St. Charles East senior guard Paige Jordan has left the team, citing escalating off-court drama with teammates that affected her "everywhere and everything."
Jordan later referred to her motives as "just girl stuff," but given East's 5-0 start in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division, the ripples figure to go beyond the superficial.
"I guess it's just the team and I have had many difficulties throughout the years, and I decided that it wasn't worth all the stress and always being upset," Jordan said Thursday. "And I wanted to put all my focus toward golf since I'm playing that in college, so I thought it would be best to put all my focus toward my future with golf."
The reigning Kane County Chronicle Girls Golfer of the Year, Jordan also has shined in basketball during her high school career, joining the varsity as a sophomore. Last season, she averaged 14.5 points, 1.4 steals and 1.4 assists per game as an all-UEC River selection.
She said she is undecided in her college golf choice, but her suitors include NCAA Division I programs.
Jordan said she considered this season's basketball success, and said, "I just loved basketball too much to quit" in the past. East's 10-7 run to open the season included last month's home, overtime victory against perennial conference power Geneva. Jordan matched teammate Carly Pottle with 25 points to lead the Saints in that game.
"We were playing really well and I was having a really solid season, but it got to the point where it wasn't worth the stress, the drama," Jordan said. "So it was just time to end it."
East rallied to capture the consolation crown at the Wheaton North Bill Neibch Falcon Classic over the weekend, winning its final three games after a tournament-opening loss.
Jordan played through the consolation semifinal of the tournament and informed coach Lori Drumtra of her decision Dec. 28.
On Thursday, Drumtra kept her Jordan comments succinct.
"For right now, I'm just leaving it as she is not back and that's all I would say," Drumtra said.
Vikings 'starting over' in '13 Geneva coach Sarah Meadows distributed hats and party favors after Monday morning's practice, lightening the mood as players went their separate ways for New Year's Eve.
More than in past seasons, a new beginning sounds especially good to the Vikings, who enter Saturday's game at St. Charles North at 9-8.
The Vikings' losses in that span include an overtime defeat at St. Charles East, when the Saints erased a comfortable Geneva lead to take early control of the UEC River Division race.
"We're starting over. This is a whole new season for us," senior post Sami Pawlak said. "We've been working our butts off harder than we did before."
Idle since ending play in the Naperville North/Benet holiday tournament just before Christmas, the Vikings spent much of the holiday break preaching patience with their half-court offense. Meadows also installed a new zone defense. While the team hasn't abandoned its vaunted 1-2-2 full-court diamond press, the early-season loss of point guard Michaela Loebel (torn ACL) dictated several lineup shifts and occasional adjustments in philosophy.
"Our first [part of] the season, we had our ups and downs. We were processing things and coming together. Everyone had to play new positions and everyone had to get used to it," sophomore Abby Novak said. "So now this half of the season is putting everything together and coming out stronger. We've had our ups and downs with Michaela and everything, but now we're used to our positions and now it's time to go forward."
IN THE GROOVE
Batavia, Jr., G
What she did: Fruendt tied a career-high 32 points Saturday, helping the Bulldogs defeat Zion-Benton, 70-64, to cap a 2-2 run through the Montini Christmas Tournament.
St. Charles North, Sr., G
What she did: Swished six three-pointers en route to a career-high 23 points in the North Stars' Charger Classic game Friday, a 68-53 loss to Buffalo Grove. North is 5-4 since an 0-8 start.
WHAT WE LEARNED LAST WEEK Close games don't bother Aurora Christian. Concluding play at the Dixon Christmas on Saturday, the Eagles defeated Lanark Eastland (52-45) and Forreston (48-42) to win the consolation bracket. Alyssa Andersen scored 40 points on the day.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD How St. Charles East greets a busy start to its post-break schedule. With or without Paige Jordan, the Saints knew they faced a challenge over the next week, beginning with Saturday's nonconference game at Evanston. After that, the UEC River leaders continue a five-game road trip with conference games at Batavia, Larkin and St. Charles North. "It's like right away – boom, boom, boom – we're back in the thick of things," Saints coach Lori Drumtra said. "It was nice to have a little bit of a break."
COACH SLY SAYS
A few of Sly's fellow coaches around the Tri-Cites are fond of repeating one particular truth about high school student-athletes: They're 17- or 18-year old kids.
Translation: Thoughts, actions, comments – anything – can be delivered in the heat of the moment with little hesitation.
It may happen that Paige Jordan swishes a jumper for East once again, but from what Sly can tell, her decision was made with calculation. We'll see what impact it carries (or doesn't) down the stretch in the UEC River race.