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Trinity's Lauren Prochaska steals the ball from McAuley's Alyssa Siwek. Trinity High School hosted Mother McAuley High School in girls basketball Thursday evening. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
Mother McAuley coach Ashley Clanton marvels at the resilience of Alyssa Siwek.
“The day after a game, she walks in looking like she’s been beaten to death,” Clanton said. “She plays so hard. She battles. The next day, she’s battered, beaten and bruised.”
The 5-foot-8 Siwek may take a few lumps, but thanks to their senior guard, the Mighty Macs haven’t taken many. Mother McAuley (18-5) finished tied in the GCAC with Loyola and Trinity for the regular-season title.
“Yeah, I would say I may take a little bit of a beating, but I’m not afraid of contact,” Siwek said. “I try to be aggressive. I want to stand my ground. Sometimes, I take a fall or two, but as long as you get back up, that’s what matters.”
Led by the tough-nosed Siwek, the Mighty Macs are seeded second in the Class 4A sectional at Mother McAuley ahead of a number of strong South Side teams including Marist, Lincoln-Way East, Bloom, Lincoln-Way North, Crete-Monee, Stagg, Andrew and Homewood-Flossmoor.
That’s lofty company for a team that has not advanced beyond the sectional since 1997, and company that Mother McAuley might not be keeping had the Lewis University recruit followed some of her elementary school friends and AAU teammates elsewhere.
“Some of my friends went to Marist, and some of the other girls I travelled with went to Providence and the Lincoln-Way’s,” Siwek said. “But I wanted to go to an all-girls school. I really liked Mother McAuley. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Siwek is a once-in-a-lifetime player for many coaches. For a first-year coach like Clanton, inheriting Siwek was like Christmas, New Year and the Fourth of July all rolled into one.
“The weird thing about her is that people don’t really expect her to be as good as she is,” Clanton said. “A lot of what she does is in the framework of what we do. She doesn’t do anything flashy. She’s just productive.
“There’s a lot of kids who have a lot of athleticism and do some of the flashy things, but a lot of those kids aren’t productive,” she added. “You ask yourself, ‘Can they put the ball in the basket?’ Alyssa puts the ball in the basket. She gets her hands on a lot of balls. She gets deflections. She rebounds.”
One thing Siwek does not do is talk a lot on the court. She leaves that responsibility to others. Siwek leads by how she performs and by working hard in practice and in games.
“The kids know what they are going to get out of her,” Clanton said. “She leads by how she competes every day. She leads by how she plays. She’ll say something if she really needs to, but overall, she’s not overly vocal.”
She may be deadly serious on the court, but that doesn’t mean that Siwek is adverse to having some laughs with her friends and teammates off it.
“Last summer, our AAU team went to Atlanta to play in a tournament,” Siwek said. “It was the last trip together for the seniors who would not be playing again this summer. We did awesome down there. We really bonded.
“But it was the first trip we took without parents,” she added. “It was just us and the coaches. We really had a fun time. We were really sneaky.”
Siwek and Mother McAuley aren’t sneaking up on anybody anymore.