The Highland Park girls basketball team sports a new look this season. But that wasn’t by design.
Coming off a resurgent 12-win season, the Giants lost two standout sophomores in the offseason when Maddie Chabot, last season’s leading scorer, moved out of town and Reese Crosby, last season’s starting point guard, injured her knee.
Yet, at the midway point, and following a 1-1 performance during the Grow the Game Showcase Thursday-Friday, Jan. 4-5, Highland Park sits with seven wins and atop the Central Suburban North standings at 4-1.
“Making up (Chabot’s) 20 points a game is tough but I think we’ve done a really good job under the circumstances,” Giants coach Jolie Bechtel said. “We’re still competitive and competing at the top of the conference despite things looking different than we anticipated.”
Leading the way, especially offensively, are the Reitmayer sisters: Mckenzie, a senior, and Maddie, a junior. Each sister earned a Player of the Game honor during the showcase.
In a 41-33 victory against Elk Grove on Jan. 4, Maddie Reitmayer tallied 21 points and 9 rebounds to help the Giants erase a 15-point second-half deficit. A day later, she grabbed a game-best 14 rebounds in her team’s loss to Naperville North.
Mckenzie Reitmeyer scored 24 points in the two games, including a team-high 13 in the 52-21 loss to the Huskies. The senior helped the Giants dig into a 16-point Huskies’ advantage, as HP cut it to nine, but it wasn’t enough.
“(I was) being more aggressive with the ball, going to the hoop. Getting some and-1 points gave us some motivation,” Mckenzie Retimayer said. “That’s what I was looking to do: get it inside and have better ball movement.”
The Reitmayers are returning starters and took the court in Grow the Game with senior guard Julia Leshtz, who Bechtel called the team’s top defender; senior forward Jordan Stiller; and sophomore guard Autumn Seward.
Highland Park rebounded from a 1-3 start to the season with four straight victories, including three in the CSL North. The Giants then split with league foes Maine West (38-34 loss) and Niles North (44-40 win) in December and are tied with the Warriors of Maine West for first in the conference midway through the year.
The Giants took a two-week holiday break before returning to the court for the Grow The Game Showcase, a four-year-old event that promotes and empowers women in basketball. The games are coached by women, officiated by women and played by young women.
The showcase reached new heights this year with 43 teams, and Highland Park has participated all four years.
“This is a great opportunity and I’m really grateful to be invited,” Bechtel said. “(New Trier head coach and event co-founder) Teri Rodgers works really hard and all the host schools do a really great job of making the kids feel special and like they’re part of something bigger. It’s an excellent experience and we’re really grateful to be a part of it.”
The Giants will play the second half of its league slate before Feb. 3 and have a rematch with Maine West on Jan. 26.
“Our no. 1 goal is to win our conference,” Mckenzie Reitmayer said. “Staying competitive, staying together, putting in the work outside of practice our things we’re working on to achieve that goal.
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