Loyola senior Addison Bendery and the girls basketball team plays Trinity on Thursday in the Class 4A regional final at Loyola. The second seed at Evanston’s sectional, the Ramblers (23-7) are looking for their third regional title in a row. A guard, Bendery was in her first season on varsity when they beat Evanston at Lane Tech in the regional final last year. A multi-sport athlete, Bendery also competes on Loyola’s track and field team. She qualified for the Class 3A state meet last season in both the 100 and 200 meters. A Chicago resident and product of St. Mary of the Woods, Bendery will be a track and field athlete at Illinois Wesleyan University. Her sister, Riley, is a junior on the basketball team.

MAROON & GOLD: How are you feeling going into the regional final against Trinity? Loyola beat the Blazers two seasons ago on their home court to win a regional title.

ADDISON BENDERY: I’m a little nervous because it could our last game. We want to win and keep going. We’ve really stepped up our game the last couple of weeks, and I think we are playing well. We are pushing each other in practice. We’ve watched a lot of film, and we know everything about them. We are prepared.

M&G: Does it matter who you play in a title game, or is it more meaningful to play a rival, like Trinity?

AB: I think it’s more fun to play a team you know so well. Beating Evanston last year was awesome. It makes it more special.

M&G: An extra element to the regional final is that it’s the last home game for six seniors, including yourself.

AB: I’m so glad it’s at Loyola. When we won the regional last year, [Lane Tech] didn’t let us cut down the nets. We did it the next day at school. If we beat Trinity, it will be cool to be able to cut down the nets that night on our home court.

M&G: What is your role on the team?

AB: I usually guard one of the team’s better players and try to shut her down. I’m not the best at offense. The joke on our team is that if I get the ball everybody yells “shooter” because I’m not good at shooting at all. If I do get the ball, I try to go as fast as I can down the court and create an open shot for someone else.

M&G: Do you enjoy playing defense?

AB: It’s more fun me. Sometimes, I get nervous on offense. Defense comes more naturally, and it’s something I’m good at it.

M&G: Your mother, Maria, got you started in basketball at a young age. She graduated from Marillac in Northfield and went on to play basketball at Lake Forest College.

AB: Growing up, it was all basketball, all the time. My mom coached me throughout grade school.

M&G: When did you start track and field?

AB: In seventh grade. This is going to sound bad, but I was pretty cocky. I thought to myself that I’m really fast, and I could be good at track.

M&G: Turns out you were correct. But you told me you were humbled once you arrived at Loyola.

AB: After one practice, I knew I needed to get better. Everyone was fast. I was surrounded by so many great athletes.

M&G: As a junior, you qualified for the Class 3A state meet in two individual events. It was your first time competing at Eastern Illinois’ O’Brien Field in Charleston. Describe the experience.

AB: It was really stressful. After you check in for your race, you go and sit in a room with everyone else. No one talks to each other, and it’s very intimidating. Then, all of sudden, they tell you to go onto the track. There are so many people watching, and it was the most nerve-wracking thing ever. I told myself just don’t come in last place. Now that I know what to expect, I’m motivated to get back this year.

M&G: In addition to its high level of academics and athletics, what is it about Loyola that you like?

AB: You are given so many opportunities. I knew a lot of people coming from SMOW [St. Mary of the Woods], but I met so many other people and made new friends once I got here. Loyola prepares you to be an outgoing person.

M&G: You recently announced your intention to attend Illinois Wesleyan, where you will join the track and field team. Why is it a good fit for you?

AB: I know it sounds so cheesy, but the first time I stepped onto the campus this past summer I could see myself going there. I like that they have a good running program. I also like that it’s not too big and won’t be overwhelming. I visited again in the fall and stayed overnight with girls on the track team. I really think it’s going to be fun going there.