Combined girls hoops team has great season

 
 
Published3/19/2008 12:12 AM

A season of uncertainty turned into a fifth-place finish for the St. Luke/Concord seventh- and eighth-grade girls basketball team in the recent Lutheran School Association state tournament.

The eight-player roster consisted of girls from St. Luke (Itasca) and Concord (Bensenville) schools, an arrangement designed to give each school a chance to compete this season.

 

"Our school is very small and we were facing not even having a basketball team for our girls," said coach Lisa Hahn from St. Luke. "There's another really small Lutheran school with about 80 kids that had three girls that wanted to play, and we combined teams this year."

St. Luke provided five players and mixed them with the three from Concord to make up the co-op team. Such is the life of the small school trying to compete in the world of large enrollments, but compete they did.

Led by eighth-grade co-captains Alexis Hahn (St. Luke) and Dylin Coons (Concord), the mixed squad steamrolled their way to a 22-0 record as they entered the tournament at St. Peter Lutheran School in Arlington Heights.

"They just gelled nicely," Hahn said. "The more experienced players accepted the younger players, and the less experienced players stepped up. You can pick five strong athletes and that doesn't mean they're going to play well together. These girls just gelled well as a team and they played well together."

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In addition to Hahn and Coons, the undefeated team consisted of Jacki Liedberg and Josie Gattuso of Concord, along with Nishtha Patel, Mary Augustine, Nicole Krumwiede and Megan Krumwiede of St. Luke.

Mike Liedberg was the other coach for the team.

Most games during the season were won rather convincingly, according to Hahn, with the toughest competition coming from Melrose Park's St. Paul School. The state tournament, on the other hand, tested the undefeated juggernaut in more ways than one.

After cruising to an easy 53-27 win over Holy Cross (Collinsville) in their opening game Friday, St. Luke/Concord dropped a nail-biter, 41-40, to Good Shepherd (Collinsville) Saturday morning.

The loss ended their winning streak and dropped them into the consolation bracket of the tournament. It also tested their mettle in responding to a devastating defeat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"It was just heartbreaking," Hahn said of the loss. "They were all in tears, and I'd never seen them this way."

Hahn had to deal with getting her players back on track immediately with another game scheduled for that afternoon.

"You just pretty much tell them it's done," she said. "You could revisit it a million times in your head, but why bother? It's not going to change the outcome, and we had the next game to deal with."

Hahn appealed to their competitive spirit to get them charged up for the remainder of the tournament.

"It's not over," she told her players. "We're still in it, we're still here and you're champions for being here. And we have two more games if you're willing to fight for them."

The message got through, but it wasn't easy. They defeated Concordia (Peoria), 40-37, and then needed overtime to sneak past Rockford Junior High 42-40 Sunday.

One of the heroes in the last game was seventh-grader Mary Augustine, coming in off the bench after two starters fouled out. She made two clutch free throws with 2.2 seconds left in overtime to break a 40-40 tie. They were her only points of the game, and they helped clinch fifth place for St. Luke/Concord.

"Fifth out of the state of Illinois is pretty good," Hahn said. "On top of that we had two players (Dylin Coons and Alexis Hahn) named to the All-Tournament team. It's a huge honor."

The only other teams to place multiple players on the All-Tournament Team finished first and second in the tournament. It was a good time to belong to St. Luke and Concord, as evidenced by the pre-tournament pep rally.

"The pep rallies were great fun," Hahn said. "We had a big one going into state on the Thursday beforehand, where Concord bussed its whole fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth grades over for the pep rally. It was very cool. They had the music going and had the girls come through the paper and rip it down.

"It was a fun ride. It's something they'll remember for their whole lives because the state experience was just awesome. And, for us, it's a one in a million."

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