Take II: The Loyola girls basketball team plays Evanston for a second time this season Monday in Class 4A sectional semifinals at Niles West. But it won’t be the same team the fourth-seeded Ramblers (21-10) beat 45-41 on Jan. 5 in Evanston. In the first meeting, the top-seeded Wildkits (25-3) were without senior guard and Western Michigan-bound Leighah-Amori Wool. “She does everything for them,” Loyola head coach Jeremy Schoenecker said. “She shoots it well from the perimeter, she can post you up. It will be a challenge in how we guard her. We didn’t have to worry about that the first time around.” Schoenecker said Loyola’s post players, primarily senior Clare Nelson and Lilly Wehman (pictured above), will have their hands full with Evanston’s big girls, including senior forward Krystal Forrester. Evanston’s ball pressure also will be test Loyola’s guards. “We know the things we have to do well because we’ve spent 31 games working on them,” Schoenecker said. “We are ready.” Monday’s winner plays Friday in the sectional final.
Kane factor: Madison Kane’s impact can’t be measured in statistics. The senior guard and captain is a three-year varsity player. Her experience and effort has been invaluable to the Ramblers. “At the end of the day, she’s the type of person and player that you have to have on your team to win a regional title,” Schoenecker said. “She plays so hard for all 32 minutes, and it never seems like she needs a break.” Kane is Loyola’s best defender, often assigned to guard the opponent’s best non-post player. In Thursday’s 55-51 win over Trinity in the regional final, she held junior guard Lauren Lee, a Division I prospect, to nine points, well below her season average. In two games against GCAC champion Montini, Kane limited Broncos senior and GCAC Red’s player of the year, Kaylee Bambule to a combined seven points. “To be a great defender, you have to buy into it, and she has,” Schoenecker said. “She’s a student of the game. She watches film and understands a player’s strengths and weaknesses. She learned what it takes from [Class of 2016 graduate] Maeve Stanton last year, and she has done a great job.”
Green light: Schoenecker said he’s been encouraging junior guard Erin Dillon to be more aggressive on offense all season. She did that Thursday. One of the team’s top perimeter shooters, Dillon made four 3-pointers, including two in the fourth quarter, and scored a team-best 14 points in the 55-51 win over the Blazers. Her other basket, in the first minute of the fourth, was from a step inside the 3-point line. “That’s how we’ve wanted her to play,” Schoenecker said. “We want her to take those shots. [On Thursday], she figured that out and stepped up. Once she saw them go, her confidence went up. She was in the zone.” During the regular season, Dillon was second on the team behind Kane in 3s with 31.
Tournament time: The IHSA announced the seeds and pairings for the Class 3A and 4A boys state tournaments this week. Loyola received the No. 4 seed at the Class 4A Waukegan Sectional and was assigned to the Zion-Benton Regional. The Ramblers will play either No. 13 Highland Park or No. 20 Taft in the regional semifinals Feb. 28. Loyola lost to Taft 69-67 in overtime on Dec. 23. Evanston earned the No. 1 seed, while Notre Dame is No. 2 and Stevenson is No. 3. The Ramblers went 1-3 against sectional teams. All three of the losses — Notre Dame, New Trier, Taft — came in OT.
Giving back: Loyola’s basketball programs will take part in the seventh annual Hustle & Heart Charity Basketball Clinic from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday at Golf View Recreation Center (7800 N. Caldwell, Niles). The school’s players and coaches will help pass along their knowledge of the game to more than 300 boys and girls participants in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. Basketball teams from Benet, DePaul Prep, Notre Dame and Regina also will be there as will members of the DePaul University women’s team and Truman College. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Danny Did Foundation. The Chicago-based non-profit uses sports to spread awareness of epilepsy, seizure safety and Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP) in the name of Danny Stanton, according to Tom Stanton, the foundation’s executive director. The foundation has provided grants to fund seizure-monitoring devices for families across 50 states and eight countries.