Girls Basketball: Prasse steps up as Benet’s leader
BY MATT LE CREN For Sun-Times Media January 29, 2013 8:30PM
Christen Prasse (left) of Benet is fouled by Nicole Janowiak (20) of Downers Grove South as she goes to the hoop in a game last week. Prasse left the game with an injury, but her teammates rallied for the win. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 1, 2013 6:37AM
What was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Benet has turned into a surprisingly good season thanks to Christen Prasse.
The 5-10 senior guard has made a seamless transition from ensemble cast member to leading lady, and that has helped the Redwings remain competitive despite losing eight talented seniors, four of them starters, to graduation.
Those seniors, who included Prasse’s sister Sidney, were some of Prasse’s closest friends, so their absence left her alone on a team filled with mostly untested varsity rookies. Expectations, therefore, were low for an inexperienced team led by a player who had never before had to play a starring role.
“We all said we didn’t know what type of team we had,” Benet coach Peter Paul said. “She took [the leadership role] on herself. We needed that from her and she’s really done a wonderful job because we’re kind of a young team and she’s kind of taken them under her wings a little bit.”
Prasse got her college recruiting out of the way before the school year started, committing to Saint Louis University. That allowed her to focus solely on helping the Redwings, which she has done with admirable aplomb.
With two weeks left in the regular season, Benet is 14-8, with all of the losses coming to ranked opponents.
Despite missing four full games and parts of two others with ankle and wrist injuries, Prasse leads the team in nearly every statistical category, including points (16.3 average), rebounds (5.2), assists (2.8), steals (2.3) and free throws made (73).
Prasse relishes her new role.
“We always joke about that,” Prasse said. “The coaches definitely expect a lot out of me. I know my teammates expect a lot out of me, but they know I expect the same thing from them.
“Last year I was like the baby on the team. There were eight seniors, my big sisters. This year I’m their big sister. It’s a different role but I think I’m stepping up to the plate, and I think they’d say the same thing.”
Indeed they do. Sophomore guard Emily Eshoo is one of the rookies who has benefitted from Prasse’s guidance.
“We probably would not be as good without her because she keeps us composed and she’s one of our main point guards,” Eshoo said. “She keeps us organized and she can score really well.
“She just helps me with my confidence. She always reassured me that I can do it and she knows what I can do. She helps me not get down on myself because she trusts me as much as I trust myself.”
That has set up an interesting dynamic for the Redwings because while they are focused on building for the future, they still feel an urgency to win now and send Prasse out on a high note.
“We do want to win a lot for her because she’s done so much for our team over the years,” Eshoo said. “She’s just worked so hard and I think she really deserves it if we go really far.”
Whereas Prasse was more of a distributor and support person last season, this winter she has become a more reliable shooter — crucial for a team that relies heavily on its outside shooting — and defender.
“Last year she dished it out a lot because we had some three-point shooters,” Paul said. “This year we still have some three-point shooters but they’re younger kids and sometimes aren’t as open or aren’t getting to that open area or don’t catch it cleanly. So she’s had to do some more things that help us, and that reflects in our record.”
Prasse also is relied on more on the defensive end, where she often guards the opponent’s second-best player. That responsibility helps both the Redwings and Prasse, because it is preparing her for what she will face at the college level, which is both faster and more physical than the high school game.
In the same way, Benet’s tough schedule, which includes the rugged East Suburban Catholic Conference teams, has steeled the younger Redwings.
“We have one of the toughest conferences in the state and we play against teams like this that are so tough,” Prasse said after last week’s game against Downers Grove South. “That’s definitely going to help me next year — it’s definitely not going to get any easier — and for them, for the younger ones, it’s really good also because they’re going to get experience.
“I think it will really help them a lot for next year, getting them the idea of how physical the varsity level is. It’s a big step from the sophomore team to the varsity level.”
The Redwings know they will have to win without Prasse next year and they got a glimpse of that in the Downers South game, which Prasse left in the second quarter after hitting her chin on the floor during a scramble for a loose ball. Eshoo and fellow sophomore Emily Shramek responded, combining for 29 points as Benet rallied from a 22-18 deficit to win 55-38.
“I think they did great,” Prasse said. “We’ve had so many injuries this season and I think it builds a lot of character being able to adjust to it.
“I got hurt in the second quarter and they took over. I think that’s one of the really good qualities that we have about our team. We can adjust and make do with what we have.”
Just like Prasse has done.