Girls Basketball: Freshmen step up for Naperville North
BY NEIL SHALIN For Sun-Times Media January 31, 2013 7:24PM
Naperville North's Laurel Pereira drives to the basket while being defended by West Aurora's Abriya Zeitz last month. Pereira and Cece Pope, both freshmen, have been playing key roles for the Huskies this season. | Mike Mantucca ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 2, 2013 12:11PM
In the short term, Naperville North freshmen Cece Pope and Laurel Pereira are helping the Huskies challenge DuPage Valley Conference opponents.
And the experience these talented freshmen are getting promises to help make the Huskies a DVC contender for the next few years.
They both stand about 5-foot-8 but they’ve been filling very different roles on a team that has its sights set on finishing above .500. Naperville North is now at 11-12 and 4-7 in conference.
Pope is a physical player who loves to mix it up underneath and has shown a penchant for defense well beyond her years.
Pereira is more of a finesse player who possesses a strong outside shot and a quick first step to the hoop.
“Cece is someone who just makes things happen on the court,” said Naperville North coach Jacquie Discipio. “She can take on the tough defensive assignment. She just works her tail off and makes everyone around her better. Laurel is a versatile offensive threat who has been scoring more as she gets experience. It’s nice to have someone like her who can both attack the basket and hit from the outside.”
Discipio used both sparingly early in the season so they could become acclimated to the system and the speed of varsity basketball. But now they’re important parts of the playing mix.
Front court starters Kayla Sharples and Morganne Freeman and guards Delaney White and Jenny Smith will also be returning next year, so the future looks bright for the Huskies
The Naperville Central season has hit a bit of a snag recently with conference losses to Wheaton Warrenville South and Glenbard North, but through it all senior post player Victoria Trowbridge has continued to expand her game and play outstanding basketball.
Trowbridge pulled down 15 rebounds against the Tigers and led the team with 16 points against the Panthers.
“Victoria has always been a great rebounder,” said Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum. “But this year she’s become more of an offensive threat.”
With a 7-4 record in conference the Redhawks will miss out on at least a share of the DVC title for the first time since 2008.
“Our practices have been stronger the past few days,” said Nussbaum. “So everyone knows we just have to work harder in order to be successful in the postseason.”
Metea Valley lost its second starting player to an ACL injury.
High-scoring guard Bria Walker tore her right ACL in a recent game against Morgan Park and will miss the rest of the season. In December, the Mustangs post player Anna Petersen suffered a similar injury.
“This is another tough loss for us,” said Metea Valley coach Kris Kalivas. “Bria is disappointed that she won’t be able to complete her senior season. Our team has faced a lot of challenges this year, so, once-again, we’re going to have to rise up and come together. Other people will just have to step up to fill roles.”
Kellee Clay will be called upon to step into Walker’s position.
“Kellee is someone who can rise to the challenge,” said Kalivas. “She’s a defensive spark, and she leads vocally and by example.”
Starters Lori Obendorf, Nia Flowers and Jenny Voytell will be expected to account for some of the offensive output to make up for the loss of Walker, and sophomore Sidney Bobo has been called up from the junior varsity to shore up the Mustangs bench.
Neuqua Valley center Bryce Menendez has come a long way this season, but coach Mike Williams believes there’s a lot more development ahead for the talented 6-foot-2 sophomore.
“Every day Bryce’s game is evolving,” said Williams. “She understands her role and she’s taking more ownership on the court. She’s always been athletic and a great shot-blocker, who can rebound and take up room in the middle. But now, she’s taking more chances by using her long arms to close the passing lane. And, she’s becoming more of an impact player on offense. As she gains confidence, she’ll keep getting better.”
Menendez has been averaging about seven points, five rebounds and two blocked shots per game.”
The 23-2 Wildcats have a deep bench, which allows Williams to substitute liberally in order to keep the up-tempo offense and pressing defense fresh. But in recent weeks he’s been keeping bigs Menendez and Allison Hedrick in the game for longer stretches because both provide such a formidable inside presence. This frees the versatile Najee Smith to work more as either an off-guard or small forward.
“The presence of Bryce and Allison has given Najee the opportunity to shoot more from the perimeter, where she’s really getting strong,” said Williams.