Winnetka, Sports

‘We’re Here Too’: Grow the Game continues to gain teams, momentum while championing women in hoops

One of 43 teams, New Trier splits its games in the showcase

New Trier senior basketball standout Sela Klein knows it is reality, but she doesn’t have to like empty bleachers, especially when they aren’t that way for for boys games.

Even when the two Trevians teams play on the same night at the same place — like their semi-annual rivalry nights with Evanston – Klein can’t help but sneer at the crowd disparity.

“Nobody shows up to our games until the fourth quarter, and it sucks,” Klein said about the Evanston doubleheaders.

The atmosphere was different on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 5-6, when Klein and the Trevians competed in the fourth annual Grow the Game Showcase, a women-centered event that continues to gain participants and fans.

Co-founded by New Trier coach Teri Rodgers, Grow the Game welcomed 43 women-coached teams — its most yet and up from 34 in 2023, 29 in ’22 and 14 in its inaugural year — for three days worth of exciting, shootout-style matchups at gyms in multiple suburbs. The games are coached by women, officiated by women and played by young women.

Sela Klein releases a contested fallback jumper in New Trier’s game with Glenbard West Thursday, Jan. 5.

Klein spoke on the importance of the event and equity in basketball following her team’s first game, a 62-42 loss to host Glenbard West on Friday.

“Tonight, the energy was amazing. Looking around, this was probably the most packed (gym) I’ve had in a really long time,” she said. ” … I think that’s what this (event) is for. We do it too. We’re here too. We’re good at it; come watch and see. I respect my coach so much for creating this. We love coming to this.”

And Rodgers, who calls Grow the Game a highlight in her hall-of-fame career, loves bringing her Trevians to the ever evolving event she helped start.

Not only did Grow the Game have a record number of participants, but also they came from four different states: Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa. And for the first time, three teams normally coached by men joined the field and were led by their female assistant coaches during event games.

Rodgers said the founders — Kristi Faulkner, of Glenbard West; Ashley Luke-Clanton, formerly of Mother McAuley; and Cara Doyle, of St. Ignatius — share the leadership for the event and rotate the venues each year.

Glenbard West, Glenbard East, Downers Grove South and Stevenson hosted games this time around and through player of the game awards, special gear, inspirational decor and more, they championed Grow the Game’s mission of empowering and celebrating women in basketball.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “We started with 14 teams and now 43, and it’s been a really, really wonderful event with great people. Yea, it’s awesome.”

The Trevians had a tough start to this year’s Grow the Game experience, failing to score in the first quarter of its opener versus the Hilltoppers. But New Trier bounced back with a 25-point second quarter to trail by just four at halftime.

Glenbard West responded to start the second half, however, and the Trevians could not recover. Erin Floyd led the Trevians with 11 points and was New Trier’s player of the game, while Klein chipped in 8 and Reese Leahy 5 with 8 rebounds.

Trevians senior KJ Sacarro races up the floor after a steal against the Hilltoppers.

New Trier was coming off an impressive third-place finish at the Komaromy Classic over winter break. After a few days off, the Trevians returned to action Friday and were rusty.

“We got to be better at stopping the bleeding,” Rodgers said. “We did that in the second quarter but then it happened again in the third. It starts on the defensive end. When we’re not playing good defense, things don’t go well for us on the offensive end. It’s just a snowball.”

With a quick turnaround, though, New Trier got back on the right track Saturday with Klein putting on a show for the energized crowd at Hinsdale Central.

Klein racked up 29 points as the Trevians downed the host Red Devils 63-57. Anna Rivera addd 10 points; Leahy 9 points, 7 rebounds and 4 blocks; and KJ Sacarro 4 points and 7 assists.

The victory pushes New Trier to 11-8 at the midway point of the season and are back on the floor Tuesday, Jan. 9, with a home matchup against Glenbrook North.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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