Silver Streak girls getting ready for new season
By John Ring
For the smooth running engine better known as the Silver Streak girls basketball program, it was business as usual last week.
They resumed their busy schedule of summer basketball by hosting a tournament at Galesburg High School. The Streaks and Coach Evan Massey already held one at GHS and participated at another in suburban Chicago and in Wisconsin. They’ll head to North Carolina in a week.
“It’s always a little different but this year, we lost our top two scorers,” said Massey, alluding to the graduation of Brenna Saline and Claire Anderson. “The nucleus of the team is back because we return three starters and we’re looking at who we can fill the rest of the lineup with.”
Those starters are post players Kelly Ricketts and Rachel Pendry and point guard Taylor Young. And if there can be such a thing as a murderous summer schedule, the Streaks have already faced that. “Whether it’s fortunate or unfortunate, we’ve played a hard schedule this summer,” said Massey. The Streaks have played virtually every projected powerhouse in the suburbs--- from Buffalo Grove to Bolingbrook to Schaumburg to Fenwick and Maine West.
“We’re right around the .500 mark but what’s great is that you’re able to identify your areas that you need to improve on. It’s a tough schedule.”
Over the weekend, the Streaks took on a team from Rochester that finished in the Final Four of Class A and Bloomington High School, a team that figures to make the Super Sectionals next year. Galesburg won both of them.
A new player is catching the eye of Streak fans and that’s freshman Jessica Howard. The 5’7” guard played with the Streak starters and showed a knack of getting open and a deadly shot. “She’s one of our better shooters,” said Massey. “There’s some other areas of her game she needs to work on but because of the fact we lost a lot of scoring, we’re looking at her to fill a role like that.”
Galesburg is coming off a season in which they finished with a 30-4 record—three of those losses came to Morton but they also ran the table in the Western Big 6 and won the conference title by going undefeated. “The last game we lost to Morton, things didn’t go our way,” said Ricketts. “Everyone feels the same about that. I think it will serve as a motivational tool for us next year.”
Absent from the team was Courtney Knuth, a sophomore reserve from last year. But the Streaks sophomore team looks to have a lot of young talent and some other varsity players returning have improved their game. “One of our most pleasant surprises has been Stefanie Baker,” said Massey. “Mike Rux has always said that high school player developments are never smooth, that there’s big spurts that you see sometimes and that’s very true. It happens at different stages of their high school careers.”
Baker made a new commitment to the program after a talk with Brenna Saline shortly after the season ended. “Brenna said that as a senior, you need to step up, you need to take greater responsibility. She set that example for all of us last year. We’re good friends and it just came up. I wanted some different results from last year so I spent the better part of the Spring in the weight room and the gym and it’s paying off for me already.”
The Streaks have tweaked their schedule. Sterling is gone and replaced by Bloomington. Canton has been added. But the corps schools are intact that Massey feels Galesburg could run into during the course of the Class 3A tournament. “Changing classes shouldn’t affect our Sectional and Super Sectional,” said Massey.
More important is the commitment the players seem to be making to the program; unfortunately that isn’t occurring with the boys program.
“Our goal is pretty much the same,” said junior post Katie Hosteng. “We want to go as far as we can into the tournament. That never changes.”
Neither does Massey’s philosophy of preparing the team by using the summer wars on the court. “For a player like Jessica Howard, going up against the kind of teams and players we are right now is going to prepare her for the season,” said Massey. “It isn’t going to be so much of a shock for her.”
As the Streaks coach spoke, Howard and Ricketts were staying after the Rochester game, working on their shooting skills. They stayed for a good thirty minutes, played another game that night and three more the next day during the hottest part of the summer.
“We know how important this time of year is,” said Ricketts.
She’s right. This is the time a team is made.
After the Silver Streaks edged Rochester in a summer basketball game, Galesburg Coach Evan Massey talked about several topics in a hot and humid John Thiel Gym.
The IHSA increasing the number of classes from two to four next season: “My feeling is it’s bad for basketball. I guess everyone will adjust to this in three to four years but it will be different at first. This won’t affect our Sectional or Super Sectional but I don’t like it. So if we win the Class #A Tournament, could we have beat the Class 4A team? It’s an unnecessary adjustment. But we’ll run with it and set our goals even higher.”
The most improved player this summer: “Taylor Young. She’s improved her shooting and is developing great confidence in it.”
Freshman Jessica Howard: “She’s one of our better shooters and we lost two of our top scorers in Brenna Saline and Claire Anderson. There’s other areas of the game she needs to work on but for her age, that’s understandable. She’s been going up against some great players this summer and that’s good for her. She’s responding well.”
On breaking in new broadcasters and sports writers that cover the Streaks: “When you don’t go to State for several years, sometimes you have to clean house.” (Note– The Streaks coach was laughing about this one.)
New Assistant Coach Jaque Howard: “We’re going to miss Steve Peachey and we already do but Jaque brings a lot to the program. The kids respect her, basketball-wise and she really has the ability to interact with them.”