Taking a look back

  • Written by Ken Karrson






Taking a look back

Choosing the best can sometimes be interesting


By Jeff Vorva

Reporter Editor

Since the Reporter and Regional News merged their sports sections in 1988, 28 boys' basketball Player of the Year selections have been made.

With Richards’ Jaylan Catledge filling that role in 2014-15, something new has occurred as he is the first sophomore among the honorees. After compiling the long list of area individuals who’ve been chosen as either top player or coach for a season -- beginning in 1994 that also included girls’ teams -- a few interesting tidbits were unearthed.

SUBHEAD: Super Sarah

Sandburg’s Sarah Kustok was the first sophomore Player of the Year and remains the only athlete of either sex to be recognized three times. Her brother Zak, a former quarterback with the Eagles and at Northwestern University, was tabbed as the football Player of the Year once during the mid-1990s.

Kustok, who went on to play four years of basketball at DePaul University, entered the broadcasting field after graduating college. She was a sports television reporter in Chicago and is currently on the YES Network in New York. Kustok recently got a chance to do color commentary as a member of the announcing team at a Brooklyn Nets-Philadelphia 76ers game.

SUBHEAD: Double-winners

Sandburg’s Dave Rettker (1989-90), Shepard’s Steve Payne (1990-91), Brother Rice’s Jim Sexton (1993-94) and Marist’s Nick Valla (2009-10) were picked as either Player of the Year or co-Player of the Year in back-to-back campaigns. For good measure Valla also achieved all-area status in football as a receiver.

While they couldn’t equal Kustok’s trifecta, Mother McAuley’s Anne McDonald (1994-95) and Stagg’s Heather King (2003-04) did manage to repeat as girls’ Player of the Year.

SUBHEAD: Wade-ing in success

The player who enjoyed the greatest hoops success beyond high school was 2000 winner Dwyane Wade of Richards, who played a couple of years at Marquette University before beginning a lengthy NBA career with the Miami Heat that continues today. The Heat have won three world championships since Wade’s arrival (2006, 2012, 2013) and reached the NBA Finals five times.

SUBHEAD: Top player, top coach

The only person to gain both Player of the Year and Coach of the Year status is current Marist skipper Gene Nolan, who collected his third coaching award this season. He was also named the top basketball boss in 2012 and 2004.

Twelve years prior to that initial Coach of the Year designation, Nolan was tabbed as Player of the Year following his junior campaign at Marist.

SUBHEAD: He can coach anybody

Evergreen Park’s Bruce Scaduto has proved to be an equal-opportunity hoops leader. While heading up the Mustangs boys’ squad Scaduto was chosen as Coach of the Year in 2009. Four years later he received the same honor, this time after guiding Evergreen’s girls to a regional title. The female Mustangs have claimed two more regional championships since then.

SUBHEAD: Three wise men

The 1988-89 season saw not one, not two but three men share Coach of the Year honors: Richards’ Jerry Tokars, Sandburg’s Bill Reynolds and Marist’s Ken Styler. Tokars was in his first year with the Bulldogs after coaching more than two decades at De La Salle Institute.

SUBHEAD: Mondo Mundo

Rick Mundo became the first three-time Coach of the Year on the girls’ side as he was recognized in 2000, 2001 and 2002 while guiding Mother McAuley. He also coached the Macs softball team and later returned to the court as the girls’ basketball coach at Shepard.

Not long after Mundo’s three-peat came one by Sandburg’s Christine Bochnak, who was named the area’s top girls’ coach in 2004, 2005 and 2006. On the boys’ side Reynolds and Shepard’s Kurt Enzminger were a part of six straight Coach of the Year awards between them.

Besides his one-third slice in 1989, Reynolds also shared the honor with Tokars in 1988 before winning it outright in 1990. Enzminger also went solo in 1991 and then settled for being co-Coach of the Year with Sandburg’s Randy Voels and Evergreen Park’s Tom O’Malley in 1992 and ’93, respectively.

Back-to-back winners from the coaching ranks include Stagg’s Al Biancalana (1996-97), Richards’ Jack Fitzgerald (1998-99), Shepard’s Tony Chiuccariello (2001-02), Richards’ John Chappetto (2007-08) and Stagg’s John Daniels (2013-14). Chappetto is the only coach to have won a state championship.

McAuley’s Karen Ade was girls’ Coach of the Year in 2008 and 2009.

SUBHEAD: Still waiting

Queen of Peace has not had either a player or coach snare the top award and Chicago Christian’s girls team has been similarly blanked. Evergreen Park is absent a Player of the Year for both its boys and girls teams.

Former St. Laurence coach Tom Pallardy was feted in 2003, but no Vikings athlete has yet been chosen as Player of the Year.

GRAPHIC HEADLINE: Blast from the past



1988 -- Ray Thompson (Argo)

1989 -- Dave Rettker (Sandburg) and Cleveland Anderson (Richards)

1990 -- Steve Payne (Shepard) and Dave Rettker (Sandburg)

1991 -- Steve Payne (Shepard)

1992 -- Gene Nolan (Marist)                                

1993 -- Jim Sexton (Brother Rice)

1994 -- Jim Sexton (Brother Rice)

1995 -- John Economous (Shepard)

1996 -- Chad Harris (Chicago Christian)

1997 -- Wayne Plowman (Marist)

1998 -- Demetrius McDaniel (Richards)

1999 -- Joe Scott (Stagg)

2000 -- Dwayne Wade (Richards)

2001 -- Cory Cummens (Sandburg)

2002 -- Rick Harrigan (Brother Rice)

2003 -- Don Hackstock (Oak Lawn)

2004 -- Dave Telander (Brother Rice)

2005 -- Ross Stuursma (Chicago Christian)

2006 -- Cordelro Yelder (Richards)

2007 -- Jeff Miller (Stagg)

2008 -- Joel Kamp (Chicago Christian)

2009 -- Nick Valla (Marist)

2010 -- Nick Valla (Marist)

2011 -- Darius Draper (Stagg)

2012 -- Michael Kamp (Chicago Christian)

2013 -- Alex Majewski (Brother Rice)

2014 -- Max Strus (Stagg)

2015 -- Jaylan Catledge (Richards)


1988 -- Jerry Tokars (Richards) and Bill Reynolds (Sandburg)

1989 -- Jerry Tokars (Richards), Bill Reynolds (Sandburg) and Ken Styler (Marist)

1990 -- Bill Reynolds (Sandburg)

1991 -- Kurt Enzminger (Shepard)

1992 -- Kurt Enzminger (Shepard) and Randy Voels (Sandburg)

1993 -- Kurt Enzminger (Shepard) and Tom O’Malley (Evergreen Park)

1994 -- Pat Richardson (Brother Rice)

1995 -- Jack Fitzgerald (Richards) and Kurt Enzminger (Shepard)

1996 -- Al Biancalana (Stagg) and Ken Styler (Richards)

1997 -- Al Biancalana (Stagg)

1998 -- Jack Fitzgerald (Richards)

1999 -- Jack Fitzgerald (Richards)

2000 -- Pat Richardson (Brother Rice)

2001 -- Tony Chiuccariello (Shepard)

2002 -- Tony Chiuccariello (Shepard)

2003 -- Tom Pallardy (St. Laurence)

2004 -- Gene Nolan (Marist)

2005 -- John Daniels (Stagg)

2006 -- Ross Douma (Chicago Christian)

2007 -- John Chappetto (Richards)

2008 -- John Chappetto (Richards)

2009 -- Bruce Scaduto (Evergreen Park)

2010 -- Scott Atkins (Oak Lawn)

2011 -- Kevin Pittman (Chicago Christian)

2012 -- Gene Nolan (Marist)

2013 -- John Daniels (Stagg)

2014 -- John Daniels (Stagg)

2015 -- Gene Nolan (Marist)


1994 -- Anne McDonald (Mother McAuley)

1995 -- Anne McDonald (Mother McAuley)

1996 -- Ann Mullins (Sandburg)

1997 -- Katie Schumacher (Mother McAuley)

1998 -- Sarah Kustok (Sandburg)

1999 -- Sarah Kustok (Sandburg)

2000 -- Sarah Kustok (Sandburg)

2001 -- Emily Heikes (Stagg)

2002 -- Tina Hill (Richards)

2003 -- Heather King (Stagg)

2004 -- Heather King (Stagg)

2005 -- Erin Cattell (Sandburg)

2006 -- Maureen Downs (Marist)

2007 -- Kelsey James (Marist)

2008 -- Maureen Mulchrone (Mother McAuley)

2009 -- Haley Stercic (Marist)

2010 -- Jessica Contant (Stagg)

2011 -- None named

2012 -- None named

2013 -- JaTuan Rouse (Marist)

2014 -- LaTondra Brooks (Oak Lawn)

2015 -- Brianna Markusic (Oak Lawn)


1994 -- Gary Bonk (Sandburg)

1995 -- Barb Edwards (Mother McAuley) and Missy Mason (Stagg)

1996 -- Gary Bonk (Sandburg) and Tom Rekruciak (Richards)

1997 -- Barb Edwards (Mother McAuley)

1998 -- Gary Bonk (Sandburg)

1999 -- Brandy Zion (Evergreen Park)

2000 -- Rick Mundo (Mother McAuley)

2001 -- Rick Mundo (Mother McAuley)

2002 -- Rick Mundo (Mother McAuley)

2003 -- Janet Haubenreiser (Oak Lawn)

2004 -- Christine Bochnak (Sandburg)

2005 -- Christine Bochnak (Sandburg)

2006 -- Christine Bochnak (Sandburg)

2007 -- Mary Pat Connolly (Marist)

2008 -- Karen Ade (Mother McAuley)

2009 -- Karen Ade (Mother McAuley)

2010 -- Bill Turner (Stagg)

2011 -- None named

2012 -- Bill Turner (Stagg)

2013 -- Bruce Scaduto (Evergreen Park)

2014 -- Janet Meyers (nee Haubenreiser) (Oak Lawn)

2015 -- Chris Hellrung


2014-15 Boys All-Area Basketball Team

  • Written by Ken Karrson




2014-15 All-Area Basketball Team



            * The first sophomore ever chosen as this paper’s boys' Player of the Year, Catledge didn’t appear poised for such a designation at the outset of the 2014-15 campaign. Although he had played some varsity ball for the Bulldogs as a freshman, incoming coach Jevon Mamon felt Catledge would be best served by starting the season as a member of Richards’ sophomore team. Catledge didn’t like the demotion, but instead of getting mad he got better -- good enough, in fact, that Mamon couldn’t deny him a spot on the varsity roster for very long. And once he arrived Catledge became a difference-maker. Oak Lawn coach Jason Rhodes wouldn’t disagree after getting two up-close looks -- his Spartans were torched for 36 points the first time around and then were victimized by a 26-point, 13-rebound performance in a playoff matchup. Four of Catledge’s final five outings produced 20-plus points and for the season he averaged 17 to go along with eight boards. He shot 48 percent overall and 51 percent in two-point territory, sank 82-of-108 free throws, made 31 steals and recorded 18 blocks. Catledge was one of just two players nominated for South Suburban Conference Red Player of the Year -- the award went to Eisenhower’s Vinny Curta -- and he’s getting noticed elsewhere: Some Missouri Valley Conference schools are already showing recruiting interest, one hoops report considers him among the top 40 sophomores in Illinois and Catledge was one of seven athletes named in a promotional piece advertising the inaugural Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic that is nine months away. Mamon summed it up best, however: “I don’t know if we’re sitting at 14-14 or even if we get second place in conference without him. He’s not afraid to step out and step up, and his best basketball is still in front of him.”


            * Jaylan Catledge may be the area’s most noteworthy sophomore, but he’s not the only talented one. Contant qualifies too after taking over for two-time all-area pick Kevin White and becoming the trigger man for a Chargers attack that got noticeably better as the season wore on. After getting a taste of varsity action as a freshman Contant became a constant, an especially key development since Stagg standout Jeff Goral was in and out of the lineup because of a nagging injury that was initially suffered during football season. Contant, whose sister Jessica was this paper’s 2010 Girls’ Player of the Year, garnered All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue honors after averaging 9.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest. He and fellow sophomore Josh Strama will serve as the Chargers’ cornerstones for the 2015-16 season.


            * One of three Demogerontases on the Eagles’ roster, 6-foot-7 Tommy is the tallest and was the most productive this winter. He was tabbed as team MVP and an All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue performer following a senior season in which he averaged 13 points and four rebounds per game, both team-high figures. Demogerontas, who shot 54 percent form the field, had a season-best 28 points in Sandburg’s first encounter with Joliet Central. He also supplied the Eagles with 64 assists and 13 3-pointers. In Sandburg coach Todd Allen’s words, Demogerontas “could do a little bit of everything for us. He’s a tough matchup and he can handle [the ball]. His best basketball is ahead of him.” A one-time high jumper for the Sandburg track team, Demogerontas will forgo that sport this spring and concentrate on preparing for college. Millikin University is one school that has piqued his interest.


            * Ferguson is a returning member of the all-area team as he completed a solid two-year run with the RedHawks, during which time they amassed 39 wins. Once again his statistics weren’t overwhelming, but nobody associated with Marist’s program will deny his importance to its well-being. The two-time All-East Suburban Catholic Conference selection upped his scoring average to 12.1 points and his per-game assists to 4.0, but Ferguson may have been even more valuable without the ball. He always drew the toughest defensive assignment and displayed quick hands as evidenced by his 57 steals. Ferguson is no slouch in the classroom either as he boasts a 4.77 grade-point average on a 5.0 scale. He has yet to decide on his college destination.

JEFF GORAL, Stagg, F, Sr.

            * Once 2013-14 Player of the Year Max Strus graduated, the Chargers were expected to become something of a nonentity -- forecasters certainly took that viewpoint as pretty much every one of them predicted a bottom-of-the-division finish for Stagg in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue. And a slow break from the gate appeared to give those opinions validity, but Goral refused to settle for a forgettable final season. While he could not take over games in quite the same manner as his predecessor, Goral’s importance to the Chargers was found in a particular set of numbers: The team went 3-11 when the senior was either sidelined or trying to play through injury, 10-6 when he was operating at full strength. That latter mark helped Stagg defy its doubters and wind up in a third-place tie within the eight-school SWSC Blue. In earning all-conference recognition Goral -- who was an all-area honorable mention as a junior -- averaged a team-best 14.2 points per game and was second in rebounding at 4.5. He will attend Hope College in Michigan in the fall.


            * What Jeremiah Ferguson didn’t do for the RedHawks, Hawkins often did as he joined his teammate on the All-East Suburban Catholic Conference squad. Hawkins ran dead even with Ferguson in scoring average (12.1 ppg) and gathered in almost one full rebound more as he finished at 4.9 boards per game. With Ferguson moving on, Hawkins will undoubtedly be the linchpin of Marist’s 2015-16 club and should bump up both his scoring and rebounding numbers as a senior.

NIKO KOGIONIS, Sandburg, G, Sr.

            * When it comes to long balls Kogionis couldn’t have done any greater damage if he had been swinging a bat. The senior exits the Eagles hoops program as its all-time leader in 3-point baskets by a wide margin as he surpassed previous record holder Sean McBride early in the 2014-15 schedule and finished more than 50 ahead of him. Kogionis couldn’t eclipse McBride’s single-season mark of 88 3s, but he sure came close, falling short by just one as a junior and by five this season. With his 68 3s as a sophomore also factored in, Kogionis wound up with 238 beyond-the-arc buckets for his career. In his final season he averaged a team-best 13.5 points to go along with three rebounds per contest. He was an honorable mention all-area pick in 2013-14.


            * An honorable mention all-area performer as a junior, Longfield makes the jump up to the first team after being the brightest light during the Astros’ difficult 2014-15 campaign. He was a more effective glass cleaner than Windex as he hauled in 292 rebounds, an average of 10.8 per contest, which actually bettered his per-game scoring mark of 9.9. Longfield reached double digits in rebounds 16 times and had 12 double-doubles. To gauge his dominance on the boards, one needs only to glance at the rebound total of Shepard’s No. 2 man, which was 213 less than Longfield’s. He paced the Astros with 44 blocks, made 30 defensive recoveries, caused 18 other turnovers and pleased Shepard coach Tony Chiuccariello greatly by taking nine charges. Longfield, who will be a member of the Astros baseball team this spring and played golf for the Astros in the fall, excels academically as well as he is a member of the National Honor Society with a 4.1 GPA and 26 on his ACT. Schools that have shown interest in Longfield include Coe and Central colleges in Iowa and Robert Morris University.

ISAAC MATTHEWS, Evergreen Park, G, Sr.

            * Matthews has gotten to be quite the familiar face at all-area time as he makes his second straight appearance on the basketball squad, a double play that was bridged by first-team status on the all-area football squad last fall. His 13.8 points-per-game average was actually a touch below what he managed as a junior, but he compiled his senior-year stats while being the primary focus of every opposing defense. Matthews’ own defensive figures improved from the season before as he increased his total number of steals (79) and deflections (49) by 10 apiece. He also grabbed 149 rebounds and dished out 76 assists. Some single-game highlights included 28 points and seven steals vs. Shepard, 25 points and seven steals against Oak Lawn, 13 rebounds opposite Hubbard and 10 rebounds and seven assists versus Eisenhower. The 6-foot guard pulled down at least seven boards in nine of Evergreen Park’s 29 contests. As a football player Matthews -- who is undecided on his college destination but has attracted notice from some Division III schools -- caught 40 passes for 605 yards and six touchdowns and made 56 tackles on defense.

JOSH PRINCE, Oak Lawn, F, Sr.

            * Like Stagg’s Goral, Sandburg’s Kogionis, Shepard’s Longfield and Chicago Christian’s Trevor Wolterink, Prince elevated his game well enough to grab all-area first-team honors one year after being named honorable mention by this paper. In his last prep go-around, Prince checked in with team-leading per-game stats of 12.9 points and 5.9 rebounds, numbers he augmented with 32 assists, 10 blocks, an average of 1.0 steals per contest and a field-goal percentage of 48. Prince didn’t play basketball as an 8th-grader and “was not very good as a freshman,” according to Spartans coach Jason Rhodes, who praised his player for how he “just worked on getting better. I can’t say enough good things about him. We’re going to miss him in a lot more ways than just his scoring and rebounding.” Prince will not play basketball in college, but he will put his 3.4 GPA to good use as he plans to study pre-pharmacy at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

BRETT RISLEY, St. Laurence, G/F, Jr.

            * Two broken noses might have been enough to discourage many players, but Risley overcame those maladies to remain a central figure for the Vikings. As first-year St. Laurence coach Jim Maley stated, “He did a little bit of everything for us. He’s not physically developed [in full] yet, but he has the skill level and he’s open to anything.” Risley, an All-Chicago Catholic League North pick whose brother Ryan played at Dominican University after graduating from St. Laurence, led the Vikings with his 10.7 points-per-game average and 87 percent success rate at the line, where he sank 81-of-93 attempts. His 49 3s, which came on 38 percent shooting, tied Rich Lamb for the team lead. Risley connected on 48 percent of his tries from inside the arc. Other notable stats were 120 rebounds, 56 assists, 30 steals, 35 defensive deflections and 11 charges taken.

MIKE SHEPSKI, Brother Rice, G, So.

            * In his first full season with the Crusaders varsity, Shepski quickly evolved into their go-to guy and was feted for that as Brother Rice’s lone representative on the All-Chicago Catholic League team. He ranked at or near the top of most statistical categories for the Crusaders -- his team-best figures included his 378 points and 12.6 ppg average, 55 3-point baskets and 35 steals. Shepski was second in 3-point field-goal percentage (37.9), free-throw percentage (76.3) by .3, rebounds (106) and assists (34) and third in blocks (seven). He hit 46 percent of his shots (139-of-302) from the floor.

JOSH STRAMA, Stagg, G, So.

            * Along with fellow sophomore John Contant, Strama settled into a pivotal role for the Chargers almost from the outset. Unlike Contant, Strama didn’t have any previous varsity experience from which to draw, making the latter’s achievements all the more impressive. An honorable mention selection within the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue, Strama was second to teammate Jeff Goral in points per game with 12.4 while also averaging 4.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists. With Goral graduating, Strama will assume a heavier load next season and an increase in many statistical departments is likely.

DAYLON WASHINGTON, Chicago Christian, G, Jr.

            * Forced to miss the Knights’ two playoff games, Washington’s value to Chicago Christian was evident as coach Kevin Pittman had to dramatically alter his strategies. As one of the Knights’ quickest players, Washington’s postseason absence meant there were “a lot of things we had drawn up we had to keep in our back pocket [because] a lot of things we run go through him.” Before being sidelined Washington was Christian’s top thief (2.3 steals per game) and its second-best scorer (10.8 ppg) and assist man (2.0). Despite his 5-11 frame he wasn’t too shabby as a rebounder as he snared an average of 4.9 boards.

TREVOR WOLTERINK, Chicago Christian, F, Jr.

            * The Knights’ best seasons have usually resulted from balanced lineups and contributions from several sources, but in the midst of that somebody always manages to step forward and assume a leadership role. In 2014-15 that was Wolterink, who produced team-high averages of 15.9 points and 1.4 blocks per game en route to being named to the All-Metro Suburban Conference East team. Wolterink, an all-area honorable mention as a sophomore, was third in rebounding (5.9 per contest) for Chicago Christian this season and distributed an average of 1.1 assists. Expect Wolterink to play an equally vital role for the Knights baseball team in the spring after being an all-area selection in 2014 and landing on the very last All-Suburban Christian Conference unit.


                        HONORABLE MENTION

JAKE KOSAKOWSKI, Brother Rice, F/C, Fr.

JOE RUZEVICH, Brother Rice, F, Sr.

DARREN PRITCHETT, Evergreen Park, C, Sr.

JOE COSENZA, Oak Lawn, F, Sr.


AMEEN HUSSEIN, Richards, G, Sr.

LUCAS WHITE, Richards, F, Sr.

KENNY GORSKI, Shepard, G/F, Sr.


RICH LAMB, St. Laurence, F, Sr.


                        COACH OF THE YEAR


* After surrendering Coach of the Year honors to Stagg’s John Daniels the past two seasons, Nolan reclaims them for the second time in four years and third time since 2004. While the RedHawks experienced an abrupt end to their campaign by losing their playoff opener to Marian Catholic, they posted what was by far the best record of any local hoops program. Included among Marist’s 20 wins were one against the Spartans and four others against East Suburban Catholic Conference squads, successes that had the RedHawks briefly thinking in terms of a league title. Despite having relatively little size the past two years, Marist racked up a total of 39 victories. Nolan, by the way, is the only person to capture both Coach and Player of the Year recognition from this paper. He gained the latter in 1992.


End of the line

  • Written by Ken Karrson






Class 4A Thornton Regional

End of the line


Bulldogs, Chargers advance but fall on 2nd day


By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor


            On Day 1 they won

            On Day 2 they were both through.

            Unlike many area basketball teams, neither Richards nor Stagg lived a one-and-done existence last week. The Bulldogs advanced to the next round of the Class 4A Thornton Regional by beating South Suburban Conference Red and neighborhood rival Oak Lawn for the second time this season, 47-42, on Monday, the same day the Chargers crushed Kennedy 84-47.

            But a couple of storied programs prevented the two locals from going any further. Host Thornton brought Richards’ season to a close on Tuesday by handing down a 65-42 defeat while Stagg was sent to the sidelines one night later by fellow SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue member Homewood-Flossmoor, which completed a three-game season sweep of the Chargers with a 66-50 verdict.

            For Bulldogs coach Jevon Mamon, who guided Richards to a 14-14 mark in his initial season at the helm, there was no shame in coming up shy against the Wildcats, who lost to H-F in Friday’s title clash.

            “I have no beef with how we went out,” Mamon said. “If we had to go down, I wanted it to be fighting and clawing and I felt we competed to the best of our ability. I’m proud of the guys for being able to do that. It showed a lot of character.”

            Having basically no time to prepare for Thornton certainly didn’t help the Bulldogs. What made the Wildcats an especially tough opponent was their balance -- five players scored between eight and 10 points and two of them, Robert McCalley and D’Quan Applewhite, combined to gather in a dozen rebounds. Jaylan Catledge (15 points, seven rebounds) and Carlos Draper (nine points on 4-of-6 shooting) were the Bulldogs’ biggest counters to Thornton’s quintet.

            The Wildcats nailed six first-half 3s and thrust Richards into an early 12-point hole. Thornton ended the game with a 46 percent accuracy rate that was significantly better than the ‘Dogs’ field-goal percentage of 30.

            “We didn’t shoot the ball particularly well [and] we were never able to make a true threat by getting within eight or nine [after halftime],” Mamon said. “They’re a good team that brought forth a really good team effort for 32 minutes.

            “There weren’t one or two guys you look to key in on when you play Thornton. Everyone is able to bring something to the table for them. When you’re facing a team that good, it makes it difficult [to succeed].”

            And because of the Wildcats’ depth of talent Mamon told his players, “You definitely don’t have anything to hang your heads about.” That was also the coach’s sentiment about the season as a whole.

            “We had a lot of [personnel] turnover and not much experience coming back, but I think it was a good building block and a pretty good start to what we want to do [as a program],” Mamon said.

                        Richards 47

                        Oak Lawn 42

            The only good start to last Monday’s contest was delivered by the Spartans, who netted 13 of the game’s first 14 points. According to Oak Lawn coach Jason Rhodes, the Spartans “were getting anything we wanted.”

            “I don’t think they came out with a lot of fire,” he said of the Bulldogs, “and I thought our effort was really good. Our guys battled like they have done all year. We could have been up 21-5, and if we had gotten a 15- or 16-point lead I don’t know if [Richards] would have responded.”

            But the Spartans’ edge was down to 15-9 by the end of the first quarter, thanks to their misses on two point-blank shots, an Oak Lawn turnover that led to a Bulldogs layup and a running 3-pointer that closed out the period for Richards on a positive note.

            “We gave them life,” Rhodes said.

            And the Bulldogs didn’t waste it. With Catledge as its catalyst, Richards fought back and was tied with the Spartans (9-18) at 37-all. The sophomore, who burned Oak Lawn for 36 points less than two weeks before, wound up with 26 here on 10-of-18 shooting and 13 rebounds.

            Catledge stepped forward at crunch time to supply Richards with eight of its last 10 points. Kush Baxter provided the other two on free throws that gave the Bulldogs a five-point cushion and allowed them to withstand a final 3-pointer by the Spartans.

            “Jaylan Catledge literally willed us to that win,” Mamon said. “We did a heck of a lot of scoring inside with him. Oak Lawn zoned us the whole game, looked to slow us down and control the pace, but we were able to get it done [behind Catledge].”

            Rhodes recalled one fourth-quarter play where the Spartans seemingly had Catledge cornered, only to watch him “somehow slither through the trap and put one up off the glass."

            “He’s got great body control and he is tough,” Rhodes said.

            Oak Lawn posted a better field-goal percentage than Richards (46-39), but the Bulldogs benefited from 13 offensive rebounds. They tallied 16 points either on second chances or fast breaks while the Spartans had just two of those.

            “This was no different than a lot of games this year -- we had trouble scoring the easy baskets all year long,” Rhodes said. “Even when we pressed and got turnovers, it was hard for us to score off those.”

            Josh Prince had a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds for Oak Lawn while Jimmy Wiltzius pitched in with 11 points and five assists. The latter played all 32 minutes.

            Despite the Spartans’ occasional lapses Mamon felt good about the Bulldogs’ ability to notch a second win over them.

            “Oak Lawn played a pretty solid game,” he said. “I felt like it wouldn’t be the same [type of] game as we played a week-and-a-half before and we hammered it [into our players] pretty well, but our youthfulness settled in for a while.”

            Mamon wasn’t alone in believing the Spartans performed admirably.

            “I think our team improved a ton from the beginning of the year to the end,” Rhodes said. “We were a work in progress all year long, but our guys really got tighter. We played with a lot more toughness and grit defensively and we got much better [at] moving the ball and sharing it.”

                        H-F 66

                        Stagg 50

            Already owning two sizable victories over the Chargers this season, the Vikings appeared to be doing business as usual when they constructed a 15-point lead on Stagg in the second quarter last Wednesday.

            “Everybody thought it was going to be the same thing [as before],” Chargers coach John Daniels said.

            But it wasn’t. Although the final score leaned heavily in H-F’s direction, that didn’t occur without some anxious moments. Stagg (13-17) shaved its large deficit down to almost nothing with a 13-point spurt that bled into the third period. Jeff Goral’s two 3s -- part of a 6-of-9 exhibition from long distance by the senior -- sparked the assault and the Chargers were within six with 5 ½ minutes to go in the game.

            And then the Vikings pulled the ball out and slowed the tempo. Stagg was eventually forced to foul and H-F used a series of free throws to hang on.

            “We just weren’t big enough,” Daniels said. “That was a weakness all year and it hurt us in this game.”

            The Vikings included 15 offensive boards among their 37 rebounds, a total that eclipsed the Chargers’ by 10. Stagg pretty much matched H-F’s shooting percentage, but the former was hurt by 18 turnovers and the fact it attempted 20 fewer free throws.

            So how come the Chargers didn’t get steamrolled like they had before?

            “We had Goral -- that was the big difference,” Daniels said. “He carried us on his back. It was one of the best games I’ve seen him play. There’s no doubt he’s our team MVP.”

            Goral poured in 26 points even though the Vikings “were tagging him and every time he drove he had length on him.” In addition to his scoring, Goral had six rebounds, two assists and two steals. His main sidekick was sophomore Josh Strama, who finished with 14 points and eight boards.

Leading H-F was Destin Barnes, who tallied a game-high 32 points. Terrance Bradley added 14. Daniels praised Vikings coach Marc Condotti for what H-F has accomplished to date.

“They’re better than us and they’re going to be a tough team to put out [of the tournament],” Daniels said. “Condotti’s done a tremendous job. He’s a very good coach and he’s put his stamp on his team. He deserves a lot of credit.”

Daniels’ work with Stagg wasn’t too shabby either. Despite having two sophomores play prominent roles and carrying five of them on the roster, the Chargers won 10 of their final 16 games.

            Stagg 84

            Kennedy 47

The last of those 10 victories was logged against the Crusaders last Monday. Five 3-point baskets kept Kennedy even with Stagg through one quarter, but the Chargers gradually imposed their will on an opponent to whom defense was not a priority.

“They didn’t guard anybody -- we could have put up 100,” said Daniels, who instructed his athletes to not even shoot for the last chunk of the fourth quarter. “I’ve never been in this position before. I’ve never beaten anybody like this.

“They came out and just jacked it. They were taking shots from 26, 28 feet. We told our players, ‘Make them drive and [you] take a charge.’”

Goral was on the floor for only about 20 minutes, but that was enough time to generate 22 points. John Contant (13 points, seven assists), Joe Zaremba (11 points), Brett Stratinsky (10) and Strama (seven points, six rebounds, five assists) were other key figures for Stagg, which had 11 guys in all reach the scoring column.

Tom Kazanecki tossed in eight points to further aid the Chargers’ offense and Josh Sterling pulled down a team-best seven rebounds.

Richards         47

Oak Lawn      42

Richards Scoring: Catledge 26, Hussein 7. Rebounds: Catledge 13.

Oak Lawn Scoring: Prince 16, Wiltzius 11, Cosenza 5, Alshaikh 4, Khater 2, Nelson 2, Smith 2. Rebounds: Prince 11. Assists: Wiltzius 5.

Thornton        65

Richards         42

Richards Scoring: Catledge 15, Draper 9. Rebounds: Catledge 7.

H-F     66

Stagg   50

Stagg Scoring: Goral 26, Strama 14, Worst 7, Stratinsky 2, Contant 1. Rebounds: Strama 8, Goral 6. Assists: Goral 2. Steals: Goral 2.

Stagg   84

Kennedy         47

Stagg Scoring: Goral 22, Contant 13, Zaremba 11, Stratinsky 10, Kazanecki 8, Strama 7, McMahon 5, Liput 3, Kosch 2, Sterling 2, Mohan 1. Rebounds: Sterling 7, Strama 6. Assists: Contant 7, Strama 5.






Cougars have great chance to prosper

  • Written by Ken Karrson


MORGAN-STUUTCougars have great chance to prosper on national stage


By Anthony Nasella

For the past 12 years St. Xavier University women’s basketball coach Bob Hallberg has packed plenty of shirts and sport coats for his trips to the NAIA national tournament.

The hope was there’d be a need for all of them because of an extended Cougars stay. So far, though, some clothing has always remained unused.

Hallberg and SXU took another journey to Iowa this past Monday, this time with the nation’s No. 4 ranking in NAIA Division II and a better-than-ever shot at striking gold. One of four top seeds in the 32-team tourney field, the Cougars (29-3) open tonight at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City when they take on No. 8 seed Oregon Tech.

The Bobcats, who are making their third national appearance, did not crack the top 25.

            “We’re hoping that we can perform the way we’re capable of performing and the way we’ve played all season long,” Hallberg said. “We have to play one game at a time and we’ll be fine as long as we remember those basics.”

SXU has performed at a high level the entire season. The Cougars pieced together a school-record 18-game win streak that stretched from Dec. 20-Feb. 28, during which they topped the century mark in scoring seven times and vanquished their opponents by an average of 30 points. SXU’s only defeats came against No. 1-ranked Morningside, No. 3 Concordia and No. 5 Cardinal Stritch.

“There were moments in that winning streak where it didn’t seem real at all,” said senior forward Morgan Stuut, the Cougars’ career scoring leader. “It was so crazy -- I was wondering at [certain] moments if we were playing college basketball. That’s never happened [to us] before and teams we play know about it. They know what we’re capable of and that’s a good thing.

“I like [having] the target on us. We might not win like that at nationals, [but] we’re going to come out firing. We strike fear in people’s minds and we need to keep that a reality.”

Stuut is SXU’s unquestioned leader with her per-game averages of 16.6 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists, but by no means is she a one-woman gang for the Cougars. Part of the fear factor Stuut referenced is rooted in SXU’s depth.

Both Stuut and fellow senior Suzie Broski have become more effective this year because other players have also drawn opponents’ attention. The emergence of freshman guard Kara Krolicki in particular has prevented foes from double-teaming Stuut and Broski. Krolicki is averaging nearly 16 points per contest while shooting 41 percent from 3-point territory.

“I’ve never had a better group of girls to play with,” Stuut said. “They’re a special group and I can’t wait to experience the national tournament with them.”

Krolicki credits her veteran teammates with setting the proper tone.

“Morgan and Suzie are great captains and they’re always encouraging us,” Krolicki said. “They keep us focused in practice and especially in games. You can see commitment on the court before and after practices. It’s easy to get comfortable with teammates like that.

“We all jell together and I really think that’s why we’ve played so well this season. We have so many threats on the floor it’s really hard to single one player out and shut one down [because] there will always be another player ready to step up.”

Krolicki has frequently filled that role, but she shares whatever success she’s enjoyed with her teammates, saying they have “set me up for a lot of my scoring. My teammates have had a big impact on me.”

Whatever the reason, Broski is thrilled some of the responsibilities are being disbursed.

“There’s definitely been a lot less pressure on Morgan and me,” said Broski, who is averaging 11.5 points per game and provides SXU with another proven 3-point threat. “Kara is an awesome shooter and a great addition to this team. She’s taken a load off our backs.

“I think, honestly, of the four years that I’ve been here this has been the most fun. Each game someone else steps up. That’s been the really cool thing about it -- you know your teammates are going to pick you up if you’re having an off day.”

Broski said she’s “excited for nationals” and Krolicki echoed that sentiment, although the latter admitted it’s taken a while for reality to set in.

“The NAIA Tournament is still kind of surreal,” Krolicki said. “My teammates have talked about being down there in previous years. We’ve had a few losses, but you just have to look past those and learn from them. We’re very excited about the challenge that awaits us.”

The tournament is divided into four eight-team brackets with squads seeded 1-8 based on the final NAIA top-25 poll. With a victory tonight the Cougars move on to play the College of the Ozarks-Siena Heights winner on Friday. From there the Cougars could possibly face No. 2 seed Indiana Wesleyan in Saturday’s quarterfinals and perhaps earn a rematch with Morningside in one of Monday’s semifinals.

SXU’s chance to make a deep run seems as strong as ever, but Hallberg sounded a cautionary note.

“It doesn’t even make a difference that we went 29-3,” he said. “We’re all going to be in the same situation -- everybody is going into the tournament with a 0-0 record. One win and you go to the next round; one loss you go home. We have to go down there as if we’re starting a brand-new season.

“We need to come out and play [well] tonight so we can move on to the next round. This is not like the NCAA tournament, however. There’s not a lock for a champion and some teams are not seeded right, but we haven’t been upset this season so that puts us in a favorable position.”

It has indeed been a great year, but the Cougars can make it even better by forcing Hallberg to dig into his luggage.

“It would be nice to use every shirt I’m bringing down,” he said. “[Otherwise] that means I’m just lugging shirts around.”


2014-15 Girls All-Area Basketball Team

  • Written by Ken Karrson


SPORTS-PLAYER-OF-THE-YEAR-BRIANNA2014-15 Girls' All-Area Basketball Team



            * The South Suburban Conference Red Player of the Year was a logical choice to receive that same designation from this paper. Markusic averaged 19.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game for the Spartans while becoming the program’s career scoring leader with 1,345 points. Markusic amassed 617 of those points during the 2014-15 campaign to establish a single-season record for Oak Lawn. She bumped her per-contest numbers up to 21.5 and 10, respectively, against SSC foes and burned Bremen for 40 points, which represented one more team standard. Named to the all-tournament squads at all three holiday events in which the Spartans took part, Markusic complemented her scoring and rebounding stats with 2.2 steals and 1.3 blocks per game.

ALEX ABED, Stagg, G, Sr.

            * A reliable outside shooting threat, Abed converted 37 percent of her attempts from behind the 3-point arc while scoring 264 points and finishing as the Chargers' second-best threat at 9.1 points per contest. She also paced Stagg with 69 assists (2.4 per game) and 66 steals (2.3). Abed converted 107-of-127 free throws (84.3 percent) and despite standing just 5-foot-1 led her team in charges taken. She’ll play soccer and possibly basketball next year at Moraine Valley College.

 ABBIE BULTHUIS, Chicago Chrstian, G, Sr.

            * An All-Metro Suburban Conference selection, Bulthuis was part of a solid core that led the Knights to their third league title. Also a valuable member of Chicago Christian’s softball team, Bulthuis averaged nearly nine points per contest – the second-highest mark among Knights players -- and pulled down 95 rebounds (3.4 per game). And she delivered at crunch time -- Bulthuis scored 17 points in Chicago Christian’s 49-41 win over Timothy Christian that clinched the conference title and was also the Knights’ top scorer in their season-ending defeat to Morgan Park at the Class 3A Brooks Regional.


            * A three-year varsity player for the Chargers, DiGiacomo led them in points (333; 11. 5 per game) and rebounds (222; 7.7 per game) as a senior. She posted eight double-doubles. DiGiacomo also registered 47 blocked shots, giving her 92 for her career and making her Stagg’s all-time leader in that statistical category. She was nominated for the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-State team after being selected as an All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue performer and tabbed as a member of the all-tourney contingent at the Hillcrest Holiday Classic. Chargers coach Bill Turner called DiGiacomo “a player that every coach would love to have, [who] always gave her best effort and had a great attitude.” She’s been offered to play basketball at Elmhurst College.

NICOLE LARKIN, Evergreen Park, F, Sr.

* A four-year starter for the Mustangs, Larkin served as a cornerstone for a program that enjoyed a resurgence over the past three seasons. During that span Evergreen Park captured three straight regional titles, this year’s being part of a 21-win campaign. Making her first appearance on the all-area squad, Larkin averaged 10 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest in her final prep go-around. She scored a team-high 13 point in the Mustangs’ regional-semifinal victory over Goode Academy and added 12 in the championship-game triumph over DuSable.

 EMILY LEMMENES, Chicago Christian, G, Sr.

* Lemmenes was another of the Knights’ four All-Metro Suburban Conference athletes after playing a pivotal part in Chicago Christian’s turnaround from a 9-17 season in 2013-14 and its winning of the East Division title. She was perhaps its best all-around performer as she finished as the team’s top scorer (276 points; 9.6 per game) and made significant contributions as a rebounder (108; 3.9 average), defender (93 steals; 3.3) and assist person (72; 2.8). Lemmenes, who also is a valued member of the Knights’ soccer team, went 53-of-85 at the free-throw line.

LEAH KAMP, Chicago Christian, G, Sr.

* The third member of the Knights’ main quartet, Kamp earned her all-conference and all-area status by producing 246 points (8.8 per game) and pulling down 137 rebounds (4.5). Her scoring total ranked as third-best on the team. Kamp is best known as a soccer player at Chicago Christian but decided to give basketball a try as a senior – with some highly favorable results.

JESSICA MERINO, Sandburg, G, Jr.

* A two-year starter and co-captain for the 24-8 Eagles, Merino averaged 11 points and seven rebounds per game while helping her team secure the program’s first regional championship in a decade. Sandburg coach Chris Hellrung boasts that Merino can play -- and guard -- any position on the floor. Her presence was definitely felt in Eagles victories and her importance to Sandburg was perhaps most vividly illustrated in a season-ending loss to Homewood-Flossmoor in a sectional semifinal. While the Vikings would have been a handful under any circumstances, beating them became an impossible task for the Eagles when a sprained ankle limited Merino’s effectiveness in that contest.

ABBIE NEWSOME, Shepard, G, Jr.

* An All-South Suburban Conference Red performer, Newsome proved to be the Astros’ most consistent player. Coach Jenna McCormick defined Newsome as a true leader, knew what to expect from her and stated the squad would have struggled without her. Newsome averaged 12 points, six rebounds and four assists per contest. She led Shepard with 13 points in a late-season loss to Chicago Christian.

MOLLY O’MALLEY, Mother McAuley, G, Sr.

* The Mighty Macs’ most durable player, O’Malley led Mother McAuley in scoring at 12.2 points per game while sinking 48 3s and 82 percent of her free throws (47-of-57). Her 15 points led the way in the Macs’ season-ending 46-36 loss to Crete-Monee in the Class 4A Marian Catholic Regional. O’Malley scored 18 points on six 3-point baskets in a big road win against Kokomo, one of the better teams in Indiana.

MEGAN PFISTER, Evergreen Park, G, Sr.

* Named an All-South Suburban Conference Red member for the third season in a row, Pfister once again led the Mustangs in scoring (14.1 ppg) and assists (4.5). She included 58 3s among her baskets and participated in the state’s 3-point-shooting contest for the second straight year. A four-year starter and big contributor to Evergreen Park’s 21-9 season and regional championship this winter, Pfister once again provided a vital inside presence as she pulled down 6.4 rebounds per contest. Her defense was sharp too as she made off with an average of 2.5 steals per game.

KARA SHIMKO, Queen of Peace, G, So.

* Shimko made an immediate impact on a young and rebuilding Pride program that went from two wins in 2013-14 to eight this season and lost seven other encounters by four points or less. An honor-roll student and All-Girls Catholic Athletic Conference pick, Shimko was Queen of Peace’s most consistent offensive threat as her 390 points accounted for almost one-third of the Pride’s output. The daughter of Peace coach George Shimko also paced the team in assists and steals, shot 91 percent from the free-throw line (80-of-88) and a sizzling 62 percent from 3-point land (72-of-118).


* A two-year starter for the Eagles, Stavropolous was both an inside and outside threat who played a significant role in Sandburg’s regional championship. The co-captain averaged 12 points and six rebounds per game for the 24-8 Eagles. She scored that number in Sandburg’s

20th win of the season, a 15-point decision over Joliet West, and poured in a team-high 19 in the Eagles’ 19th win, a 49-28 verdict over Lockport.

SYDNI TEARS, Richards, G, Jr.

* Tears continued to be an offensive force for the Bulldogs in her third varsity season and is in good position to conclude her career as the program’s all-time leading scorer. A three-time All-South Suburban Conference Red choice and two-time all-area selection of this paper, Tears averaged 16.9 points, eight rebounds, 2.6 steals and 1.8 assists per game. She recorded a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds in Richards’ 60-54 regional win over Shepard.  

SAM YOUNGWRITH, Sandburg, G, Sr.

* Youngwirth, a two-time All-SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue selection, finished as the Eagles’ leading scorer and had a huge impact on their drive to the first regional title in 10 years. The co-captain, who boasts a glossy 4.8 grade-point average, tallied at a 17-points-per-game clip while nailing 80 3-point buckets and was staunch defensively with an average of three steals per contest. Youngwirth exploded for 27 points in Sandburg’s regional-semifinal win over TF South and notched 24 in the championship-clinching 51-47 victory over Marist.


LEXI VANRYN, Chicago Christian

MADDIE VOJACEK, Evergreen Park



ERIN DRYNAN, Mother McAuley

TARA O’MALLEY, Mother McAuley






Hellrung led the Eagles to their first regional championship in a decade, compliments of a thrilling 51-47 victory over Marist. Sandburg finished the 2014-15 season with an impressive 24-8 record and an 11-3 mark in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue.