Cook County girls basketball notes: 'She always puts the kids first' - Peers praise Barreiro after 500th win

Barrington hall of fame girls basketball coach Babbi Barreiro said she was humbled by all the support from friends and family at Prospect on Tuesday night when she won her 500th game in 30 seasons.

"I have had so much support and I will never forget that," Barreiro said prior to her team's exciting 70-64 win at the Jean Walker Field House in Mt. Prospect on Tuesday night.

Among those well wishers was a friend and teammate of Barreiro's since sixth grade.

"Back then, never did I know she would do this," said Carol Stompananto, who was a forward while Barreiro was guard for coach Marcia Krysh's Elk Grove team in the 1984-85 season. "You never know. But I did know she would become a coach one day. I couldn't be prouder of her. So many memories."

The current Fillies and coaches already have a magical memory when they took second place in last year's Class 4A state finals in Normal.

Rachel Sanchez Johnson has been an assistant in Barreiro's program for 21 seasons.

"What makes her so successful is that she always leads from the heart," Johnson said. "She does what she needs to do with the X and O's of the game, strategizing and putting in that kind of work."

But Johnson, who has also assisted in the Fillies' girls volleyball program for 18 years and 12 in the Broncos boys volleyball program, says there is a lot more than just X and O's to Barrerio's success. "She always puts the kids first and the needs of everyone in the program," Johnson added. "And I think that's why she has had such a successful career." Joe Molloy has been Barreiro's assistant the last five seasons.

He points to her knowledge of the game as a key factor to her success.

"She knows the game," said Molloy, a point guard for the late St. Viator boys basketball coach Bill Probst from 1979 to 1982. "But I've never been around anyone who cares about players, every single one of them. On the days when things aren't going great or you're frustrated with the kids, it doesn't matter. Babbi is there for them 100 percent, all the time. She is a mentor for them. They go to her with their problems and I think she puts the person ahead of the player all the time. And that is special. I think I have learned a lot from that."

The current players have terrific respect for Barreiro.

Junior Molly O'Riordan says it begins with her coaches' relationships with the athletes.

"Everyone on the team has a really strong bond with her and it helps our trust in her," O'Riordan said. "Obviously, in basketball, you need a lot of trust in your coach and so she is really good with that."

Gwen Adler has provided Barreiro with one of the top rebounders in the state.

The junior forward calls it a "blessing" to have Barreiro as her coach.

"Over the years, she (Barreiro) has had so much success with her teams because the impact she has on the kids she coaches is unbelievable," said Adler, a Seton Hall volleyball commit. "She has been one of the most supportive and kindhearted coaches that anyone could ask for. She has truly changed who I am for the better. I think she has that impact on everyone she coaches if they let her. She deserves this success more than anyone else and I'm so happy for her."

Sophie Swanson, a Purdue commit, was in tears after playing her final home game for Barreiro last week.

"She takes her time with each team, she finds the strengths of each team and we utilize them," said the program's third all-time leading scorer with more than 2,000 points despite the shortened COVID-19 season.

"She's a great coach. She has been doing this for a long time and I think the biggest thing is she cares about every player on the team which makes it more like a personal experience with the team and the program. I think that's also where our drive comes from, She takes care of us. We want to win for her. Our drive comes from winning games for her."

Jen Guth Buxton was part of many of Barreiro's winning games.

The former Buffalo Grove standout, who assisted Barreiro for six years, was at the 500th win.

"I was so glad to be there," said Buxton, the former Elk Grove head girls basketball coach, in a tweet. "She (Barreiro) gave me my first coaching opportunity 15 years ago. Those six years were some of my favorite memories. I learned so much and I know she cares more about the kids than their wins."

Which is exactly what Barreiro will tell you.

"Honestly, I never thought about winning games," Barreiro said. "I knew I wanted to be a basketball coach because I wanted to be able to work with kids and have some influence on them. I just always believed in that and that's why I wanted to be a coach."

LePage legacy:

Last Saturday. Palatine celebrated Senior Day for its girls basketball team.

In addition, Pirates coach Bill LePage was also celebrated by the seniors.

The group of six were under LePage's guidance the last two seasons, just as many other athletes have been over the retiring coach's 33-year career.

LePage coached four different sports (basketball, football, baseball and golf) at Lake Zurich (8 years) and Palatine (25). "It's been a great run," LePage said. "It's been a lot of fun and I'll miss it. I've done a lot of coaching and coached a lot of kids in 33 years."

One of those last kids is senior Megan Van Brunt. the Pirates' leading scorer this season.

"He brings so much for the team," Van Brunt said. "He really cares for us on and off the court, checking in on every one of us every single day and he honestly is one of the hardest workers I've ever met.

"He put in so many hours, after the games, early mornings, late nights, watching films, putting the practice plans together and checking in on everyone. He really showed the effort it means to be a great coach and just a great person in general. I was very lucky to have him for the past two years."

A native of the Detroit area, LePage grew up five miles from Lake Huron and attended Elkton-Pigeon-Bay Port High School. His dad was his coach at the school and a government teacher.

At the time, little did he know he'd end up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, becoming a head baseball coach at Lake Zurich and head football coach at Palatine. He has also been the Palatine head girls golf coach for the last decade.

LePage's two assistant coaches, Kelli Burke and Sarah Iuorio Davis, saw firsthand LePage's dedication.

"He brings so much passion," said Burke, who is in her ninth season in the program and second as LePage's assistant on the varsity. "He has so much love for the game, He is a fun one to watch on the sidelines because he is so animated and the girls just love to rally around him. He has put so much of his heart and soul not only into Palatine and Lake Zurich programs so it was kind of cool and fitting that his last home game was against Lake Zurich. It was kind of full circle."

Bill's son, Austin, played football and basketball at Lake Zurich and was on the Bears' football team that was second in the 2017 Class 7A state finals.

Davis played basketball and softball at Palatine. After graduating from Illinois State, she coached five years in the Pirates girls basketball program, then five years in the Mundelein girls basketball program before returning to the Pirates this winter.

"Coach LePage is more than a coach," she said. "He is a father figure to all the girls. He really exemplifies what it means to love competition and love sports in general but he also loves being around the girls and bringing that passion he has to them as well, He's the best, he really is."

Long range history:

Fremd's top-ranked Class 4A team's 3-point accuracy has certainly been a major contributor to their offense this season.

But the best long-range shooter on the Vikings bench does not wear a green and gold jersey with a number.

Instead, she's head coach Dave Yates' assistant coach Courtney Weibel-Ludois, who finished her career at Rockton-Hononegah High School with an IHSA record of 471 3-pointers. The 2007 grad also is tied for third most in a game, hitting 12 against Loves-Park Harlem in 2006. Ludois went on to play for Marquette, where she set the Golden Eagles' single-game record for 3-pointers with eight in 2010.

Eagles flying:

Willows Academy, a Class 1A school in Des Plaines, is enjoying its winningest season (24-5, 5-3 in the Independent School Conference) in program history.

Just a few days earlier, senior Mia deGrasse scored her 1,000th point in a 47-11 win at Illinois Math & Science in Aurora. The Eagles are top-seeded in their own regional which begins on Saturday.

RM sharpshooter:

Rolling Meadows junior Ciara McMahon became the program's single-season 3-point record holder on Saturday when the Mustangs defeated Niles North 71-43. In that game, McMahon tossed home her 94th basket from long range to break the former mark held by 2014 graduate Alexis Glasgow.

1,000 club:

Maine West volleyball/basketball senior standout Jaclyn Riedl scored the 1,000 point of her basketball career when the Warriors fell to 60-34 to Evanston on Tuesday night.

Palatine's Bill LePage is retiring after 33 years of coaching. Courtesy Palatine High School
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