The players and coaches will not admit it, but the Trinity High School girls basketball team is primed to make a run at the first state championship in school history this winter.
The Blazers return all but one of the key players from a team that went 27-5 and was two minutes away from a trip to the state semifinals before losing 72-68 to Homewood-Flossmoor in the Class 4A supersectionals.
“We try not to get too far ahead of ourselves but we have organizational goals and we want to achieve greatness,” Trinity assistant coach Jeff Krason said. “We know we have potential.”
More importantly, the Blazers have confidence they can beat any team in the state. They overcame a huge psychological barrier by beating defending state champion Whitney Young in the sectional final, thus ending the Dolphins’ 137-game home winning streak.
Of the players who appeared in that game, only head coach Ed Stritzel’s daughter, Patricia, graduated.
Starters Annie McKenna, Lauren Lee, Alisa Fallon and Kaitlyn Aylward return, as do key role players Daliyah Brown and Alex Fanning.
The backcourt is especially strong with McKenna at point guard and Lee at shooting guard. McKenna, a 5-5 senior, is a four-year starter who averaged 15.5 points last season, while Lee, a 5-10 sophomore, contributed five points and two steals during a rookie campaign that didn’t start until January because of a back injury.
“They’re a unique, dynamic backcourt,” Krason said. “Lauren’s got the length and we’re expecting a lot of her. She was our lockdown defender. We put her on the other team’s best player and this year we want her to take a greater role in the offense.”
The two starting forwards – 5-11 sophomore Alisa Fallon and 6-0 junior Kaitlyn Aylward – are big enough to play in the post and athletic enough to shoot from the perimeter. Fallon averaged seven points and seven rebounds as a freshman, while Aylward averaged 14 points and eight rebounds last season.
“We are expecting Alisa to take a great role not only offensively but defensively,” Krason said. “We can use her all over in guarding perimeter players as well as post players.
“Kaitlyn is a very unique player. She can beat up weaker players in the post but she’s a very good ball handler on the perimeter.”
The Blazers add yet another top freshman in Stritzel’s younger daughter, Annie, a 5-9 forward whom Krason is especially high on.
Annie Stritzel already has been offered by DePaul and Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“Her skill set is off the charts,” Krason said. “Her length and ability to get to the rim and finish with contact is amazing.”
The Blazers will play the first five games of their Thanksgiving Tournament without Ed Stritzel, who is serving a school-imposed 30-day suspension resulting from a recruiting violation.