season's record: 2-9 overall, 1-8 UEC.

Top returning players: Jocelyn Bardesi, soph. (G, 5-4); Trinity Evans, jr. (F, 5-8); Izzy Vidallo, jr. (G, 5-4); Alyssa Wysuph, jr. (F, 5-8).

Top new players: Stephanie Asare, soph. (F, 5-8); Isabel Castro, fr. (G, 5-5); Kayla Cole, jr. (F, 5-8); Maile Fuller, soph. (G/F, 5-6); Chloe Horn, soph. (F, 5-6); Madison King, soph. (F, 5-8); Lexi Martinex, jr. (F, 5-10); Anisha Patel, sr. (G, 5-5); Kelly Taruc, fr. (G, 5-2); Lily Warren, jr. (F, 5-10).

Worth noting: The Maroons return an honorable mention all-UEC selection in point guard Jocelyn Bardesi, who averaged 6 points and a pair of assists last spring. While hoping for improved play from his team, Bumbales looks for big things from a pair of conference counterparts. "I feel South Elgin is the favorite in the Upstate Eight," said Bumbales, "and I feel that East Aurora will be better with their new transfer."

Fenton Coach: Dave Mello (fifth season).

Last season's record: 5-11 overall, 3-6 UEC.

Top returning players: Gracen Haska, soph. (F/C, 6-0); Sophia Haska, sr. (C, 6-1); Kaitlyn Hoffing, jr. (G, 5-3); Hailey Miller, sr. (G/F, 5-7).

Top new players: Bella Valadez, soph. (G, 5-0); Kayla Valadez, soph. (G, 5-0).

Worth noting: "As always, we try to make our schedule challenging while still providing the girls with experiences they will remember," said Mello. "We open up with Bulls Prep at the James Jordan Center before traveling to Rich Township for Thanksgiving (tournament). Later, we'll host St. Francis of Wisconsin and participate in the Morton College Shootout."

Glenbard East Coach: Nicole Miller (15th season at school, 25th year coaching).

Last season's record: 11-6 overall, 5-3 UEC.

Top returning players: Catey Carney, soph. (F, 5-8); Ciara Johnson, soph. (G, 5-5).

Top new players: Ashley Bylsma, sr. (G, 5-5); Jasmine Dhamers, jr. (G, 5-6); Bella Lee, jr. (F, 5-10); Gabby Walton, soph. (F, 5-10).

Worth noting: The Rams lost 12 players to graduation from last spring. "We have a lot of new players to varsity - 10 to be exact - so we are excited to see their debut on the court," said Miller. "The girls are fast and athletic. It is hard to tell what we have until we get some games under our belt." Glenbard East opens the season at its own annual District 87/Rachel Bach Tournament Nov. 20-23.

Glenbard South Coach: Eric Daca (First season).

Last season's record: 10-6 overall, 8-1 UEC.

Top returning players: Amelia Lake, jr. (G, 5-7); Brittany Miller, sr. (F, 5-9); Allie Mizwicki, soph. (G, 5-7).

Top new players: Bailey Cloutier, sr. (F, 5-9); Brooklynn Moore, fr. (C, 5-10).

Worth noting: Daca takes over for Morgan Eufrasio, who guided the Raiders to a pair of Class 3A state tournament appearances (2nd in 2019, 3rd in 2018) and amassed a 109-33 record in 5 seasons (no season was held in 2019-2020 due to COVID-19). Eufrasio resigned earlier this year to spend more time with her family. Daca is not a stranger to the Raiders, having coached at the JV level for the past few years. He also spent 5 seasons as the sophomore boys basketball coach at Romeoville. "We have an all-new coaching staff," said Daca, whose team lost all-state guard Lauren Cohen to graduation. The Raiders placed second to Bartlett in the UEC race last spring.

Larkin Coach: Stephen Knapp (sixth season).

Last season's record: 6-7 overall, 4-5 UEC.

Top returning players: Athena Arrellanes, soph. (G, 5-8); Jamylin DeLeon, sr. (G, 5-4); Velay Garcia, sr. (F/C, 6-0); Chelsea Herrick, jr. (F, 5-9); Baylei Johnson, jr. (C, 6-1); Morgan Miller, soph. (F/C, 6-0); Candace Newman, sr. (G, 5-6).

Worth noting: This could be an interesting season for the Royals, who begin their season at the Burlington Central Thanksgiving Tournament and will participate in the Elgin City Classic again this year. "I believe we have a shot at conference this year," said Knapp. "We have many of our starters back and have size down low with Baylei (Johnson), Velay (Garcia) and Morgan (Miller). I feel we can finish with a potential 20-win season and have a highly recruited player in Baylei Johnson, who earned all-conference honors last year. We are hoping to make a run in the playoffs this year."

South Elgin Coach: Daniel Mandernack (eighth season).

Last season's record: 13-6 overall, 10-5 UEC.

Top returning players: Caroline Croft, sr. (G, 5-7); Zoie Lewis, jr. (G/F, 5-9); Caitlyn Tolentino, jr. (G, 5-7); Ella Winterhalder, sr. (G, 5-6); Raina Yang, jr. (G, 5-5).

Top new players: Chloe Kmiec, jr. (G, 5-8); Ari Lopez, jr. (G, 5-5); Loreal Wilson, sr. (G, 5-5).

Worth noting: Led by Winterhalder (13.7 ppg), Croft (12.9 ppg) and Lewis (11.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg), South Elgin returns three double-digit scorers. Winterhalder, a 2-time all-UEC selection, figures to become the school's fourth 1,000-point scorer this season and could be joined by Croft, who needs to average 12 points per game to reach the milestone. Croft, a 2-time all-UEC pick, will begin her fourth season as a varsity starter. Lewis, who transferred from Burlington Central as a sophomore, could be the team's best all-around athlete. "She is our post but also plays point guard," said Mandernack. "She's very talented, strong, and aggressive. She can have 15 rebounds in a game or hit five or six 3-pointers." Yang, who missed most of last spring's season with an injury, returns as another 3-point threat, while Tolentino provides backcourt toughness. "We expect her to take her game to the next level," said Mandernack. "She's our best on-ball defender." South Elgin figures to be one of the area's more entertaining teams. "We need and want to play fast," said the coach. "We're an extremely fun team to watch. We want to put up a shot in seven seconds or less. We have a fun group of hardworking girls who want the challenge of being a top team in the area."

Streamwood Coach: George Rosner (41st season, 37th at Streamwood).

Last season's record: 4-8 overall, 4-8 UEC.

Top returning players: Nicole Barcenas, sr. (G, 5-5); Sariah Dixon, sr. (G, 5-6); Jamia Gatlin, soph. (F, 5-6); Sayuri Ishikawa, sr. (G, 5-5).

Top new players: "We have a lot of newcomers who will try and fill in the fifth starting spot and receive key playing time off the bench," said Rosner.

Worth noting: Rosner, the dean of coaches in the UEC, ranks 37th on the IHSA's all-time list with 460 career victories - 418 of them accumulated at Streamwood. He has announced this will be his final season. The Sabres possess one of the top backcourt players in the UEC in Ishikawa, who averaged 10 points per game last spring. Dixon (6.8 ppg) and Gatlin (5.5 ppg, 8 rpg) also provide experience for Streamwood, which will have to overcome its lack of height. "We will have the shortest team that I have ever coached," said Rosner. "We will have to run the court and play solid, aggressive defense to make up for our lack of height."

West Chicago Coach: Mark Fitzgerald (third season).

Last season's record: 5-8 overall, 5-7 UEC.

Top returning players: Emily Toran, sr. (G, 5-6).

Top new players: Adeline Draper, soph. (G/F, 5-7); Jasmyn Trigueros, fr. (G, 5-5).

Worth noting: West Chicago has some big shoes to fill with the graduation loss of 2-time all-conference point guard Shailee Patel. "With only one senior and two juniors, we will have one of the youngest teams in many years," said Fitzgerald. "We have young, athletic talent that will grow as the year progresses. I am very excited at how well our team did this past summer and our initial practices have been spirited and competitive."

South Elgin guard Caroline Croft, pictured diving for a loose ball against Dundee-Crown, is a four-year starter for the Storm who averaged 12.9 points per game last season. Daryl Quitalig for Shaw Media
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