By Marty Farmer
Nazareth Academy fell one victory shy of winning a state championship in Ed Stritzel's second year coaching the Roadrunners. Nazareth, which finished 31-3 this season, lost 55-46 to Peoria Richwoods in the Class 3A state final.
The team boasts several talented players, who headline the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark first- and second-team selections.
Nazareth junior guard Annie Stritzel and senior center Alyssa Geary are easy first-team picks. Stritzel is a phenomenal scorer and nationally ranked player. She averaged 25 points, six rebounds, three assists and four steals this season.
At 6-foot-4, the versatile Geary (14 ppg, 9 rpg, 6 bpg) presented matchup problems for every opponent the Roadrunners faced. Geary, a Providence College recruit, saved her best for last with 18 points, a state-record 12 blocks and eight rebounds against Peoria Richwoods in the aforementioned 3A state final.
Seniors Kate Moore (Fenwick), Emma Fink (LTHS) and Lauren Lee (Trinity) comprise the rest of an outstanding first team of all-stars. Moore scored over 1,000 points as a Friar, Fink is a standout three-sport star and Lee is a superb all-court player who will play collegiately at the University of California-Santa Barbara next season.
RBHS freshman guard Brenna Loftus and junior forward Maddie Meehan lead the second squad. Loftus immediately steadied the Bulldogs' new-look lineup with her poise and playmaking ability. She averaged 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 steals this season.
"Brenna's physical skills are extremely exciting but it's the intangibles that really stand out." RBHS coach Dallas Till said. "Brenna is selfless and coachable and that's probably what the coaching staff appreciates the most. She has the opportunity to be great if she continues to improve her game."
Meehan (7.2 ppg, 7.4 rpg) is a three-year varsity player who impacts games in the paint or along the perimeter.
Like Moore, McKenzie Blaze (15.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg) scored over 1,000 points at Fenwick en route to her second-team selection.
"Kate and McKenzie were one of the best duos in the state," Fenwick coach Dave Power said. "Every night they played against some of the top teams in the state and faced all kinds of defenses designed to stop them. They really had awesome careers."
Lily Courier (LTHS), Alex Fanning (Trinity) and Marissa Metz also earned second-team honors.
Stritzel, the Landmark Player of the Year, flourished individually within a team concept.
"Annie is the type of player that no matter what's going on, she's going to go out there and drop 20-30 points," Metz said. "She doesn't make it about herself though, she makes it about the team."
-Melvin Tate contributed to this story