The holidays are over, and now it’s time for the long stretch drive of the 2022-23 girls basketball season. It’s been a wild, unpredictable ride so far.
Here are some observations at the halfway point:
Which day is it? Seriously, take your pick. Marian Catholic with junior guard Madison Davis and sophomore guard Taylor Bolton. Homewood-Flossmoor with senior forward Alyssa Latham and junior guard Jaeda Murphy. Mother McAuley with junior guard Grace Gambotz and junior forward Morgan Feil. They’ve all had their turns at the top. The Lincoln-Ways — East, Central and West — hey, on any given day. I wish Thornwood, with senior guard Janiyah Saverson, had played more Southland powers. Not totally sold yet, but getting there.
H-F’s season wasn’t three minutes old when Latham went down with a knee issue. The Syracuse recruit missed a handful of games. The Vikings, with four freshmen, stumbled. They lost some precious time, but with Latham back, they’ll likely have a solid second half. Ditto for Oak Forest, if LSU recruit Janae Kent comes back strong after an ankle problem.
Beyond Latham and Kent? Senior guard Azyah Newson-Cole has been just dominant in games for Lincoln-Way Central. Senior forward Elise Ward has taken her game to an astronomical level for Marist. Davis has exhibited some jaw-dropping talent at Marian Catholic. And while Providence has had ups and downs, senior guard Annalise Pietrzak has sparkled.
Honestly, when junior guard Lana Kerley gets her rhythm going at the arc for Lincoln-Way East, I think you could put a blindfold on her and she’d keep hitting them. Senior guard Josie Canellis is still flashing her Queen of the Hill form for Sandburg. Senior guard Ava Gugliuzza gives Lincoln-Way West pure 3-point money.
Junior center Hayven Smith isn’t just a 6-foot-5 rebound grabber for Lincoln-Way East, she’s smart after she gets them. Illinois and Harvard are smart for chasing her. Now that she’s at full strength, junior forward Juliana Paddock is crushing it on the boards for Sandburg.
Best Southland rivalry crowd I’ve seen this season — oh, come on, you know — was for Marist at Mother McAuley. The kids on both sides came in droves, dressed up, full of cheer, and for the most part they kept it clean. The game was a classic, with McAuley winning in overtime. Cheers to both fan bases.
Sophomore guard Tariya Wright does many things for T.F. South, not the least of which is keeping the other Red Wolves involved. Junior guard Maeve Egan is just a cool customer with the ball for Mother McAuley. And there’s just so much heart in Lincoln-Way Central’s 5-4 dynamo Keira Hunt.
Junior guard Gracen Gehrke provided my No. 1 stunner when she hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer for Lincoln-Way Central to force overtime with Lincoln-Way East. After trailing by 18 points, the Knights went on to win. On the flip side, I’m still wowed about how junior guard Maddie Yacobozzi took over in the final three minutes to help Lincoln-Way East beat Sandburg for the Christmas title.
Or senior forward Apple Guerrero will put up 30 points on you. She’s averaging 21.3 points for Argo, one of the Southland’s sleeper teams to watch. Senior guard Lilliana Magana spreads the wealth extremely well for St. Laurence, but we’ve seen her go off on a tear when necessary.
I was absolutely stunned to see how polished Mother McAuley’s Quinn Arundel looked running the point right from the get-go. This kid is relentless. Arundel played in grammar school with Stagg’s Abbey Hobart, who is also opening up some eyes.