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Young's Janee Thompson (11) holds up the Dolphins' trophy after winning the IHSA Class 4A Championship game on Saturday, March 3, 2012 in Normal. | Jon Durr~For Sun-Times Media
Young and Bolingbrook played perhaps the most memorable game in Illinois girls basketball history in the Class 4A supersectional at Hinsdale Central last year, won 74-65 in four overtimes by the Dolphins.
The hero of that game, Young’s Janee Thompson, who scored 34 points including 17 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, has moved on to Kentucky. Also gone from that team is Alexis Lloyd (Virginia Tech) and Tessa Haldes (Northwestern).
But Young’s leading scorer and rebounder, 5-foot-8 senior Linnae Harper, ranked one of the top five players and the No. 2 guard in the country by ESPN HoopGurlz, is back and poised to lead Young in defense of its state title.
Harper, who had 16 points and nine rebounds in the win over Bolingbrook last year, averaged 19 points per game for the 34-0 Dolphins in 2012. She had 14 points and 14 rebounds battling Edwardsville’s 6-2 Emmonnie Henderson and 6-4 Leigh Kesper in
Young’s 63-51 championship game victory.
But Harper won’t be without some help. Also back are 6-foot-5 junior Khaalia Hillsman, 5-10 sophomore Tanita Allen (six points per game last year), 5-10 junior Taylor Brame (eight points per game) and 5-7 senior Sydney Snower.
Allen had nine points in the title game and Brame had 10 points and four rebounds.
“This team has a lot of potential and expectations,” Young coach Corry Irvin said. “There’s a good mix of experience and youth, and with the nonconference schedule, we should be well tested come the playoffs.”
But Young’s fortunes in 2012-13 will still revolve around Harper, who recently committed to join former teammate Thompson at Kentucky next year.
“I learned a lot from our seniors last year,” Harper said. “We have a really young team, but we have a lot of talent and a lot of depth. I’m really excited to get started.”
Young will not go unchallenged, however.
Trinity, which finished 30-2 last year with its only losses to Young, returns four starters including 5-8 senior guard Taylor Nazon (Loyola) and 5-7 senior Mikayla Leyden and welcomes one of the top freshman classes in Illinois led by 6-foot Maryam Wilcher and 6-0 Amber Reese.
“We feel we’re one of the deeper teams in Illinois and one of the most experienced,” coach Ed Stritzel said. “We may have to sacrifice some playing time for the team goal of depth. I feel our strength of schedule is unmatched.”
Marian Catholic, which moves up to Class 4A this season, also figures to challenge for a state title. The Spartans are led by 5-7 sophomore Teniya Page, 5-10 shooting guard Ashton Millender, 6-1 forward Megan Walsh and 6-0 sophomore Kauai Bradley, who battled an ACL injury last year.
“We will be fun to watch and are very deep this year,” coach Anne Byrne said. “This is a very talented group of athletes.”