DuPage County girls basketball notes: Carney, Glenbard East closing in on milestones

Glenbard East is one victory shy of hitting a magical mark.

The Rams (19-10, 14-3 Upstate Eight Conference) need one more victory to notch a 20-win season. Glenbard East coach Nicole Miller said her team hit a turning point early in January.

"Our team has picked it up a notch over the last three weeks," she said. "We fought from 13 points down against South Elgin with Catey Carney dropping 32 in that game. Our defense has really solidified. We played a really tough game last Friday against Glenbard South. We got within three points with a few minutes left. Mackenzie Huber and Gabby Walton are standout players at this point leading with balanced scoring and tenacious defense. We've been really focusing on what we can control in games, which is execution, patience and relentless defense.

"The most significant improvement I've seen in the last month is our team defense and assists. We also have been sharing the basketball better and making better passes in transition."

Junior guard Carney is one of the main factors in the Rams' success this season. She's averaging 18.2 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game and shooting 41.9% from the field and 76.8% from the free-throw line. Carney is 69 points shy of topping the 1,000-point mark in her career.

"Catey Carney is the catalyst for our team," Miller said. "She has put so much time in the offseason, both offensively and defensively, and you are seeing the results of that hard work. She has the ability to take over a game and helped us come from behind in multiple games. She has quite an arsenal of offensive weapons and is really starting to put those in the game consistently.

"Her defense is tenacious and her basketball IQ is high. Other players who have stepped up both offensively and defensively is Mackenzie Huber, Gabby Walton and Ciara Johnson. Mackenzie gets the toughest guard assignment and is a multifaceted player who makes things happen on the court. Gabby is our strong post inside providing a balanced scoring attack. Ciara steps up shooting the three."

Still, the Rams, despite their success, were given the No. 11 seed in the Glenbard West sectional. They open the playoffs against No. 6 Glenbard West on Monday in a West Chicago regional semifinal.

"We're excited about our draw in the regional," Miller said. "This is a good rivalry and we played them tough early on in the season. At tournament time all teams have to execute to move on. As a coach you hope they are peaking at the right time as you head into the state tournament."

Lake Park update:

Three years ago, Lake Park rode the momentum of a strong late-season run to produce the best season in program history, which culminated with a fourth-place state medal in Class 4A. Point guard Gabi Burgess was the lone freshman starter on that team, but current seniors Michela Barbanente and Reagan Henkel were all members of the historic team.

Lake Park coach Brian Rupp said all of the seniors on the 2022-23 roster hold a special place in program history, including senior forward Grace Cord.

"Gabi has started all four years," he said. "Grace Cord has really elevated her game and will be important down the stretch. It's all about coming together, being great in whatever role is needed and working toward a shared goal."

The Lancers (15-13, 7-6 DuKane Conference) have the benefit of hosting a regional, where they open up as No. 4 seed and face off against No. 12 Glenbard North on Monday at 6 p.m. Geneva was awarded the top seed in the Glenbard West sectional, with St. Charles North earning the second seed and Batavia the third seed.

The Lancers hope to continue their solid rebounding into the playoffs. Lake Park has outrebounded 21 of its 28 opponents, Rupp said.

"Obviously, we want to be playing well this time of the year," Rupp said. "We've played some great games against quality opponents these past few weeks and we're looking to take what we've learned from those games into the playoffs. Nothing is going to be easy if we want to get out of our regional…. It's going to come down to valuing possessions, executing roles and players making plays."

Naperville North update:

The end of an era is near for Naperville North.

The senior group, led by Layla Henderson, Abby Drendel, Peyton Fenner and Abby Homan, are nearing the conclusion of their long careers. All four players have been on varsity since their freshman year. Although not as flashy as some area players, Henderson, Drendel, Fenner and Homan have been a model of consistency.

"I've been blessed to come into this head coaching position with Abby Drendel, Peyton Fenner, Layla Henderson, and Abby Homan," Naperville North coach Erin Colletti said. "I like to say that we were freshmen on varsity together because my first year as head coach was their freshman year. They've been a group that has been so enjoyable to coach because of their work ethic, camaraderie, leadership and buy in.

"They've been a joy to coach and an even greater joy to develop a great friendship with ... They're also unique and wonderful people who make others better around them and had a strong impact in the halls of Naperville North and will leave this program making their mark. I will miss them greatly when they leave here, but I know will have so much success wherever they go."

As the No. 2 seed in the Class 4A West Aurora sectional, the Huskies (16-11, 5-3 DuPage Valley) start their postseason march against No. 15 Metea Valley in a Naperville North regional semifinal on Monday. Benet picked up the top seed in the sectional.

"We feel we deserve our seed because we played very tough competition," Homan said. "It's weird our careers are coming to an end. I wouldn't want to do it with anybody else. These four girls I've played with since my freshman year are so special."

Fenner, who will not play in college, said she's focused on ending her career with many more highlights.

"It hasn't quite hit me yet, but I'm sure there will be tears," Fenner said. "These girls all go way back farther, way back to my first years playing together on a travel team and we have all trained together for as long as I've played. To think about not seeing them all the time and not playing with them all the time, that's insane. Knowing that I get to play with people I love is awesome."

Naperville Central update:

Naperville Central, like Naperville North, will be hosting a regional. The No. 7-seeded Redhawks will open the playoffs against No. 11 West Aurora on Monday. The playoffs are a time for upperclassmen to normally provide leadership and big shots, but the Redhawks don't have that luxury.

Even so, the Redhawks (19-10, 6-3 DVC) are in good hands with a number of talented underclassmen and juniors, most notably freshman guard Trinity Jones. The 6-foot-1 guard added more members to her fan club in a stunning victory over Naperville North on Friday.

"She's a fantastic player," Fenner said of Jones. "She's really fast and has great ballhandling and a smooth shot and finishes really, really well. She's tough and competitive. She's a fantastic player and I look forward to seeing her get better."

Jones is a rising star in the country, on track to be among the best in her class. She possesses a do-it-all game with the ability to put her imprint in every statistical category. Jones said she's motivated to reach her full potential.

"It's all about having the Mamba mentality," Jones said. "I just learn how to compose myself and be calm on the court."

Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum said Jones is not bothered by high expectations.

"There's not many people who can guard Trinity," Nussbaum said. "I don't think any of that pressure bothers her. She's driven and wants to do well ... She's a competitor and wants to win."

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