Girls basketball: 2023-24 Herald-News team preview capsules

Lincoln-Way East’s Hayven Smith looks for a play against Bolingbrook on Thursday January 26th, 2023.

Here is a look at the girls basketball teams in The Herald-News coverage area


Coach: Chris Smith

Last season’s record: 27-4

Key returners: Angelina Smith, G, sr.; Yahaira Bueno, G, sr.; Persais Williams, F, sr.

Key newcomer: Trinity Jones, F, so.

Worth noting: The Raiders return Smith, Williams and Bueno from a team that advanced to the Class 4A supersectionals for the third straight season, losing to O’Fallon, after finishing third in the state the previous two seasons. Jones, a 6-foot-2 transfer from Naperville Central, averaged 20.3 points and 12.7 rebounds as a freshman and holds almost 30 Division I offers, including Iowa, Maryland and Miami.

Coal City

Coach: Brad Schmitt

Last season’s record: 21-8

Key returners: Mia Ferrias, F, sr.; Makayla Henline, G, sr.; Makenzie Henline, G, sr.; Abby Gagilardo, G, sr.; Kylee Kennell, F, jr.; Paige Walker, G, sr.

Key newcomers: Emma Rodriguez, Chloe Pluger, Darcy Ness

Worth noting: Ferrias (13.5 ppg) and Makayla Henline were All-Illinois Central Eight Conference selections last season for the Coalers. ... Coach Schmitt: “We return quite a few starters and players who helped us succeed last year. We have numerous girls who are very capable of producing quality numbers for us, but we still have things we need to shore up as the season gets under way. We are a little undersized, but I hope we can make up for that with ball pressure and good ball movement on offense.”

Gardner-South Wilmington

Coach: Adam Leigh

Last season’s record: 12-20

Key returners: Addi Fair, G, sr.; Grace Olsen, G, jr.

Key newcomers: Madison Wright, C, so.

Worth noting: Fair averaged 23.5 points per game for the Panthers last season and added 241 rebounds, 57 assists, 107 steals and 61 3-pointers. She was also River Valley Conference Player of the Year and broke the single-season scoring record at GSW. Olsen averaged 7.0 points per game. ... Coach Leigh: “We are excited to see the season start. We are going to be a very competitive team and we are hoping we can build on our progress from last season and win some more games.”

Joliet Catholic Academy

Coach: George Shimko

Last season’s record: 16-17

Key returners: Symone Holman, F, jr.; Sophia Mihelich, F/C, sr.

Key newcomers: Emma Birsa, F/C, fr.

Worth noting: Shimko is in his first season as the Angels’ head coach. ... Holman and Mihelich saw significant minutes last season and will be counted on for leadership on a team that features seven freshmen or sophomores on the 12-person roster. ... Coach Shimko: “We are a work in progress and are still learning. We understand that the season is a marathon and not a sprint. We want to keep getting better as the season goes on.”

Joliet Catholic’s Symone Holman takes the ball upcourt against Lincoln-Way Central in the 2023 WJOL Girls Basketball Tournament on Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, in Joliet.

Joliet Central

Coach: Laura Brumfiel

Last season’s record: 10-20

Key returners: Aubrey Weems, F, sr.; Arika Taylor, F, sr.; Neveah Wright, G, so.; Elliana Fowler, G, so.

Key newcomers: Taneisha Robinson, F, so.; Afrika Armstead-Lee, G, sr.; Savannah Grubbs, F, sr.; Mikayla Pratt, F, jr.; Makia Townsend, G, jr.

Worth noting: Weems averaged 9.0 points and 8.0 rebounds last season for the Steelmen, while Fowler scored 8.2 points a game and Wright averaged 6.2 points and 4.1 assists. ... Coach Brumfiel: “The Steelmen are looking forward to a fun, successful season. We have four seniors leading the way and several returning players who have varsity experience. This group is hard working and dedicated to getting better every day.”


Coach: Tracy Rainey

Last season’s record: 19-11

Key returners: Lexi Reyna, G, jr.; Gia Pontrelli, G, sr.; Magdelene Mikroulis, G, so.; Abbey Lakickas, C, sr.; Lauren Tracy, G, jr.; Leah Plahm, C, jr.

Key newcomer: Jess Winstrup, C, jr.

Worth noting: With the graduation of South Suburban Player of the Year Bella Kedryna, Lemont is looking to its varsity returners for a spark on both ends of the floor. ... Coach Rainey: “Lexi Reyna, Abbey Lakickas and Mags Mikroulis all have the ability to score inside and out and will hopefully use their varsity experience to their advantage.”

Lincoln-Way Central

Coach: Dave Campanile

Last season’s record: 24-10

Key returners: Gianna Amadio, G, sr.; Angelina Panos, F/C, sr.; Gracen Gehrke, G, sr.; Kiya Newson-Cole, G, jr.; Brooke Baechtold, F, jr.

Worth noting: The Knights won their second straight regional championship last season, a first for the program since 2005-06. ... Coach Campanile: “We are trying to complete a three-peat in conference titles and regional titles and then push beyond that to a sectional title. This group for the last few years has put Knights basketball on the map and is now the standard that we are looking to continue to grow. We will not carry a huge varsity group, just a close-knit, small team, so staying out of foul trouble and staying healthy will be key. These girls know what it will take to get back to where we were last year and to push past that.”

Lincoln-Way East

Coach: Jim Nair

Last season’s record: 21-11

Key returners: Hayven Smith, F, sr.; Lana Kerley, G, sr.; Lilly Dockmeyer, G, sr.; Makayla Kelly, G, sr.; Maddie Yacobozzi, G/F, sr.; Eva Dilger, F, sr.

Worth noting: The 6-foot-6 Smith recently signed with the University of Illinois, and Kerley set the Griffins’ school record for 3-pointers in a season last year. Dockemeyer has committed to Olivet Nazarene, and Kelley set the school assist record last season. ... Coach Nair: “We are looking to compete for a conference title and go deep into the playoffs. We are a senior-heavy team with all five returning starters from a team that won 21 games last year.”

Lincoln-Way West

Coach: Ryan White

Last season’s record: 24-10

Key returners: Caroline Smith, F, jr.; Molly Finn, G, so.; Peyton Madl, G, sr.; Reagan Seivert, F, sr.; Molly Finn, G, so.; Peyton Madl, G, sr.; Reagan Seivert, G, sr.

Key newcomers: Kenzie Roesner, G, fr.; Reagan McCracken, G, fr.

Worth noting: The Warriors won a regional championship last season. ... Smith averaged 8.0 points and 7.0 rebounds per game last year, while Finn averaged 7.0 points and 4.0 rebounds. Madl averaged 7.0 points and Seiverg averaged 6.0 rebounds. ... Coach White: “We have a mixture of experience and youth. If those things can mix together as the season goes along, we can be a dangerous team by the end of the year.”

Lockport’s Veronica Bafia puts up the three point shot against Providence.


Coach: Darien Jacobs

Last season’s record: 13-19

Key returners: Veronica Bafia, F, sr.; Lucy Hynes, G, jr.

Key newcomers: Laura Arstikaitis, G, so.; Evelyn Ingram, F, fr.

Worth noting: Bafia has committed to St. Xavier University. ... The Porters’ leading scorer from last season, Alaina Peetz, is out for the season. ... Coach Jacobs: “We only have two returning players with varsity experience, and this is the youngest team we have had in the last five years.”


Coach: Shannon Kleczka

Last season’s record: 14-18

Key returners: Makenzie Brass, F, sr.; Madelyn Kiper, G, so.; Bree Cook, G, sr.

Key newcomers: Kendall Thomas, G, so.; McKenna Delaney, G, jr.; Sami Samuilis, G, jr.; Kora Kotowski, F, jr.; Olivia Dahlberg, F, sr.

Worth noting: This is Kleczka’s first year as head coach for the Indians. ... Brass, a Northern Illinois University commit, was named All-Southwest Prairie Conference the past three seasons and averaged 13.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game last season. Kiper averaged 5.6 points and 3.7 rebounds last year as well. ... Coach Kleczka: “We have a great group of athletes this year that are incredibly hard workers, love the sport, and have a high basketball IQ. We’re really excited to see it all come together, and see where they’re able to take us.”


Coach: Nick Virgl

Last season’s record: 10-22

Key returners: Makenna Boyle, G, sr.; Landrie Callahan, C, so.

Key newcomers: Tessa Shannon, F, so.; Alyssa Jepson, F, so.

Worth noting: Callahan averaged 16 points and 14 rebounds a game for Morris last season and was named All-Interstate 8 Conference. She is committed to Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. Boyle averaged eight points a game and is committed to Clarke University (Iowa). ... Coach Virgl: “We return six players with varsity experience. I have full confidence in all of their abilities and drive to help our younger players quickly to become vital parts of our varsity program.”


Coach: Steve Strough

Last season’s record: 31-2

Key returners: Madi Schroeder, G/F, sr.; Addie Graffeo, G, sr.; Abbie Chenoweth, G, sr.; Ashley Renwick, F, sr.; Jolynn Murray, F, sr.

Key newcomers: Emma Iozoo, G, sr.

Worth noting: The Blue Devils set a school record for wins last season. ... Schroeder averaged 13 points, five rebounds and four assists per game last season, was AP All-State honorable mention, IBCA second-team All-State and has committed to Northern Michigan University. ... Coach Strough: “We lost three starters from last year’s record-setting team but have nine seniors on our roster this season who have played together since sixth grade. Our goals are to compete for a conference title and have postseason success.”

Plainfield East

Coach: Anthony Waznonis

Last season’s record: 22-7

Key returners: Lexi Sepulveda, G, sr.; Anna Jenkins, F, sr.

Key newcomers: Addie Haughian, G, jr.; DiMora Shelton, jr., F; Gianna Thompson, G/F, jr.

Worth noting: Sepulveda is committed to Southern Indiana University and averaged 22.2 points, 2.8 steaks, 2.1 assists and 4.5 rebounds per game last season for the Bengals. She was named SPC East MVP and AP Class 4A honorable mention All-State. ... Jenkins, who has signed to play soccer at Marquette University, averaged 6.4 points and 5.9 rebounds last year. ... Coach Waznonis: “We hope to compete again for the SPC East title and know we will have tough competition. While returning Lexi and Anna as starters, we are young in others spots, but have some talented and skilled players who have been working hard and are ready to step in.”

Plainfield North

Coach: Matt Major

Last season’s record: 20-10

Key returners: Bella Gruber, F, jr.; Sydney Scott, F, jr.; Kaitlyn Sedillo, F, jr.; Isabella Garcia, G, so.; Anaya Patterson, F, jr.

Worth noting: This is Major’s first season as head coach of the Tigers. ... Coach Major: “We’re a somewhat young team. The big question will be can we reach our potential. It will take a lot of hard work and discipline.”

Plainfield South

Coach: Alana Warren

Last season’s record: 7-22

Key returners: Destynia McGruder, F, sr.; Jazlynn Foster, F, sr.; Demi Page, G/F, sr.; Tierra Abner, G, jr.

Key newcomer: La’Niya Willis, G, so.

Worth noting: This is Warren’s first season as head coach of the Cougars. ... McGruder averaged 13 points and nine rebounds last season and was named first-team All-Southwest Prairie Conference. She has committed to Oakton Community College. ... Foster averaged 11 points and seven rebounds, while Page averaged seven points. ... Coach Warren: “Everything is new this year. New energy, new coach, and a new commitment. This team will be locked in all season, ready to compete. Returning eight seniors, this is a veteran team looking to make some noise.”

Providence's Gabi Bednar (20) shoots a three-pointer against Montini’s Alyssa Epps (21) during the 3A Glenbard South Sectional basketball final at Glenbard South High School in Glen Ellyn on Thursday, Feb 23, 2023.

Providence Catholic

Coach: Eileen Copenhaver

Last season’s record: 24-11

Key returners: Gabi Bednar, G, sr.; Molly Knight, G, jr.; Sydney Spencer, G, sr.; Bella Morey, G/F, jr.; Eilish Raines, G, so.

Key newcomers: Taylor Healy, F, fr.; Carina Diorio, F, fr.

Worth noting: The Celtics were moved up to the GCAC Red Division. ... Bednar is a four-year starter who averaged 10.7 points a game last year and is committed to the University of St. Francis. Knight is the third of a group of sisters to play for the Celtics and averaged 8.5 points a game last year. ... Coach Copenhaver: “We will do everything we can to be competitive each and every day. The varsity team has some returning players with experience, speed and have played well together.”


Coach: Shelby Zwolinski

Last season’s record: 15-16

Key returners: Kaylee Tribble, F, sr.; Madison Keenan, F, sr.

Key newcomers: Mya Beard, G, sr.; Natalie Flores, F, jr.; Leah Grace, G/F jr.; Cameron Wallace, G, jr.; Gwen Stewart, G, so.; Alyssa Wollenzien, G, fr.; Caysie Esparza, G, fr.; Mackenzie Foote, F, fr.

Worth noting: Tribble was All-Illinois Central Eight for the Comets last season after averaging 9.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. ... Coach Zwolinski: “We have multiple players who have experience playing varsity and are excited to step up into key roles this upcoming season.”


Coach: Devin Bates

Last season’s record: 18-15

Key returners: Jadea Johnson, G/F, sr.; Laila Houseworth, G, sr.; Emily Gabrelcik, G, sr.; Jaylen Zachary, G, sr.

Key newcomer: Zari Smith, G, so.

Worth noting: Johnson (17.4 PPG) and Houseworth (13.2 PPG) were All-Southwest Prairie Conference last season for the Spartans. ... Coach Bates: “This team, led by returning SPC All-Conference players Jadea Johnson and Laila Houseworth, will look for continued growth after an 18-win season. Offensive and defensive offseason developments made by seniors Emily Gabrelcik and Jaylen Zachary coupled with varsity newcomer sophomore Zari Smith have made this fast and athletic team excited to take on all challenges that await.”


Coach: Josh Myers

Last season’s record: 22-10

Top returners: Alyssa Zellers, G, sr.; Lainie Olson, G, sr.; Audry McNabb, F, sr.; Tessa Krull, F, sr.; Evelyn O’Connor, F, sr.; Lauren Cronkrite, G, sr.

Key newcomers: Lauryn Barla, G, jr.; Aubrie Jackson, G, jr.

Worth noting: This is Myers’ first year as head coach for the Fighting Irish.

– Editor’s note: Only teams that returned emails requesting information are included in this preview.