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Girls basketball: Optimism flows as season begins

All-areperformer Ashley Prost (left) returns lead Kanelteam thadvanced Sweet 16 Class 3A last year. | Donnell collins~For Sun-Times Media

All-area performer Ashley Prost (left) returns to lead a Kaneland team that advanced to the Sweet 16 in Class 3A last year. | Donnell collins~For Sun-Times Media

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Area outlook

Top teams: Aurora Central Catholic, Batavia, Geneva, Kaneland, Metea Valley, Newark, Oswego East, Plano, West Aurora, Yorkville

Top players: Gabi Alfaro, Aurora Central Soph. G; Erin Bayram, Batavia Jr. F; Paige Beach, Yorkville Sr. F; Mackenzie Bollinger, Yorkville Sr. G; LeRoyia Campbell, Oswego East Sr. G; Alex DeCraene, Aurora Central Sr. G; Liza Fruendt, Batavia Jr. G; Miranda Grizaffi, Batavia Sr. G; Allison Humes, Somonauk Sr. F; Zhate Jackson, Plano Sr. G; Michaela Loebel, Geneva Jr. G; Clarissa Martinez, Plano Jr. C; Tachae Miles, Plano Sr. G; Lori Obendorf, Metea Valley Sr. F; Venita Parsons, Oswego East Jr. G; Sami Pawlak, Geneva Sr. F; Anna Petersen, Metea Valley Sr. F; Ashley Prost, Kaneland Sr. F; Desiree Rhodes, East Aurora Sr. F/C; Lisa Rodriguez, Aurora Central Catholic Sr. G; Corinne Rowe, Yorkville Jr. G; Sidney Santos, Geneva Jr. F; Morgan Seberger, Geneva Jr. G; Liz Skaggs, West Aurora Jr. F; Karly Tate, Rosary Sr. G; Lauren Tollefson, Newark Sr. G; Tyshee Towner, East Aurora Sr. F; Bria Walker, Metea Valley Sr. G; Amri Wilder, Oswego Soph. G; Abryia Zietz, West Aurora Jr. G/F.

Updated: December 12, 2012 10:42PM

After becoming the first girls basketball team from the city of Aurora to ever reach the state tournament — finishing fourth in Class 2A — Aurora Central Catholic coach Mark Fitzgerald handed out T-shirts to his team that read: “Tradition Never Graduates.”

That is the challenge for the Chargers as they make the jump to Class 3A this year and look to replace four starters, including Beacon-News Player of the Year Jackie Cardona.

“The 2012-13 season will be an interesting chapter in ACC girls basketball history,” Fitzgerald said. “Coming off our best season in school history as the first girls team from Aurora to ever make it downstate, we have graduated 57 percent of last year’s scoring and 72 percent of last year’s rebounding. While these are tremendous losses, we are still extremely optimistic that this version of Chargers basketball will be very competitive.”

Optimism like that flows from across the area as the girls basketball season tips off Monday.

Changes abound for all of the top teams from last season, though Kaneland, which reached the Sweet 16 in Class 3A last year, has the most stability returning. Led by all-area performer Ashley Prost, the Knights should be in good position to make another run in Class 3A despite facing returning solid teams like DeKalb and ACC being added to the Class 3A mix thanks to its run to state last year.

Yorkville will not be in that group, however, as the Foxes have been bumped up to Class 4A thanks to a growing enrollment. Making the transition easier for a team that won 20 games a year ago is the return of Paige Beach and Corrine Rowe and the transfer of Class 1A/2A All-State special mention Mackenzie Bollinger from Aurora Christian.

Waubonsie Valley had one of the best seasons in program history last year, going 25-3 and winning the Upstate Eight Valley. But the Warriors are undergoing a massive overhaul this winter.

Coach Kim Connell left to take over Nazareth, leaving longtime boys basketball assistant and varsity boys golf coach Dave Owles in charge. He is taking over a program that graduated four of its top five players from last season and saw last year’s star junior, Gratia Brooks, move to Georgia. Junior Ryaen Johnson and sophomore Taylor Ameri, who averaged a combined 1.6 points per game last season, represent the only varsity experience Owles has to work with.

Waubonsie wasn’t the only No. 1 seed in Class 4A from the area last year. Geneva pulled the trick too. Ashley Santos is off to Marquette, but her junior sister, Sidney, will finally get to suit up for the Vikings after missing the past two seasons with torn ACLs. She joins one of the area’s best players, Sami Pawlak, who committed to Nebraska-Omaha.

As usual, the Vikings will be tested early and often with a trip to the McDonald’s Shootout and nonconference games against the likes of Fenwick and Montini.

This is the season that Metea Valley has been pointing toward for some time. The Mustangs finished over .500 for the first time last year (16-13) and return senior stars Lori Obendorf, Anna Petersen and Bria Walker.

Oswego East reached the regional finals but graduated the program’s best all-time player in Arneasa Blair. But coach Abe Carretto thinks junior Venita Parsons could eclipse many of Blair’s records. Oswego is still really young, but the Panthers have experience and are finally healthy, led by sophomore point guard Amri Wilder.

Batavia junior Liza Fruendt is one of the area’s top talents, flanked by Erin Bayram and Miranda Grizaffi.

East Aurora should be solid behind Desiree Rhodes and Tyshee Towner. West Aurora figures to be led by Liz Skaggs and Abriya Zietz. Rosary welcomes a new coach in Jessie Wilcox.

Amongst the small schools, Newark appears to be the top team of the group. Newark lost only one senior off a team that went 22-5 last year and had a sophomore team that went 20-0. Lauren Tollefson leads the way.

Plano is also pointing in the right direction after a 16-15 campaign that featured mostly underclassmen. Hinckley-Big Rock reloads after winning a regional championship.

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