Veteran squad back on court for Hinsdale SouthHinsdale Souths Uzo Okoro going up for a layup over Plainfield South on Monday at the IHSA Naperville North Regional. Terence Guider-Shaw~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 15, 2011 6:03PM
If Jen Belmonte’s major concern is preseason injuries, things are definitely looking up for Hinsdale South.
“I have high expectations this year with this group,” said Belmonte, the Hornets’ second-year coach. “We’re basically (having) all returning kids. A lot of them have been on the varsity since they were freshmen. They have come together and should do a lot together.”
The only starter lost to graduation from last year’s IHSA Class 4A regional finalist was Belmonte’s younger sister, Jackie, a guard. There wasn’t much for Jen Belmonte to think about when circling her starters’ names in the scorebook before Tuesday’s season opener at home against Lemont.
Belmonte’s four returning starters are center Uzo Okoro, forward Natalie Tomerlin, and guards Andrea McNally and Toni Romiti. Even last year’s sixth man, guard Brittany DeClouette, is back for her senior season and is expected to replace Jackie Belmonte in the starting lineup.
Okoro, a state medalist in track, led the Hornets (15-11 last season, 9-3 West Suburban Gold) last season in scoring (10.3 points per game) and rebounding (8.2 average). With the 6-foot Okoro, Hinsdale South is the primary challenger to defending conference champion Proviso West (30-3, 12-0), which lost to Maine South in last year’s supersectional at Loyola University.
“I think we have chemistry this year with experience,” Belmonte said. “We have a good shot to go against Proviso.”
In the preseason, Belmonte’s prime concern was getting Tomerlin back after she suffered a serious ankle sprain the day before tryouts at an AAU scrimmage. Tomerlin is expected to play in the season opener against Lemont. Romiti scored 29 points, including a career-high eight three-pointers, in last year’s season-opening victory at Lemont.
The Hornets host District 86 rival Hinsdale Central in the opening game of the Hornet Invitational at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Hornets hope to open the season like they finished last season. Hinsdale South won seven of its final nine games last season and was eliminated in the playoffs by Wheaton Warrenville South.
McNally and DeClouette are key members of Hinsdale South’s successful badminton team. McNally will be one of the state’s top singles players this spring. DeClouette is coming off her fall season as a member of the school’s golf team.
“Every game we want to get better and better,” Belmonte said.
One new addition for the Hornets is Lake Park senior transfer Breyeh Calhoun, a guard. But Calhoun is battling shin splints and is not expected to return to action until later this month.
Juniors Kerry Just and Kristin Dimitrijevic were top reserves on last year’s team. The top newcomers are sophomore MacKenzie Kern and Mary Ladd.