By Brad Spencer
They are the same high-caliber high school girls basketball teams soon to compete in the same stocked sectional of the Class 4A state playoffs, but it's a different year.
Catholic powerhouses Trinity (22-4) and Fenwick (22-6) return to the postseason with the same vigor that compelled them to success last year. Both have similar styles of play that incorporate an up-tempo offense with a suffocating fullcourt press-and-trap defense. The two teams are likely to meet up on Trinity's homecourt for the River Forest Sectional semifinal on Feb. 19 where the Friars will no doubt be thirsty to avenge last season's 64-45 loss to the Blazers in the playoffs. But first, both teams will need to sweep through their respective regionals.
Trinity, which managed to win 22 games during the regular season despite dealing with multiple injuries, is likely to take on Riverside-Brookfield in the Lady Bulldogs' own regional championship on Thursday (Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m.). Riverside-Brookfield, the seventh seed in the sectional, is no slouch, having won 23 games this season. They're led by 5-foot-9 forward Brittney JnoBaptiste and 5-8 guard Hannah Claywell. But with Trinity leading scorers Taylor Nazon and Lauren Prochaska averaging 14 points apiece per game, and the team shooting 32 percent from three-point range, the Blazers are likely headed home to host their own sectional at Sister Michelle Germanson Athletic Facility.
The Friars, who fell to Marian Catholic 73-49 on Saturday, missing out on a chance to secure the program's 17th East Suburban Catholic Conference title in 19 seasons, are expected to take on sixth-seeded Lyons Township in the St. Ignatius Regional championship on Thursday (Feb. 14, 7:30 p.m.). Lyons isn't much of a threat to Fenwick's run-and-gun style, but if the Friars are looking ahead to a possible rematch against Trinity, then, anything's possible — though, highly unlikely.
Which leads us to that penultimate match-up, the one the coaches say is just another game, but the players insist is thee game. The two teams have not met during the regular season in a few years, making these postseason meetings that much more intense for players and fans. It could come down to which team makes more shots from three-point range, likely with Fenwick taking more but Trinity making more. The Friars connected on just 7-of-28 against Marian Catholic, a team Trinity also lost to, 54-41, back on Jan. 15. Prochaska, Annie McKenna, and Mary Dillon are the main three-point launchers for the Blazers.
After these two rivals duke it out, two days later the winner will face the wrath of Whitney Young, the defending Class 4A State champ. The Blazers dropped their final game of the regular season, 58-41, to the high-powered Dolphins (23-4), turning in a dismal second quarter where they were outscored 14-1. Young out-rebounded Trinity 31-16 and ended the Blazers win-streak at nine games.
"We hope this brutal stretch of games will benefit us in the playoffs," said Trinity head coach Ed Stritzel following the loss.