McLegends: Cattell recalls standout senior seasonDePaul's Erin Cattell, left, receives the ball during practice with teammates Holly Medley, center, and Missy Mitidiero, right, in Minneapolis, Friday, March 16, 2007. DePaul will face Georgia Tech on Saturday, in a NCAA first round women's college basketball game.(AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Where: Thornton High School, 151st and Broadway, Harvey
Time: 11 a.m. Game 1: Beggars Pizza Lady McLegends vs. 2011 Girls High School All-Stars. 2 p.m. Game 2: Coca-Coca McLegends vs. the 2011 Boys High School All-Stars
Tickets: Available at Thornton High School, contact Bill Mosel at (708) 255-4122; the SouthtownStar office at 6901 W. 159th St. in Tinley Park, contact Phil Arvia at (708) 633-5949; the Olympia Fields McDonald’s, 2400 W. Lincoln Highway; the Lincoln Oasis McDonald’s, I-80/294 east of Halsted Street.
HOOPLA The McLegends X Pre-Party
When: 4 to 10 p.m. Friday
Where: Lincoln Oasis (over I-80/294 in South Holland, east of Halsted Street)
What: Silent auction of sports memorabilia; games and giveaways for the kids; appearances by magician Blake Alexander (4 p.m.), the Thornton High School pep band (5 p.m.), Ronald McDonald (6:30 p.m.), the Jesse White Tumblers (7 p.m.), singer/songwriter Julian Keyz (7:30 p.m.) and the Southtown All-Stars (8 p.m.).
- Ryan Yarborough playing a new McLegends angle
- Yarborough refuses to lose
- McLegends matches current, former 'Cats
- McLegends: ‘Foreign Connection’ quite a pair
- McLegends, All-Stars get a chance to roar
- L-Way North’s Schuh among Star power
- The Lady McLegends? They’re eclectic, electric
- Cole gets a kick from Jets boss, McLegends
- Terrell Owens a McLegend? ‘He wants to play’
- Are we McLegends sellouts? Well, we’re not there yet ...
- McLegends big on confidence
- McLegends coaching role a memorable return for Sam Cameli
Updated: November 24, 2011 3:34AM
Simone Law and Jasmine Matthews probably will never get tired of telling the story of how Marian Catholic brought an end to Fenwick’s 16-year domination of the East Suburban Catholic Conference.
Yolanda De La Torre always will remember fondly leading Hillcrest downstate for the second year in a row.
All of the 2011 High School All-Stars competing in Saturday’s McLegends X game at Thornton High School will have a tale or two from their senior seasons that will stay with them well beyond their playing days.
Take it from a Lady McLegend who knows.
Erin Cattell, a 2005 graduate of Sandburg High School, had a senior year straight out of a made-for-TV movie.
It began, actually, in August of 2004 when Cattell, who was one of the best players on the Eagles’ girls volleyball team, decided not to return in order to focus on basketball.
“A lot of athletes do that once they get their scholarship,” she said. “Coaches say, ‘We don’t want you to get hurt.’ Your parents don’t want you to get hurt and have your scholarship pulled.
“I knew (DePaul University coach) Doug Bruno wouldn’t do that, but I still thought I should focus on basketball and prepare myself for college.”
The problem was Cattell had a lot of good friends on the volleyball team. And she missed playing with them.
“I was playing basketball with Hoopla, but I still had time to go to the volleyball games,” Cattell said. “I’d be there and think, ‘Why am I not out there? What am I doing? This is my senior year.’ ”
In early October, Cattell approached Eagles coach Kelly Mendoza about the possibility of returning to the team.
“I told her even if I sat the bench I just wanted to be a part of the team and help out at practice,” Cattell said.
Mendoza put the decision in the hands of the players, who voted unanimously to allow her to return. Within days Cattell was producing big kills as the second rotation middle. The Eagles roared from behind to grab a share of the SICA West title, shocked Marist in a sectional final and defeated Lockport to earn a trip to state.
Cattell — and Mendoza — were subjected to criticism over her midseason addition.
“I remember some parents (from opposing teams) were angry because we wound up beating them,” she said. “They were like, ‘It wasn’t fair. She shouldn’t be here. She didn’t try out. They shouldn’t have won because she shouldn’t have been on the team.’
“I do regret not trying out from the beginning, but I’m so glad I was able to help them go downstate. Beating Marist was a memory I’ll never forget.”
After Sandburg lost in the state quarterfinals, Cattell rushed straight into basketball season, where she was the leader on an Eagles team that finished 32-4 and matched the volleyball team by advancing to the Class AA Elite Eight.
Cattell, who didn’t start playing basketball until seventh grade, averaged 14.5 points and 6.4 rebounds in her senior season and lived up to her reputation as one of the strongest — and toughest — players in the state.
Perhaps her greatest night as a high school basketball player occurred in a sectional final against then No. 1-ranked Marian Catholic, when she had 10 points and 11 rebounds in a 54-44 victory.
In that game, Cattell missed more than half the third period while holding an ice pack to her left knee, which had been banged to the floor three times. She returned in the fourth period and converted a key three-point play late in the game.
But a storybook ending to the season was not in the works.
Cattell still has a bittersweet memory of the Sandburg-Bolingbrook state quarterfinal, when she went to the bench with two fouls midway through the second period and stayed there until the third period.
Bolingbrook star Holly Medley, meanwhile, committed her third foul at around the same time, but Raiders coach Anthony Smith gambled and left her on the court.
Bolingbrook rallied from a nine-point deficit to close to within one at the half. The Raiders won the game in overtime.
It was one do-over Cattell wishes she could have.
“I was pretty good inside that day,” she said. “I had a lot of confidence and they were getting me the ball. I’m not disagreeing with anything and I love coach (Chris Bochnak), but I wanted so bad to go back in with two fouls, especially since their player was in there with three fouls.
“It’s a tough memory. I still look back at that year and think, ‘Man, we should have won state.’ But we had amazing friendships on that team, and it was one of my favorite teams I’ve ever played on.”
All that remained were the plaudits. There were many. Cattell was chosen as the Girls Basketball Player of the Year in both the Daily Southtown and The Star, first-team All-State by the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, and the Sandburg Female Athlete of the Year.
She went on to have a solid career at DePaul, and today is a teacher and freshman softball coach at Stagg and a freshman basketball coach at Sandburg with her former Eagles and current McLegends teammate Jacqie Storm.
“I couldn’t have asked for anything more,” Cattell said. “Everything’s worked out. I couldn’t be a happier person.”
But don’t expect smiles if you dare enter the post on Saturday, kids.
“I’ll do what I’ve got to do,” Cattell said, laughing. “It’ll be fun, but of course I’m a very competitive person, so I can’t help but take it seriously. I want to win.”