Girls Basketball: Hillcrest has familiar goalHillcrest's #44, Lorielle Little and Deerfield's #11, Haley Greer, fight for a ball during their game in the Morris Shootout at Morris High School in Morris, IL on Tuesday June 19, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media .
Updated: July 21, 2012 6:18AM
Hillcrest has its sights set on only one thing come November, and senior guard Dana Gettis made no qualms about it Tuesday.
“We want to win the championship this year,” she said, “and we’re going to work hard for it.”
For the past three seasons, the Hawks have neared the Class 3A mountaintop, only to have their hearts broken with excruciating playoff losses. Last season, it came in the state semis. Both seasons preceding, the anguish hit in the championship round.
All three times, the defeats came at the hands of Montini. And all three times, Hillcrest watched its adversary go on to claim the state title.
“I feel like we’re a different team, but this year we’re going to have to work together more than we did last year,” Gettis said. “It seems like we’re going to go far this year.”
The work began with camps and tournaments earlier this month for the Hawks, and continued at the 15th annual Morris Ladies Shootout, which tipped off Tuesday in Morris.
The Hawks, who earned top honors at the tournament last year, had little trouble rattling off a pair of wins early Tuesday. They played a third game late in the day.
The two-day tourney features 32 teams playing six games on four courts in sweltering midsummer heat.
Hillcrest coach John Maniatis lamented the need for such summer tournaments to gauge his team. The Hawks have an 85-11 record over the past three seasons, and were runners-up in the state both the 2009-10 and 2010-11 campaigns. Last year’s team graduated eight players from a squad that finished third in the state.
“Obviously, coming off a third-place finish last year, we’re looking at a little bit of a transition in terms of people stepping into new roles,” Maniatis said. “The summer is to see if certain players can fill certain roles.”
Gettis averaged 8.3 points and 2.3 steals last season starting in spot duty. This year, Maniatis hopes she can be one of the Hawks’ go-to players.
“I just have to be a leader,” Gettis said. “I was the sixth man, but now I’ve got to step up and take my role as being a leader to support the team.”
Forward Marium Awoniyi returns after starting last season. Lorielle Little, at 6-foot-3, will be the team’s starting center after being a reserve post player last season. Guard Nadika Jackson looks poised to take over as a starter. Post player Tierra Sanders, and sophomores Aliah Acker and Tanzania Sherril will play minutes in reserve despite their relative lack of varsity experience.
“At times, we look very impressive, and at other times, we look very inexperienced,” Maniatis said. “Our goal has always been to win the state championship for the 18 years that we’ve been here. The pieces are there; it’s just a matter of executing in the crunch.”