By Scott Schmid
For the Bugle
The six seniors on the Benet girls basketball team have been a part of something very special throughout their high school career.
Part of back-to-back state championships, that group got to add another moment to their memory bank when they were honored Jan. 24 for Senior Night before a non-conference matchup with Downers Grove South.
The Redwings – led by the senior class of Ali Kramer, Kate Heiberger, Emma Lyne, Kendal Schramek, Jennifer Degnan and Katie Jaseckas – then went out and capped off the occasion by capturing their 20th win of the season with a 53-43 decision over the Mustangs.
The squad also defeated Carmel 59-49 a day later.
“I was very happy that we were able to give the six seniors the entire first quarter,” said Benet coach Joe Kilbride. “It’s a really good group of kids. They are high character people which is huge. Yes you have to have talent and you have to work hard. But my conclusion after a couple of years is to be an excellent team and program, you have to have high character kids.”
Jaseckas led all players with 22 points while adding 10 rebounds. But not surprisingly, the senior post player was more interested in talking about her less heralded classmates, including Degnan, a usual non-starter who totaled two points and six rebounds in the first half.
“A few of them don’t get as much credit as they should,” Jaseckas said. “They push us hard every day in practice. It was great to remind them that they are an important part of this team.”
Ten different players scored for the Redwings, who again reached the 20-win plateau (with only three losses) despite losing an outstanding senior class from a year ago.
“I think a lot of people didn’t have high expectations for us this year,” Jaseckas said. “Especially without Kathleen (Doyle) and Elise (Stout) and some of the other great seniors. But so many people have stepped up, like Tsimba (Malonga), who had made a major impact. And that includes ever girl on the bench, they push us in practice.”
As for Downers Grove South, Mustangs coach Lyndsie Long took a lot of positives from the close loss to a ranked team.
“I told my team to not hang their heads,” Long said. “We battled hard; we took the lead and were right there, it was back and forth, back and forth. Their pressure got to us a little bit. Obviously they are a great team and they capitalize on your mistakes.”
Kasandra Rugienius scored 16 points for DGS, which bounced back to defeat Leyden 76-44 on Jan. 27. But the Mustangs fell 63-43 the next night to West Suburban Gold conference leader Proviso East, denying themselves a chance to move into a first-place tie with the Pirates, who remain unbeaten in the league. Downers South is 8-2 in the conference and 12-10 overall.
“The girls are playing as hard as I want them to,” Long said.