By Mark Gregory
This season, Maine East girls basketball coach Karol Hanusiak is expecting a solid season for no other reason than she feels this year, the Blue Demons are a team.
The Demons were 10-16 a year ago and relied heavily on Janelle Alba Garner to shoulder the load.
“This year, unlike last year, we have more of a team,” Hanusiak said. “We have five kids who can share the load when last year all the pressure was on Janelle and it isn’t this year, although she is still doing her stuff.”
The now-senior, Alba Garner will have more of a scoring role this season for Maine East, as she will be able to operate more without the ball as her sister, junior Lauryn Alba Garner, is taking over the point guard role this season.
“Lauryn wasn’t quite ready last year as a sophomore to take on that role. I think she also didn’t want to take the spotlight away from Janelle,” Hanusiak said. “But she played hard this summer and she got a lot more confident. I sat them down and said ‘(Lauryn) is our point guard.’ We knew that if we were able to free Janelle up off the ball it would help everyone and that is what we are doing this year.”
Hanusiak knows that the sibling connection will be something dynamic, but she is also looking for the connection between all of the Blue Demon players to be solid this season.
“Maddie (McTague) and Janelle have been on varsity for four years, but they have all played together,” she said. “So we have that good chemistry of players knowing where each other are and where they are going.”
With the team playing together, Hanusiak is looking for the Blue Demons to compete in the Central Suburban Conference North Division.
“We want to go out and compete every night. We think we have a shot on our side of the conference. Niles North lost some key players from last year,” Hanusiak said. “Everyone knows each other so well and we have high hopes for conference, so we will see how that pans out. (Six games in) so far, so good. I like what I am seeing and we just keep looking at what we can do better and what can we build on. I thought there were flashes of what’s possible.
“It is a great group of kids, they are working hard and they are fun to be around. They work hard and they are in very good condition. What more can you ask for?”