Survive and advance.

That’s the requisite mentality any girls basketball team adopts this time of the year.

The Trinity, Oak Park and River Forest and Fenwick High School girls basketball teams certainly will be focused on taking it one game at a time during hopefully extended stays in the postseason.

Here’s a closer look at the Blazers, Huskies and Friars entering the state playoffs which begin this week.


Of the three teams, the Blazers are the best candidate to win a state title.

Trinity was three wins shy of winning the Class 4A state championship last season, With their roster essentially intact, the Blazers aim to finish the job this year.

Led by seniors Annie McKenna and Kaitlyn Aylward, Trinity has the talent, experience and depth to beat any team in the state.

“I can’t believe it’s my last year,” said McKenna, who recently signed to play college basketball at Dartmouth. “It’s been fun. I still have that goal of a state championship and that will never change.”

McKenna is one of the top point guards in the state, while Aylward is an outstanding scorer and rebounder. The Blazers’ talent extends beyond their stellar seniors, with key contributors Alisa Fallon, Lauren Lee, Daliyah Brown, Alex Fanning and Alyssa Geary in the fold as well.

Annie Stritzel, one of the best freshmen in the state, has made the lineup even more formidable.

After a tumultuous start this season, which included Mike Valente taking over as the head coach after Ed Stritzel resigned on Nov. 30, Trinity turned in another strong regular season. Highlights included defeating Montini 51-40 to win the GCAC Red championship game and a runner-up finish at the Nike Tournament of Champions in Phoenix, Arizona.

While a faster tempo suits the Blazers’ style of play, they have proven they can win in a variety of ways.

“We move the ball pretty well and play good defense,” Brown said. “We like to play at a fast speed and pressure our opponents. I think we have improved as the season has gone on.”

Trinity (24-5), the No. 3 seed in the New Trier Sectional of the Class 4A playoffs, played the winner of Glenbrook North vs. Schurz on Tuesday, Feb. 16 (past deadline) in the semifinals of the Maine South Regional. With a win, the Blazers advance to Thursday’s regional title game at 7 p.m.

Other top sectional teams include No. 1 New Trier, No. 2 Evanston, No. 4 Glenbrook South and No. 5 Loyola Academy. OPRF is seeded eighth.


Regardless of how the Huskies fare in the state playoffs, they have already shown their mettle this winter. After three key players opted to leave the team during the offseason and a 0-5 start, OPRF (14-13, 9-3) stormed back to earn a share of the West Suburban Conference Silver Division championship with Lyons Township.

The Huskies have plenty of offensive firepower with scorers like junior forward Blair Ripley, senior guard Madison Siler and senior forward Crystal Corr, but defense has been their calling card all season.

Guards Molly Cullinane and Maeve Nelson set the tone with constant pressure on the ball. Nelson is particularly adept at jumping passing lanes for steals.

“It’s fun that we all work together,” Cullinane said. “Last year we had more stars but this year we’re all pretty good, so practice is really good. We all get a lot done because we all push each other.”

An infusion of additional young talent, including sophomore forwards Amaya Coleman and Carrington McGowan and freshman guard Ahsha Spencer has the Huskies set up well for the next several seasons.

Seniors Peyton Schafer and Michaela Thornton have also contributed to the team’s success.

“I’m really proud of what we have accomplished,” Ripley said. “Despite having a young team, we really get to work and hard work pays off.”

The Huskies face Niles North on Wednesday, Feb. 17 in the semifinals of the Prosser Regional. With a win, OPRF would most likely take on top sectional seed New Trier in Friday’s regional title game at 7 p.m.


It was an interesting regular season to say the least for the Friars.

Dave Power became just the second girls basketball coach (joining Marshall’s Dorothy Gaters) in Ilinois history to win the 900-win plateau when the Friars defeated DePaul Prep on Jan. 23.

“For a while it looked like it might take another 39 years,” Power joked after the game. “No, it was very nice. I was proud of the girls. They played with a lot of heart. At times they were trying too hard because they wanted it so bad.”

Kiki Sheard, Kate Moore and MacKenzie Blaze are top threats offensively.

Center Charlotte Quinn, forwards Margaret Planek and Kelly Carpenter and a plethora of guards including Bailey Forde, Chance Baggett, Gianni Ortiz, Mackenzie Berschel and Audrey Hetzer have seen plenty of playing time as well.

The Friars go deep into their bench to maintain defensive intensity.

Although an extremely difficult schedule, key injuries and an underclassmen-laden roster have caused some growing pains, the Friars enter the 3A playoffs as a dangerous floater with a favorable seed.

“You may not think it would be a fun year for us based on our record, but we all love each other,” Moore said. “There’s not a lot of drama. We’re having fun.”

Fenwick (8-20) received the No. 4 seed in the Glenbard South Sectional. Marshall, the sectional host Raiders and North Lawndale are the top three seeds in order.

Fenwick faces the winner of Pritzker vs. Rauner on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 6 p.m. in the semifinals of the Immaculate Conception Regional. The regional final is Friday at 7 p.m.

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Marty Farmer

The Illinois Press Association recently honored Marty with the 1st & 2nd Place Awards for Best Sports Feature for his article He's in an Oak Park state of mind: Former OPRF star Iman Shumpert returns...