Monday was the first day girls basketball teams in the state could play their first games. Several teams from the area, including Nazareth, Fenwick, St. Joseph and Proviso West, are hoping to start strong and finish strong this season.
Coach: Kim ConnellConference: East Suburban Catholic2012-13 record: 18-14, 2-7 ESCCNext game: 1:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Elmwood Park at IC CatholicTop returners: Katelyn Cahill sr. G Tetre'anah Cross sr. F Juliana Raimondi sr. FPromising newcomers: Mary Clare Harrington fr. G Abby Shannon so. G
Outlook: Eight returners, all seniors, lead the way for Nazareth this year. The experienced group is headed by Katelyn Cahill, Tetre'anah Cross and Juliana Raimondi. All three played a big role in the Roadrunners' regional title last season.
In addition to that group, the Roadrunners have six other seniors on the roster. Marri Gragnani, Stephanie Tapia, Eileen Kennedy, Devinne Love and Sydney Newman are returners. Danielle Bartodziej is new to the varsity team. That experience and depth will be key for Nazareth in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, which is traditionally one of the top conferences in the state.
Freshman Mary Clare Harrington and sophomore Abby Shannon are the only underclassmen on the roster.
Coach: Dave PowerConference: East Suburban Catholic2012-13 record: 23-7, 7-2 ESCCNext game: 7:30 p.m. Friday vs. TaftTop returners: Deja Cage so. G Maya Garland sr. G Jenny Mackowiak jr. G Jade Owens sr. G Mackenzie Sewall sr. GPromising newcomer: Kiki Sheard so. G Drenisha Wideman so. F
Outlook: Creighton commit Jade Owens leads Fenwick once again. The talented point guard will run the Friars' up-tempo offense.
The Friars graduated six seniors from last year's team, but thanks to coach Dave Power's full court pressure defense and frequent substitutions many players return with significant varsity experience.
Sophomore Deja Cage proved to be varsity ready as a freshman and will be looking to take the next step. In addition to Cage, Jenny Mackowiak and Maya Garland also provide proven outside shooters for the Friars. Sophomores Kiki Sheard and Drenisha Wideman, a sophomore transfer who started at Morton, could also add to the team's depth.
Fenwick lacks height once again, but the frantic pace it plays at creates plenty of opportunities for the team to crash the boards. The Friars will look to start another regional streak after failing to win a regional for the first time since 1995.
St. Joseph Lady Chargers
Coach: Jim MaleyConference: Girls Catholic Athletic2012-13 record: 8-22, 3-4 GCAC RedFirst game: 4:30 p.m. Thursday vs. East Aurora at WillowbrookTop returners: Chanel Brown sr. F Deja Horn sr. G KeTyra Saunders sr. G/F Kietta Saunders sr. GPromising newcomers: Amber Brooks so. C Elise Estelle so. G/F Gabby Foster jr. F
Outlook: After an uncharacteristically down year for the Lady Chargers, they are expecting to bounce back this winter.
Last year's team MVP, Chanel Brown, returns as a team captain for the second year. Brown was second on the team with 12.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game last season.
Fellow senior Deja Horn is committed to play for Division II St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Ind. She has been the Chargers' defensive player of the year each of the past three years.
Senior guards KeTyra and Kietta Saunders will join with Horn to start attacking teams with a full-court press the team installed this year.
Proviso West Panthers
Coach: Kellee RobertsonConference: West Suburban Silver2012-13 record: 17-9, 11-1 WSSFirst game: 1:30 p.m. Saturday vs. Christ the KingTop returners: Mikaela Boyd sr. G Cinia McCray so. G Taylor Pate jr. C
Outlook: After winning the West Suburban Silver title, the Panthers fell short in the playoffs, losing in a regional semifinal. However, that team had just three seniors and enough talent is back to think the Panthers are capable of even more this year.
Taylor Pate (6-foot-4) is a high level prospect that can dominant games. Mikaela Boyd proved to be a dynamic scorer last year, and Cinia McCray held her own as a freshman on varsity last year.
That trio will give the Panthers a chance against just about any opponent. That will be put to the test with a schedule that includes Whitney Young, the loaded Montini holiday tournament and a showcase at Marshall.