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Druley: Area girls basketball teams blessed with talented youth

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

(Continued from Page 3)

Holiday gatherings dispersed weeks ago, and still no one seems to have excused the kids’ table.

Talented youth has served the Chronicle-area girls basketball scene throughout the season, a theme that continued during both Tri-Cities rivalry games over the weekend.

On Friday, Batavia freshman center Hannah Frazier kept the Bulldogs close against Geneva with a 12-point, 10-rebound effort. The next afternoon, St. Charles North sophomores Nicole Davidson and Sam Novak combined for 28 points, nearly helping the North Stars upset Upstate Eight Conference River Division leader St. Charles East at home.

Recently asked about her assimilation alongside Bulldogs freshman guard Bethany Orman, Frazier might as well have been speaking for the whole group of high-achieving underclassmen in these parts.

“We don’t feel like veterans,” Frazier said, “but we’re definitely a lot more confident than the beginning because of all that’s going on.”

With Batavia (4-3 UEC River) and Geneva (5-2) among the teams chasing East (7-1) in the conference, that comfort can only help during tense situations.

While the Bulldogs and Vikings certainly feature several strong juniors and seniors on their respective rosters, having a complement of other options never hurts.

Last winter, the Vikings welcomed Abby Novak, then a freshman, as a late-season call-up. She fit right in, emerging during Geneva’s run to the 4A Hoffman Estates Sectional, and has continued her progression this season, even as lineup shuffling has taken her from the post to guard.

“I’ve got my whole team to back me up,” Novak said, “so they’re all pushing for me to come through and play my best.”

East showed similar support to sophomore guard Katie Claussner on Saturday, its bench erupting each time the left-hander delivered a basket or hustle play during an energetic first-half on the other side of the river.

Claussner’s seven first-half points helped the Saints lead by that many at the break. She scored five straight points in a 31-second span near the end of the half, following a tight-roping basket from the baseline with a three-point play on a putback.

Saints coach Lori Drumtra deliberated over re-inserting Claussner in the final minutes of a 59-55 win, but her decision to stick with her veterans did not signal any overall reservations about Claussner.

“She’s a good ballhandler, she can take it to the basket. She’s a lefty, which gives us a little bit different look,” Drumtra said. “I feel very confident with the ball in her hands, and she’s very good at the free-throw line.”

Among Chronicle-area freshmen and sophomores, Claussner isn’t the only one.

Still, the young guns arguably have reached their apex at the second-highest point in Kane County. Burlington Central is off to a 6-0 start in the Big Northern East behind a roster that includes seven freshmen and sophomores among 10 players.

Barring any significant changes, North’s Feb. 5 visit to Rocket Hill to close the regular season will include just five just seniors out of 25 players dressed.

That’s an easy enough fraction to reduce, even for the Algebra I set.

See you at home: Friday’s Suburban Christian Conference clash with Wheaton Academy marks just the second home boys basketball game for St. Francis (11-2). The Spartans first – and last – laid eyes on the Spyglass Center in game action when they defeated Aurora Christian on Dec. 8.

“It’s just one of those deals, you know,” St. Francis coach Bob Ward said. “Early in the season you’re playing a good number of games in tournaments. We’ll obviously play one whole round of conference games at home, but we’re certainly top-heavy with the nonconference road games in the early season.”

St. Francis plans to recognize all basketball alumni as part of its girls/boys doubleheader with the Warriors, which begins at 6 p.m. An alumni mixer is set for The Bank Restaurant at 121 W. Front St. in downtown Wheaton after the games.

Chief concerns: Peorians divide their baseball rooting interests between the Cubs, White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals. Fitting, then, that the recently announced 2013 field staff for their Midwest League Chiefs also has had multiple MLB personalities.

Peoria, now a Cardinals affiliate after the Cubs moved from central Illinois to partner with the Cougars in September, features a pair of coaches with ties to both ends of the Interstate 55 series.

Pitching coach Jason Simontacchi made most of his 96 major league appearances in the mid-2000s with the Cardinals before signing a minor league contract with the Cubs in 2006. He ended his career with the Washington Nationals a year later.

Hitting coach Erik Pappas, a Mount Carmel alumnus, was a catcher with the Cubs and Cardinals in the early 1990s.

Both are first-year coaches under manager Dan Bilardello, who could possibly be misconstrued as having Tri-Cities ties. While Bilardello did manage in Batavia the past three seasons, it wasn’t the City of Energy, but instead the burg in western New York with a short-season Cardinals affiliate.

The Chiefs make their first 2013 visit to Fifth Third Bank Ballpark from April 21-23 before returning to Geneva three weeks later. Peoria also is scheduled to close the regular season in Kane County during Labor Day weekend.

• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or kdruley@shawmedia.com.

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