U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam was on hand for the annual meeting between Downers North and Downers South’s girls basketball teams last Saturday afternoon and made a special announcement prior to the game that could, in part, be basketball related, but had more to do about what the future may hold for Peyton Winters after she graduates from DGN this spring.
Roskam, who represents the 6th Congressional District, told the crowd that Winters, the Trojans’ 6-3 forward, has been nominated to attend the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.
Winters said she was surprised to see the six-term congressman at Downers North, but knew something was up when she saw him standing near the scorer’s table. According to the United States Naval Academy website, a nomination from either a U.S. Congressman or Senator is required to receive an appointment, which is an invitation to attend the Naval Academy. However, a nomination doesn’t automatically guarantee a candidate will secure one of the estimated 1,500 appointments given out each year by the Naval Academy.
Winters will be notified of her appointment status by the middle of April. If she is appointed, Winters said she also wants to play for the Mids women’s basketball team.
“I kind of figured out what was happening when I saw him (Roskam) there because he was the one who gave me my nomination, but I had no idea,” Winters said. “I was really nervous.”
As for the game, won by the Trojans, 43-34, Winters dropped anchor on the Mustangs’ offense, blocking six of shots in the first half and nine total. The Trojans, playing without leading scorer Jaida Green and forward Madison Farnsworth, shot out to a 28-12 halftime lead behind senior guard Lauren Porcelli, who scored 11 of her game-high 14 points in the first half. (Porcelli also had five steals.) Winters, meanwhile, tallied eight of her 12 points during the first half.
Green, a junior who recently verbally committed to Penn State, has two stress fractures in her left shin. She was at the game Saturday on crutches.
Green is scheduled to be re-examined this week, and it’s not known if she’ll miss the remainder of the season. Farnsworth, also a junior, broke a bone in her wrist.
Downers North coach Stephan Bolt said Green’s shin “had been bothering her for a while.”
“Nobody really knew about it,” he said. “She was playing through it and all of a sudden she went home after practice last Thursday (Jan. 29). We were playing Proviso West the next day and it was bad.”
Bolt said that going forward, the Trojans (13-12, 4-8) need to be patient offensively, not turn the ball over and hunker down defensively minus Green and Farnsworth.
“Possessions are gold for us right now, and even if it’s a long one, we’ve got to make defenses work, take advantage when they make a bad rotation,” he said. “But defensively we’ve got to be even better now. We’re switching up a little bit, trying a couple of different things to give us a couple more possessions, but we did a nice job executing today.”
Porcelli, Winters and senior Izzy Greenblatt (10 points vs. DGS) have been stepping up on the offensive end.
“When one kid goes down somebody’s got to pick up the slack,” Bolt said. “Izzy’s done a great job of that and some of the sophomores kids have come in and done a nice job of contributing off the bench. Peyton, the ball’s got to go into her and we’ve got to give her touches. She did a nice job finishing today and going to the basket.”
Winters recorded a triple-double in the Trojans’ West Suburban Silver victory over Glenbard West last Friday, pumping in 24 points to go along with 12 blocks and 12 boards. Porcelli added 14 points and five steals.
The loss to Downers North isn’t indicative of the season Downers South is experiencing under second-year coach Lyndsie Long. The Mustangs are vastly improved from last year’s 8-17, 5-7club. They locked up second place in the West Suburban Gold this season with a 10-2 record, losing their only two conference games to WSG champion Proviso East.
Sophomore Kiera James netted nine points versus Downers North, while senior Ava Porlier tallied eight.
The Mustangs defeated Hinsdale South, 74-62, last Friday. Earlier last week, DGS knocked off Morton, 68-51, behind James’ season-high 30 points.
“I’m proud of my girls,” Long said. “They worked hard to get second place. We still have hopefully a long way to go, and we have a week or so to practice for regionals.”
Downers South begins play at the Romeoville regional on Wednesday, Feb. 18, facing the winner of a play-in game between Romeoville and Waubonsie Valley. A victory in that game would put the sixth-seeded Mustangs in the regional title contest, presumably against No. 3 seeded Oswego.
“I foresee a regional title if we play good and our shots are falling and everything is meshing,” Long said. “We’ve got to make sure everything is there. If our shots aren’t falling like tonight, we just can’t give up. We’ve got to play harder.”