Girls Basketball: Warren players making the most of their opportunitiesWarren's Jamie Stirling moves through the Barrington defense at the Stevenson Girls Basketball Summer league on Friday, July 13, 2012 in Lincolnshire. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: July 19, 2012 6:17PM
If you are a supporter of Warren athletics, you’re not wrong to be concerned about the Blue Devils’ girls basketball program, which basically graduated every key player from last year’s team.
There is, however, a glass-half-full side to the hoops program, and it was very much in evidence recently during play in the Stevenson Summer League.
With veteran coach John Stanczykiewicz unable to attend, the 10 Blue Devils players basically coached themselves in a pair of games.
And for the record, with the coach away, the players worked every bit as hard as they would have had he been courtside.
This group of players knows it has a lot of ground to make up on area powers Stevenson and Zion-Benton, and it’s not wasting any opportunity to improve as a team.
In games against Barrington and Deerfield, the girls worked out a substitution system that gave them the opportunity to work with different combinations of players.
Two of the aspects one might figure a team would ignore without a coach to keep them in line are defensive intensity and shot selection, but the Blue Devils were notably disciplined in both areas.
They were able to work the ball inside and get to the foul line, shooting 12 free throws against a team from Barrington and 20 free throws against Deerfield.
Sophomore Sammie Jo Nixon knocked down a couple of open outside shots and senior Jamie Stirling showed aggressiveness and good awareness in the low post. Kylie Nedelka showed flashes of being a multi-dimensional guard with the ability to create her own shot.
Defensively, the Blue Devils were able to create a number of turnovers on the perimeter that created good scoring opportunities at the other end.
Of course, when it comes to summer ball, especially in two losses, there are always things that can be done better.
Reaction to ball movement was often too slow, resulting in good perimeter shots for opposing players, and it’s probably better that Coach S. didn’t get to see the turnovers committed on the offensive end.
Still, the girls look a lot more comfortable playing together than they did earlier in the summer.
As the summer winds down, one hopes they continue to work on becoming more comfortable in their individual roles as well.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress on our defense,” observed Alyssa Phillips, the returning player with the most varsity minutes logged last year. “We weren’t as good on the help side today as we need to be, but there’s definitely been a lot of improvement.
“Some of the younger players are really coming along. Players like Auri Hampton and Atiana (Bey-Wray) have come a long way. We’ve gotten a lot stronger in the post, and our guards are starting to play with some confidence.”
Another senior, point guard Rachel Brown, said “I like the progress we’ve made on our offense.
“Learning to play together was hard at first because we lost most of our offense in Amanda (Barger), Lexi (Leneau), and Jessica (Prince). The players we’ve had coming up haven’t had a lot of varsity experience, but we’ve pulled it together.”
Which is a good sign with the start of school lurking , now just four weeks away.