Senior and returning starter Hailey Markworth already was a believer in the potential of the Lyons Township High School girls basketball team’s combination of veterans and newcomers.
The Lions gained many more on Nov. 27 after beating Wheaton North 57-48 to win their five-team, round-robin home tournament for the first time since 2014 with a 4-0 record.
“We’re already working off each other so well. I’m just excited to see how much better it gets,” Markworth said.
“Our starting five, we’ve all played with each other for two-years plus, most of us three or four. We knew that we were going to be playing fast-paced and sharing the ball, but I don’t think I personally knew how good we would mesh already.”
Markworth, seniors Izzy Lee and Olivia Mezan and junior Ally Cesarini were among six LTHS players voted onto the All-Star Tournament Team.
The Lions previously defeated Argo 65-28 on Nov. 24, Lane Tech 78-11 on Nov. 20 and Morton 73-14 on Nov. 19.
They led Wheaton North 53-38 with 5:33 left before the Falcons (3-1) closed to 53-48 with 35 seconds remaining.
“We knew that this team is special so we were trying to get [our players] to the next level when it comes to leadership, just understanding what is expected,” LTHS coach Meghan Hutchens said.
“I thought [against Wheaton North] they did a nice job of taking the game plan, taking it with poise, for example the [Falcons’ defensive] press. They did a really nice job of seeing what was open, passing the ball well. I was very proud that they were able to kind of elevate their game. This was the first true test of what we were capable of.”
For the tournament, Lee (11.3) and Markworth (10.3) averaged double digits in points, followed by Cesarini (9.8) and Mezan (7.5). Lee also averaged 9.8 rebounds, Cesarini 4.5 steals and Lee and Markworth more than three assists.
The Lions led defending 2019 tournament champion Wheaton North throughout and gained separation after sophomore Elin O’Brien’s three-pointer started a 10-2 run to end the first half for a 28-18 lead.
Wheaton North never again got closer than nine points until the final minute.
“We definitely wanted to end that [tournament] losing streak. We wanted our last season to be a winning one,” Lee said.
Markworth had 14 points, O’Brien (3 threes) and Lee each had nine and Mezan seven. Adding six each were Cesarini and sophomore Kennedy Wanless, whose points were part of the second-quarter finish.
Seven Lions had double-digit tournament performances. Cesarini collected a career-high 18 points against Argo and Ella Ormsby added 10. Brigid Dunne and O’Brien had 12 points against Lane and Morton, respectively.
“We moved the ball so well. We do not have one selfish player and that really played to our advantage,” Mezan said.