Lake County girls basketball notes: NSC lead on the line with pair of showdowns coming up

Some marquee North Suburban Conference girls basketball is on tap this week.

Lake Zurich hosts Libertyville tonight in a battle for the top spot in the NSC, while Stevenson heads to Libertyville Friday night for another key conference game. Lake Zurich is 6-0 in conference play, while the Wildcats sit at 5-0 and Stevenson, 6-1 over the holidays, is at 4-2.

Lake Zurich update:

Look out for the Bears, who started the week with a strong 14-3 mark and were atop the North Suburban at 6-0. Lake Zurich is fresh off a fifth-place showing (3-1) at the Morton College Christmas tournament where it beat Lincoln-Way Central (54-37), lost to Benet Academy 44-43, beat Batavia (50-29) and upended Deerfield 46-41. Benet stopped Lake Zurich's 11-game winning streak.

Avery Cooper was named to the all-tournament second team at Morton after averaging 12.8 points and 6.3 rebounds there. She's at 11.5 points for the season, one of four Bears averaging 8.8 points or greater. She's joined by Baylie Parks (10.8 points per game), Molly Friesen (9.1 points) and Anna Gilbertson (8.8). Brook Wahlund leads the team in rebounding at 7.5 per game, with Cooper (7.1) and Parks (5.9) also helping out on the glass. Parks leads the team in assists at 3.6, while Gilbertson is at 2.5

Coach Chris Bennett pointed out Parks and Cooper still have a season-long field goal percentage of over 50%.

The Bears have Mundelein and Libertyville in North Suburban games this week with the aforementioned Libertyville showdown taking place Wednesday at Lake Zurich. The Bears head to the Kipp Hoopsfest Showcase at Montini this weekend for a game against Glenbrook South and then head to the Batavia MLK Showcase Monday to face St. Charles North at 3:30 p.m.

Libertyville update:

Speaking of the Wildcats, they sit at 15-2 overall and 5-0 in North Suburban action to start the week, riding a massive 13-game winning streak.

Libertyville is coming off winning the Winter Classic where it downed Vernon Hills, Cary-Grove, Loyola and Warren.

Coach Greg Pedersen said this week will be a test with key games against Lake Zurich, Stevenson (Friday at home) and Chicago Kenwood (Monday matinee). "We stacked our January schedule to stay sharp and keep testing ourselves," he said. "We want to get back in game mode ASAP and continue with the momentum we have built."

Emily Fisher continues to tear it up for the Cats. "Emily is playing great basketball," Pedersen said.

Fisher has a 2.5-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio. During a recent 5-game stretch, Fisher averaged 14.6 points, 5 assists and 4 steals, while shooting 55.3% from the floor, 58.3% from 2 and 45.5% from 3, while connecting on 16 of 19 free throws.

But Fisher isn't the only one getting the job for Libertyville, Pedersen pointed out.

"Kate and Rachel Rule ae both providing scoring punch," he said. "It's good to have athletic scoring wings who can shoot and attack. Maddy Kopala is a defensive stopper, and Talya Tillman and Madison Sears shore up the interior for us."

Grayslake North update:

Grayslake North turned things up over the holidays, going 4-0 at the Northern Illinois Holiday Classic.

The Knights were supposed to play Prairie Ridge in the title game there, but it was canceled (weather).

In more recent action, North downed Lakes 42-30 in a Northern Lake County Conference game. The Knights were 12-6 overall and 4-2 in NLCC action at week's start.

Standout Peyton Gerdes continues to rack up points like there is no tomorrow. She averaged 28.8 points per game at the Northern Illinois tournament, scoring 43 against Marian Central and 37 against Chicago Amundsen. She still found time to average 10.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks in the tournament. Against Marian Central, Gerdes scored 22 points in the fourth quarter (not the game, the fourth quarter) to help the Knights kick off the tournament with a win.

In the Lakes game, Makayla Campbell had 21 points and 11 rebounds to help the Knights to their sixth win in a row. "We had some foul trouble and she stepped up in a big way," North coach Brian Frericks said.

Gerdes is averaging 25.7 points and 11 rebounds, while Campbell is at 7.7 points and 8.3 rebounds. Reagan Kyzynowski averages 2.4 assists, while Dani Hanson is at 2.3 assists. Gerdes was an IHSA player of the week for the Dec. 11-17 time frame, while Campbell "is getting better every day and stepping up as a leader," said Frericks, who noted Campbell's 21-point effort against Lakes was a career high.

He's also been thrilled with the contributions Kyzynowski provides. "Reagan does it all for us, mostly on the defensive end," he said. "She has done a great job slowing other teams' best players down."

Frericks likes where things are headed defensively with his 12-win club. "We have been doing a good job getting after it defensively," he explained. "We played a very good Lakes team and were able to hold them to 30 points and 12 points in the second half. If we can keep that up, we will be difficult to beat, even on nights when we may be a little off offensively."

Frericks said his team is focused on an NLCC-heavy January schedule. "This month is mostly our second round of conference play," he said. "Each game in the NLCC is a battle and we want to improve every game."

Stevenson update:

Stevenson standout Emory Klatt surpassed the 1,000 career point mark in the Patriots' recent 50-36 win over Evanston. Stevenson was 14-6 overall and 4-2 in North Suburban action to start the week.

Stevenson went 6-1 over the holidays with its only loss in overtime to Barrington at Dundee-Crown. Stevenson ended in third place at D-C.

Klatt is averaging 20 points and 13.2 rebounds per game, while Kate Arne is at 10 points. Nisha Musunuri averages 9.5 points, while Kendell Williams leads the team in assists at 3.6 per game.

"I feel like we have hit our stride as a team," Stevenson coach Ashley Graham said. "It took some time and adjustment from last season and the kids have really bought into what they need to bring individually to each game. It has been great to see our growth as individuals and as a team. This team and their togetherness is unmatched. They are so fun to be around and are a close-knit group."

Graham said Musunuri is playing "far beyond her years" offensively. "Nisha has gained so much confidence this season and every time on the court she gets better," Graham added. "She has a strong will to win and will do anything possible for us to be successful."

Bri Welter and Williams have been defensive bright spots. "Bri has been so sound defensively," Graham said. "She is a workhorse and does all the little things that don't necessarily show up statistically. The defensive efforts Kendell gave over break were tremendous, especially when we played Evanston. It was her best game defensively that I have seen in her career. She brings great energy to each game and practices. She's a glue kid within our team and program."

Graham pointed out Stevenson has but 11 regular-season games left.

"We want to continue to lay it all out there and be the best versions of ourselves on and off the court," she said. "We want to enjoy it all and keep growing and play our best basketball at the end."

Mundelein update:

The Mustangs finished up the holidays with a win against Grant (49-44) and then lost their first game back after the break, a 52-27 nonconference setback to Prospect. Mundelein was 7-9 and 2-4 in North Suburban action to start the week.

Junior Rylan Foster leads the way at 14 points and 7 rebounds per game, while hitting 80% of her free throws. Freshman Casey Vyverman is at 10.2 points and 2.6 rebounds. She has hit 33 threes (. 423 from behind the arc) and is shooting 45% from the field. Senior Gracie Werner averages 7.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2 steals.

"Rylan, Casey and Gracie have stepped up with their work ethic, leadership and dedication to their team," Mundelein coach Sarah Teipel said.

Teipel, who noted her team is getting more disciplined defensively and building consistency, said short-term goals are competing, consistency, four quarters of strong defense "and great teamwork," she said.

Vernon Hills update:

The Cougars are off to a 5-1 start in the Central Suburban North (10-8 overall).

Vernon Hills played recently in the Grow the Game Shootout, which is an event that highlights female players and coaches. Assistant coach Addie Quilas served as head coach in that game against Geneva (lost 60-33) where Ava Barszcz was named player of the game after a 12-point performance.

The Cougars also downed Niles North 70-36 in a recent CSL North game. Grace Koepke had 21 points, while Barszcz had 16 points. The Niles North win snapped a 4-game skid.

To start the week, Koepke was averaging a double-double at 13.1 points and 11.2 rebounds, while Barszcz was averaging 9.8 points and Alexa Cieslinski was at 7.4 points and 5.7 rebounds.

"Ava has increased her scoring recently," Cougars coach Paul Brettner said.

Brettner noted Shaynne St. Louis stood out in the Niles North game where she scored 12 points. "Shaynne had a great game running our offense and our defense," he said.

Brettner added Vernon Hills has been hard at work making tweaks to its defense and offense after playing some tough teams. "We want to become more consistent on both ends of the floor," he said.

Antioch update:

Heidi Rathmann hit for 28 points, 10 rebounds, 6 steals and 2 blocks in a recent game against Wauconda, while Callie Bemis had 13 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 steals and 2 blocks in the game to help lead the Sequoits, who started the week 10-8 overall and 3-3 in NLCC action.

Rathmann leads Antioch in scoring at 17.4 points and 7.3 rebounds. During a recent 3-game stretch, she averaged 24 points and 8 rebounds, while sinking 20 of 25 free throws. Bemis was at 11 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 4 steals per game. During that same 3-game time frame, Bemis averaged 12 points, 6.5 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists.

"We got back to the basics," Antioch coach Tim Borries said. "We have been stressing fundamentals on both the defensive and offensive sides of the ball. We have also been stressing the little things that matter. We want to keep improving and play our best ball the rest of the season."

Round Lake update:

The Panthers were 9-9 overall and 2-4 in NLCC action to begin the week. Round Lake defeated Waukegan 64-46 and dropped recent games to Grant (37-25) and Warren (36-30).

Lilli Burton leads Round Lake in scoring at 12.1 points, while also averaging 6.4 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. Aniyah Moody is at 12 points and 10.4 rebounds. She also averages 3 steals a contest.

Moody had a career-high 23 points against Waukegan to go with 7 rebounds and 4 steals.

"Aniyah's presence around the basket continues to get better as the season progresses," Panthers coach Molly Hennig said.

Also of note has been the play of Lisette Herrera and Layah Glover.

"Both have played key roles in their sophomore seasons," Hennig noted. "Lisette has improved her quickness and ball-handling skills. Layah has adjusted nicely to the pace of the varsity game and has been a top defender for us this season."

Hennig said Round Lake is working on improving its execution on offense, as well as developing multiple ways to score and limiting its turnovers.

Grayslake Central update:

The Rams were a perfect 6-0 in Northern Lake County action to start the week and had won two of their last three, with the only trip-up, a 5-point loss to Glenbrook North. Central was 10-8 overall.

"We have done a better job with being more consistent offensively and we have also started to get healthy," Rams coach Steve Ikenn said. "I think these tough tournament games have shown us where we still need to improve and we have been working hard to make those improvements. We want to keep getting a little better each day and that means working to get a more consistent performance each game at both ends of the floor."

Madison Hoffmann leads the team in scoring at 14.4 points and rebounding at 6.8 per game.

"Madison has continued with her stellar all-around play," Ikenn said.

Hoffmann averaged 15.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.5 steals and 2 assists per game during a recent 6-game stretch.

Ava Henne also has been a key cog for the Rams. "Ava has done a great job as a key reserve for us all season, but lately she has also done a great job in a starting role while filling in for injured teammates. She has developed into one of our best on-the-ball defenders, which is even more impressive when you consider she is a freshman. In a recent game against St. Viator, Ava's all-around skills came through when she came off the bench to deliver stellar defense."

Henne added 6 points, 4 assists and 2 steals in the St. Viator game.

Wauconda update:

The Bulldogs were 9-6 overall and 4-2 in NLCC action to start the week. Wauconda beat Belvidere to close out the holiday tournament it played in and then lost a close NLCC game to Antioch.

Grace Parker leads the way for Wauconda at 12.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while Ella Frank is at 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds.

"Grace has picked up her offensive production and Ella has been a strong defender and rebounder," Wauconda coach Jaime Dennis said.

Dennis said in the short-term the Bulldogs are battling back from several injuries and are trying to find some rhythm, and would like to see consistency and aggressiveness take another step forward.

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