Girls Basketball: Veteran Hirsh to run show for Niles North12/04/2010 Skokie Niles North's Alissa Hirsch (left) shoots as Dashae Shumate of Niles West guards her in Skokie, IL on Saturday, Dec. 04, 2010. | Shauna Bittle~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 8, 2011 8:16PM
It’s Year No. 4 for Niles North point guard Alissa Hirsh, and that means the senior has been with the Vikings’ varsity for all but the first game of her freshman season.
Head coach Dan Paxson is ready and willing to put the ball in Hirsh’s hands and see what happens during the 2011-12 girls basketball season.
“She does things you can’t teach,” Paxson said. “She had a good summer playing for the AAU Hustle. She can create on the floor.”
A season ago, the Vikings lost some close games and finished with a 13-16 mark overall. But with the return of Hirsh and budding star Mariyah Henley, Niles North may be ready to make some noise in the CSL North. Hirsh wasn’t the least bit happy with those close losses, and is prepared to do something about it this winter.
“We want to force the tempo this year,” Paxson said. “We are getting after it this year.”
In 6-foot senior Henley, the Vikings get a player who can do most anything on the court. Paxson also pointed out that Henley works hard in practice.
“She’s really a skilled player,” he said. “She’s drawn interest from some colleges. She can shoot it outside and she can drive.”
If opponents try to drive the lane, they’ll run into 6-2 Sorriyah Ranger.
“She runs really well,” Paxson said. “She’s active on defense. She has worked on finishing around the basket.”
Returning at the two-guard is junior Shelley-Rae Moody. Paxson reports that Moody is anything but moody. She’s always smiling, no matter what’s going on.
“She’s really athletic,” he said. “She’s our best on-the-ball defender. She could always get to the basket and now she has a short-range jump shot.”
Standing 5-4 is guard Lizzie Rivera, who brings instant energy.
“She’s scrappy,” Paxson said. “She’s always talking on defense.”
The incoming junior class bring plenty of three-sport athletes. Rachel Matthies plays softball and volleyball. On the basketball court, she brings toughness on defense. Softball player Kristen Reichert brings strength and smarts. Karime Assaf, a gifted volleyball player, is a physical post player. Chinnel Williams is coming off a strong summer and can play on the post.
From Maine East comes transfer Angela Jones. An injury will keep her sidelined until December, but in the meantime, her freshman sister, Kienya Jones, may see some playing time. This 14-player squad also includes Brittany Reilly and Gina Civito. Sophomore Taylor Louis, another volleyball star, brings in good size at 6-2.
Niles North tips off the campaign with a visit to Johnsburg on Nov. 18. The annual Somebody’s Hero Tournament begins Nov. 20. Annual powers Fenwick, Wheeling and Resurrection are some of the expected guests.
“It’s a tough way to open the season, but we love it,” Paxson said.
Niles North will also take its annual trip to Gurnee for the Warren Holiday Classic in December.