DuPage County girls basketball notes: Norkus provides spark for surging Neuqua Valley

Neuqua Valley junior guard Kylee Norkus is rapidly turning into one of the top players in the Chicago area this season.

Norkus can impact the outcome of a game on both ends of the court. She has deceptive quickness and can push the pace with her ability to snag a rebound and bring the ball up the court. She plays with confidence, attacks the driving lanes with strength and can battle inside for rebounds and sparks rallies with her defense and finishing ability following steals.

Her nonstop energy is also contagious.

The 5-foot-11 Norkus scored a career-high 28 points against Trinity on Dec. 30 to raise her season averages to 16.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game despite missing the first three games with a broken finger suffered in a flag football game. In her last four games, Norkus is averaging a robust 22 points for the Wildcats (12-8, 4-0 DuPage Valley Conference) in her last four games.

"Confidence is definitely a big key," Norkus said. "I've mentally been prepared and that's helped my game a lot. It's 100 percent mental."

Led by Norkus' strong play in the last month, Neuqua Valley coach Mike Williams said his team is rounding into shape after playing a packed schedule in December.

"Kylee always plays hard and at 100 miles per hour," Williams said. "She's been a pleasure to have around, and is just a good hard player."

Norkus, who has offers from Valparaiso and Evansville, said she's excited for her future in basketball.

"Right now, I'm feeling everything out and still have visits to go and a lot of things left in the recruiting process," Norkus said. "I'm not going to push that process. It's a different journey. I'm grateful for this opportunity."

Glenbard South update:

Through 18 games, Glenbard South is on track toward a 20-win season. The Raiders (13-5, 7-1 Upstate Eight Conference) are two wins away from equaling last season's win total despite a roster full of inexperienced players.

"We're a team that has a lot of young players," Glenbard South coach Eric Daca said. "Our girls work hard and put forth maximum effort. We just need to maintain our focus and execution for all four quarters. In three of our losses, we have been leading going into the fourth quarter, but failed to close out the game. Through experience in these tight games, I'm confident we will learn what it takes to play a full four quarters."

The Raiders suffered a major blow during the holiday tournament season, when starting freshman point guard Rheayanna Ferguson suffered a season-ending ACL injury. Junior guard Allie Mizwicki is helping to pick up the slack, averaging 11 points per game on 43 percent shooting from beyond the arc. She has scored at least 20 points in three games this season. Sophomore center Brooklynn Moore is averaging 9 points and 9 rebounds, highlighted by a 25-point, 17-rebound effort against South Elgin. She had 13 points and 15 rebounds against Streamwood on Thursday.

"I like how our girls are playing and feel good about where we stand in the conference," Daca said. "We have a tough assignment with regionals, but it will be a good test for us. I'm excited that our team is young and built to sustain this level of play for several more years.

"Our goal heading into the end of the season is to finish our conference schedule strong and contend for a conference title while gaining momentum and confidence going into regionals."

Fenton update:

Fenton coach Dave Mello put a twist on the holidays by changing his defense. Thus far, the Bison (8-9, 2-6 Upstate Eight Conference) have made some progress by winning two of their last four games, including a quality win over West Chicago on Thursday.

The Bison, who have prided themselves on shooting an abundance of 3-pointers in Mello's tenure, limited West Chicago to 39 points.

"The key to our last few games has been the improvement of the new defense we put in after Thanksgiving," Mello said. "All five girls on the court are beginning to work as one and they have been communicating much better. Even in the loss to South Elgin on Dec. 20, we played really well on defense for three quarters. The West Chicago win was huge for us as it showed that we can win a game that is lower scoring than we like.

Seniors Kaitlyn Hoffing and Melina Lira along with sophomore Lauren Koch have stepped up in recent weeks for the Bison, Mello said.

"Kaitlyn Hoffing is our driving force in each game," he said. "Melina Lira has really stepped up the last few games, including scoring a team-high 14 against West Chicago. Also, sophomore Lauren Koch has taken big steps forward for us. She's getting acclimated to the pace and intensity of varsity basketball and has shown to be one of our better defenders already."

Addison Trail update:

Addison Trail is looking to turn its season around in the final few weeks of the regular season. The Blazers (7-12, 3-4 West Suburban Gold) are trying to build consistency with several tough games on their schedule in the next two weeks.

"At this point in the season, our team is making great progress," Addison Trail coach Cory Little said. "Being young and seeing the development of our players has been rewarding. Elena Papanicolaou has been our leader since the season began. She has been our leading scorer and has taken the challenge to guide our young group and help with their development. Emma Caniglia and Katelyn Ford are two young sophomores have grown up so much this season. By adapting to varsity speed and change of pace these two young ladies have shown that the future for Addison Trail girls basketball is bright."

The Blazers have tough games against Willowbrook, IC Catholic Prep and Downers Grove South next week.

"Our goal is to keep developing and pushing our team to be the best they can be and to finish the season strong," Little said. "Who knows we may sneak up on a few teams down the stretch of this season?"

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