By Scott Taylor
After winning the state championship last year, Benet was mostly an afterthought this year, despite returning the 2015 Voyager Media Player of the Year, Kathleen Doyle.
However, thanks in large part to the Nebraska recruit, the Redwings stormed through the regular season en route to a No. 1 sectional seed.
Then in the playoffs, Doyle took her game and her team to an all-new level, leading Benet back to state after a game-winning basket in the final seconds of the supersectional against Edwardsville.
Doyle was up to her old tricks again at state, matching a career high with 31 points in the semifinal and then breaking 20 points in the championship, leading her team to a repeat.
For all of her accomplishments this season, Doyle is also the repeat Voyager Media Player of the Year.
“I think my team just looked to me more this year,” Doyle said. “We lost our two big scorers from last year. We all had to fill in scoring and I think that was the biggest difference.”
“Virtually every game we play, she is the best player in the gym,” Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. “Even when she has a bad game, she is the best player in the gym. She is special.”
On top of being one of the top defenders in the state, Doyle led the Redwings in scoring, assists and steals, and was second in blocks and rebounds.
She finished her career with more than 1,500 career points.
As a senior she averaged 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals per game.
The rest of the All-Area team consists of:
Janelle Alba Garner
The Maine East senior averaged 17 points a game, 11 rebounds, four assists and three steals. She was a CSL All Conference selection for the second year in a row and was named the CSL North player of the year. She was all tournament at St. Viator in December and broke the 1,000 career point mark.
Ekhomu, a senior from Joliet Catholic, averaged 22 points, 4.9 assists, 6.1 rebounds and 3.1 steals per game. She is a Florida State commit.
“Nicole was our equalizer against any team that we faced,” JCA coach Nick Leonard said. “We knew that she had the ability to keep us in any game if not win every game. She gave our team a sense of calm which allowed our girls not to lose focus because at any time. She is not revered enough for the team aspect of her game. She will turn down shots to get a teammate open and get her some confidence. He defense helped our team in many facets. I could put her on the other team’s best player and have confidence that she will shut her down or be on help side and know that she will electrify the crowd with a block or step over and take a charge. She is the most talented player I have ever seen and just feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to coach her for one year.”
Green, a Penn State recruit, capped her career with Downers Grove North averaging 17.6 points and 7.4 rebounds per game with 54 steals and 63 blocks.
Plainfield Central senior averaged 18.1 points per game, 5.9 rebounds, two assists and 2.2 steals.
“Hennessey was the focal point of our opponent’s defensive game plan on a nightly basis this past season,” Central coach Gregg Bayer said. “Our team relied on her to do many things for us this season (be a scoring threat, primary ball handler at times, and defend one of the other teams’ best players each night). As you can see with her stat line, she is a well-rounded player who can contribute to a team in a multitude of ways. Her greatest strength is attacking the basket where she has the rare ability to draw multiple defenders and make the correct basketball play.”
Minooka junior was the floor leader of the team from the point guard position and led the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game. She also shot 73 percent from the foul like and had 83 assists.
“Brooklyn’s ability to score in so many ways makes her such a dangerous offensive weapon,” Liberatore said. “We have won 60 games the past three seasons with Brooklyn as our starting point guard and her quickness makes her attractive to college basketball coaches.”
A senior from Joliet Central, Barefield tallied 19.3 points per game, 62 assists, 65 3s and 54 steals.
“Monica earned a spot on Romeoville’s and Oswego East holiday tournaments,” Joliet Central coach Brian Reed said. “She was SWSC all-conference pick and co-mvp this season. Monica plans on attending Alcorn State next year. Monica was one of the best guards in the SWSC, which is one of the toughest conference in the state. The bigger the game the better Monica played, she was a pleasure to coach the last two seasons, and may her success continue at the next level.”
The McKendree University recruit averaged 16 points for Plainfield North, while breaking the all-time scoring record in the program, finishing with 1,388 points.
“Jordan Heberg was our leading scorer and team leader, she was the one opponents had to focus on and she still got the job done whether it was an assist, rebound or scoring,” North coach Reggie Lemon said. “She was a four-year varsity player and all-time leading scorer in PNHS girls basketball history.”
A guard from Bolingbrook, Smith tallied 13.2 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, 45 assists, 33 steals and made 51 three-pointers.
“Gabby Smith had a great season,” Bolingbrook coach Chris Smith said. “I feel like this was her coming out party. As a guard she lead us in scoring and was second on the team in rebounds. Her next years should be very special.”
The sophomore from Romeoville finished the season averaging 14.5 points and 11.7 rebounds per game for the Spartans.
“Jahari is a tremendous player with a great attitude,” Romeoville coach Julio Carrasco said. “She wants to succeed as a player but more importantly wants the team to succeed. As a sophomore she was team captain. She is one of the only players in my coaching career that watches as much film as coaches. The scary thing is she is still developing. The future is very bright for her.”
The senior from Minooka capped her career averaging 14.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, while making 30 three-pointers.
“Sydney is the most complete player I’ve coached at MCHS,” Minooka coach Ray Liberatore said. “Whatever our team needed her to do to help us win (score-assist-rebound-defend) she would do. She is a great leader who was just relentless every time she stepped on the basketball court.”
Plainfield South junior point guard averaged a team-best 14.7 points per game for the Cougars, while adding four rebounds, four assists and three steals per game.
“I feel that Jaianna is one of the best point guards in the area,” South coach Leah Carter said. “She has a great pull-up jumper off of the dribble, and she is able to create her own shots. Jaianna also has very strong ball-handling skills that helps our team in the back court against presses.”
The sophomore averaged 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and three assists per game, for Plainfield North.
“Amaya Johns was our second leading scorer on the team,” Lemon said. “Amaya is only a sophomore and she played like a true varsity player. She is very versatile – can shoot, rebound and go to the basket with and against the best. Amaya is very fast and strong for her size and she always cause match-up problems. Amaya will be an All-American if she continues to get better. She will continue to get better every year.”
Onua, a junior from Plainfield East, totaled 11.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 84 steals.
“I could count on her every game to give maximum effort and score in double digits and get close to double digit rebounds, despite teams keying on her,” East coach Anthony Wazonis said. “Not only did she lead the team in scoring and rebounding, but also had our most steals (by 22). Helped lead a turnaround from a 10-win season to an 18-win season and making a regional final. In games where teams keyed on her as well she would be the first to share the ball and often have five assists in those games.”
A two-time state champion from Benet, Stout, a senior, averaged 13 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals per game. She shot 53 percent from two, 40 percent from three and 80 percent from the foul line.
“The senior co-captain never stops running and is one of the keys to Benet’s vaunted fast break and full court press,” Kilbride said. “She has been the most efficient offensive player for the Redwings for the past two years with an exceptional 134 percent efficiency rating (points per field goal attempt). She comes up big when it matters most, posting a career high 32 points in regional championship as senior.”
The do-it-all senior from Westmont played all positions for the Sentinels, finishing with 13 points and 10 rebounds per game.
“Annie was our guard, forward and center,” Westmont coach Matt McCord said. “She led us in assists. In our sectional victory over Beecher, she scored her 1,000 career point. Annie had the ability to rebound a shot and the speed to score at the other end on a break. In the majority of our losses, Annie was either hurt, fouled out, or double teamed by opponents. In all my years of coaching, I have never had one player who was most influential to a team’s success.”
Maine South senior totaled 9.7 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.5 steals for the Hawks.
“Throughout her four years in our program, no one worked harder on her game than Riley Eckhart,” Maine South coach Mark Smith said. “Her tireless efforts helped her become one of the premier shooters in the area and certainly the best three-point shooter in our program. Her consistent performances meant a great deal to our team as everyone knew exactly what they were going to get from Riley on a daily basis.”
Farrell overcame injury to average 13.8 points, 2.6 assists and 1.7 steals per game, while shooting 77 percent from the free throw line. She is a University of Chicago commit.
“Mia is one of the most competitive players I have had the pleasure to coach,” Leonard said. “Her toughness was infectious and she pushed our team through tough times. A perfect example came in the Morgan Park game. She aggravated a shoulder injury that saw her miss three weeks, but never once asked to come out of the game. She made big plays while holding down one of the most prolific scores in the state under her average.
“Her toughness can be equaled by her skill. She plays with such poise and confidence, I felt comfortable every time she had the ball. She would do anything to help the team win.”
Junior from Benet played a key role on the Redwings’ past two state championship teams.
This season, she finished the season averaging 10 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks per game.
She shot 51 percent from two-point range and 46 percent from three.
A transfer from Joliet Catholic Academy, the Bolingbrook junior finished the season with 10.5 points per game, four rebounds per game, 53 assists and 56 steals.
“Jnaya Walker re-established herself as a player who can do many things on the court from scoring to rebounding, dishing out assists and playing defense,” Smith said. “I look for her senior season to be great.”