The best thing for Loyola Academy girls basketball this season may have been no basketball.
Though it’s picking nits to criticize an 18-0 season, the Ramblers were not playing their best during a mid-December stretch of four games in five days. With players and coaches battling winter ailments, Loyola needed a rest.
“We needed to get away from it,” Ramblers coach Jeremy Schoenecker said. “We gave the kids a few days off and then came back, and this is the healthiest we’ve been all month and it showed this tournament. We had fresh legs.
“We were able to gut some things out when we weren’t healthy and now that we are healthy, we are playing well again.”
Loyola dominated its host holiday tournament — the inaugural, 16-team Loyola Academy Christmas Tournament held Dec. 26-29 in Wilmette. The Ramblers recorded an average margin of victory of 39 points in its four wins, capped by a 68-28 triumph against DePaul Prep in the championship Friday, Dec. 29.
Loyola held a slim four-point lead early, 15-11, before rattling off 20 straight points to essentially put the game out of reach before halftime.
Loyola’s stars shined bright. Senior Paige Engels scored 19 points — 10 in the second quarter — in the finale and was named the tournament MVP. Junior Aubrey Galvan had 17 — 11 in the first quarter — and added five steals, a block and a number of dazzling assists.
Engels said it was — like usual — the Ramblers defense that sparked their offense.
“I feel like I say this every time, but … it starts with getting stops and turning that into offense,” she said. “A big part of that too is we kept pushing and we kept getting fastbreaks and tiring them out, which is something we can do to teams.”
About her MVP, Engels added, “It feels great, but I’m just lucky to be on this team and couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”
Galvan was named to the All-Tournament First Team, and Clare Weasler, who had 10 points in the championship, to the second team. Senior Kelsey Langston scored 6 points in the title game.
On the road to its championship, Loyola also bested Jones Prep (70-15), Lockport (69-41) and Carmel Catholic (51-18), while improving to 18-0 on the season. Also during the stretch, Engels and Galvan — a transfer from Deerfield High School — each scored their 1,000th point as high-schoolers. They both accomplished the feat in the team’s win over Jones on Dec. 26.
That wasn’t the only Loyola hoops milestone this season. In Loyola’s 48-46 victory over Fremd on Dec. 12, Schoenecker became the all-time wins leader (356) in Loyola basketball (boys or girls) history.
He credited his staff — Jon Wolfe (16 years), Susie McGovern and Sean Batti — and his players for the accomplishment, saying, “When you’re here for 16 years, you eventually hope you’re going to break some records. … You’re not going to win 356 (games) by yourself as a coach. You have to have really talented players and we have a lot of really talented players here at Loyola.”
Schoenecker and McGovern spearheaded the effort to bring a holiday tournament to Loyola, which has played in a variety of events in previous winter breaks. The tournament is meant to be an annual affair, and Schoenecker hopes it eventually hosts the best 16 teams in the state.
“We felt like you know, traveling is super expensive, why can’t we pull it off and have some of the best teams here,” he said. “Our first year we had really solid teams, but we want to grow it for years to come. It’s super special for (the seniors) to win the first win. That’s something they should be proud of.”
New Trier fights to third at Komaromy Classic
New Trier girls basketball played likely its best stretch of basketball this season during the 40th Annual Komaromy Classic from Dec. 26-29 at Dundee-Crown High School.
The Trevians erased a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to top St. Charles North 47-45 on Wednesday, Dec. 27, in a quarterfinal matchup. The victory guaranteed a top-four finish for New Trier.
Senior Sela Klein scored 11 of her game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter. Reese Leahy added 9 points and 10 rebounds, while Anna Rivera chipped in 10 rebounds and KJ Sacarro 5 assists for the Trevs.
New Trier dropped its next matchup 46-37 to state power Stevenson on Dec. 28 before responding with a 45-30 victory against Barrington in the third-place matchup. In their final game, Klein and Rivera scored 12 points apiece. Emerson Buck added 6 points and Leahy 6 rebounds. Klein and Rivera were named to the All-Tournament team as New Trier moved to 10-7.
Regina protects its house in inaugural Snowflake Shootout
Regina Dominican swept its slate of games in the Snowflake Shootout, an inaugural event held by the Wilmette school from Dec. 16-28.
The round-robin-style tournament welcomed five teams, and Regina topped Niles West (42-29, Dec. 16), Leyden (41-33, Dec. 22), Waukegan (39-21, Dec. 28) and Niles North (48-30, Dec. 29) to claim the top spot. Niles West was second with a 3-1 record.
Regina sophomore Jillian DeFranza scored 52 points in the four games, the second highest total in the tournament. She was named to the All-Tournament’s First Team, along with teammate and fellow sophomore Natalia Cerrado. Panthers senior Payton Olszewski was a second-team selection and senior Maddie Witchger earned special mention.
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