CARY – A fun and successful summer had Hampshire’s Kaitlyn Milison feeling good about her team’s chances of turning things around after a rough couple of years.
On Friday, the Whip-Purs showcased their depth with nine players finding the basket as they held Cary-Grove to single-digit points in three of four quarters en route to a 44-30 win in their Fox Valley Conference game.
“As a senior, it’s been a rough few years,” said Milison, who stuffed the stat sheet with four points, eight rebounds, three assists, four steals and two blocks. “We had a good summer, and starting off 2-0 [in the FVC] is really big for us. It’s taken a lot of work and effort.
Seven players scored in the first half for Hampshire. The Whips (3-3, 2-0 FVC) also had their best game of the season from long range with nine 3-pointers. Junior guard Ashley Herzing (team-high nine points) had three 3s, and junior guard Jaden Szymonik added two.
“They’re not selfish. They don’t care who scores,” Hampshire coach Eric Samuelson said. “They’ll pass one more time to get the right shot, and that’s beautiful.”
Cary-Grove (5-2, 1-1), which entered on a five-game winning streak, scored the first seven points of the game before the Whips fought back. Trailing 12-8, Herzing knocked down her first 3. Sophia Oleferchik then gave Hampshire the lead with a bucket with 45 seconds left in the first quarter.
Hampshire held C-G without a point for 7:20 between the first and second quarters and never trailed after Oleferchik’s bucket. The Trojans turned the ball over 14 times in the first half and scored only three points in the second quarter as the Whips took a 29-15 lead into halftime.
“We just communicated well, closed out on the ball, and we made an effort to get every rebound and every steal,” Milison said. “We didn’t let them get into the lane for easy layups.”
Whitney Thompson added six points and six rebounds for the Whips, and Avery Cartee and Ceili Ramirez each had five points. Alex Montez had four assists, while Chloe Van Horn added six rebounds in a complete-team effort.
Samuelson has been clear that everyone on his team will get a chance to contribute.
“We’ve told every one of them that we’re going to give them opportunities,” Samuelson said. “I said, ‘Everyone of you has a chance to play. When you get it, you earn a chance to keep playing,’ and they’re all doing it.”
For the Trojans, sophomore forward Ellie Mjaanes, a transfer from Vermont, led all scorers with 13 points and added nine rebounds. Emily Larry had seven points, and Annika Nordin and Kennedy Manning each had three. Nordin also had eight rebounds.
Cary-Grove coach Tony Moretti said Mjaanes has fit right in.
“Ellie is just an amazing kid,” Moretti said. “She brings great attitude, she brings size and she brings more youth to the program. We’re glad we have her.”
Moretti was pleased with how his team came out with high energy in the first quarter. After that, the Trojans struggled to get consistent looks at the basket.
“They play hard, and they’re a veteran team,” Moretti said of Hampshire. “We were kind of like them two years ago. A lot of freshmen, a lot of sophomores, a lot of youth. But you’ve got to give credit to them. They put us in some bad situations in the first half with bigs on littles, and it just didn’t work out.”
Herzing hopes the Whips, who finished seventh in the FVC last season, can contend for a conference title.
“That’s what we’re shooting for,” Herzing said. “I love my teammates, and I think we’ve grown a lot. It feels really good to get this win with everybody.”