McHENRY – Things will look different for Johnsburg’s girls basketball team without four-year varsity players Morgan and Megan Madsen on the court, but Skyhawks coach Erin Thomas doesn’t see that as a bad thing.
“Obviously, they were a huge part of our team, but these girls are ready,” Thomas said. “We’re playing a whole new style of game. We have a group of athletes. These girls love to get up and play defense, and they love to get in the passing lanes and be aggressive. It’s a fun, fast-pace style of game.”
So far, the Skyhawks are confident with their new look.
Johnsburg went 2-1 Friday in pool play at the McHenry Summer Shootout, beating Huntley and Lakes and losing to Hononegah, last season’s Class 4A third-place finisher, 36-35.
Last season, Morgan Madsen led the team in scoring, averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds a game, and point guard Megan Madsen averaged 12 points and 3.1 assists. Thomas will look to senior Kaitlyn Owen to fill the vacated spot at point guard.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better person to run our team,” Thomas said. “I told her the first game of summer, ‘This is your senior year. You have to take charge.’ She’s done that perfectly.”
Macy Madsen, Morgan and Megan’s younger sister, played as a freshman last year. She’s also looking at an expanded role. Macy said her sisters “taught me everything.”
“The sky is the limit for her,” Thomas said. “We’ve seen glimpses of it already. Last year, she was more of a spot-up shooter. This year, she’s really attacking the basket.”
Senior Mackenzie Straulin, the team’s top returning scorer at 6.5 points a game, and sophomore Molly Wetzel both bring a physical presence inside.
“We have the twin towers inside, and that’s a great duo to have,” Thomas said.
Woodstock North entered the McHenry Shootout, which began Friday and continues Saturday, with a 17-3 record in summer tournament games. And it hasn’t just been the starters producing for Thunder coach Mike Lewis, entering his 11th season.
“We’ve been pretty quick, and the bench has come in and done a real nice job,” Lewis said. “It’s probably the deepest bench we’ve had in a long time here. It’s been fun so far. We’ve had games where the bench has outscored our starters.
“We’ve done a really good job of meshing no matter who is on the court.”
Senior Abby Hartmann is the team’s top returning scorer at 11.6 points a game, and North also returns senior guard Kaitlyn Ward and sophomore forward Katelynn Ford from last year’s starting lineup.
The Thunder lost point guard Taylor Prerost to graduation, but Lewis has seen good things from sophomore Lacey Schaffter.
“Lacey was with us every single day at the varsity level, and she worked against her every single day,” Lewis said. “They talked, they encouraged each other, and they made each other better.”
COMING BACK HOME
Huntley graduate Sam Andrews was thrilled when Red Raiders girls basketball coach Steve Raethz offered her a chance to be a part of the Huntley program again.
Andrews was hired as a special education resource teacher at Huntley this summer. She helped lead the Raiders to a fourth-place state finish six years ago and was named the 2013 Northwest Herald Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
“I always helped with little kids’ camps at Huntley, and I’ve known I wanted to come back after school and stay in basketball some way,” Andrews said. “I love the girls. ... They work really hard, and they’re definitely making progress already.”
Andrews’ sister, Ali, McHenry County’s all-time leading scorer, will be a senior at Illinois in the fall.
A FRESH START
Entering her third season on varsity with her third head coach, Woodstock senior forward Erin Lockwood is hoping this is the year the Blue Streaks finally turn a corner.
Woodstock was 6-25 last season but has a new leader in former McHenry County College women’s basketball coach Rick Peterson. Peterson, an employee of Shaw Media, was named the coach after Collin Kalamatas was named the girls basketball coach at Burlington Central last month.
The Streaks have not won more than 10 games since the 2014-15 season. Lockwood likes what she has seen so far.
“We’re making a lot of progress,” Lockwood said. “We’re doing a lot more with ball handling, and we’re working hard on breaking presses. We struggled with that last year. We have a lot of really good players coming out this year, and the energy has been much better. We’re more focused.”
Lockwood averaged eight points and six rebounds a game for Woodstock last year. She’ll be joined in the frontcourt by fellow senior Emma Brand, the team’s leading scorer a year ago at 10 points a game.
Peterson led MCC to a 41-10 record from 1987 to 1989 and the Scots’ first Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference title. He isn’t so much focused on wins and losses at this point as he is creating a strong foundation and positive environment.
“It’s the greatest group of kids,” Peterson said. “It’s been dry here for three or four years, and these kids just want to move forward. They are buying into what we’re doing so far, and they are playing really hard.”