In the summer of 2019, Lyons Township High School seniors Olivia Mezan and Hailey Markworth knew each other casually as Amateur Athletic Union girls basketball traveling teammates.
When Willow Springs resident Mezan considered transferring to LTHS from Montini, she turned to Markworth for input.
“It was a good thing that brought us together, whether she wanted to come,” Markworth said. “I definitely hoped that she would. Right when I heard [Montini’s] coach was unfortunately leaving, there always was a possibility, but I never wanted to dig in because it was her decision.”
Now they’re not only teammates for one of the Lions’ best seasons in years but also college basketball recruits who are practically inseparable.
Markworth will play for Winona (Minnesota) State University. Mezan is headed for the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
“I’d say I see Hailey the most out of anyone probably,” Mezan said. “We’re basically always together, school and basketball. Outside of school we hang out. We drive around and get food together a lot.”
The Lions (25-3) are the No. 1 seed in their IHSA Class 4A Sectional, own a 13-game winning streak and won the West Suburban Conference’s Silver Division with a 12-0 record. They began Proviso East Regional action on Feb. 15, after the Landmark’s print deadline, against No. 16-seed Proviso West.
A 5-foot-10 forward, Markworth averages 11.2 points and 4.0 rebounds with a team-high 88 assists and 32 steals, and Mezan averages 8.3 points with 67 assists and 51 steals. The 5-7 guard nearly has as many three-pointers (42) as two-point field goals (44).
“They’re probably two of the hardest working individuals out there, along with [senior Izzy Lee],” LTHS coach Meghan Hutchens said.
“They lead the team through example. [Each player] just pours everything into basketball. When it comes to personality off the court, they’re both nonchalant. They’re both fun, relaxed and they get along and get along with the team really well. It’s all I can ask for as a coach.”
Hutchens remembered Mezan growing up as she annually attended LTHS summer basketball camps.
“I saw her that first summer at Montini when we were all in the same summer league,” Hutchens said. “I’m like, ‘Aw Olivia, you broke my heart.’ But then she came back.”
“It was really easy for me [coming to LTHS],” Mezan said. “I already knew a lot of people here and everyone is so accepting and really easy to get along with.”
Forming bonds with Mezan came just as easily for Markworth.
“It’s definitely great having a friend that relates to two parts of your life, through school and basketball,” Markworth said. “At this point, it’s kind of funny that we’ve only known each other for that long. Our conversation never really dies.”
Their friendship especially was important during the college recruiting process.
Markworth announced her verbal commitment to Winona State via Twitter on June 7, and Mezan announced hers on Aug. 4. The two sat side by side signing their letters of intent on Nov. 10.
“We were both at a time period where we were really stressed about it,” Mezan said. “I remember when Hailey committed, I was so excited. And she replicated that when I committed. And with COVID and all, the process was even harder. We were there for each other a lot.”
LTHS’ lineup also includes Lee, an Illinois women’s soccer recruit, and juniors Ally Cesarini and Ella Ormsby as starters and key sophomore subs Elin O’Brien and Kennedy Wanless.
The 6-foot Lee leads the Lions in points, but all five starters have been a leading scorer for one of the most balanced acts around.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been on a team that’s so evenly dispersed,” Mezan said. “We don’t have a ‘best’ player per se. I feel like we all contribute in every way and that’s why we’ve been so successful.”
Hutchens said the duo’s demeanor also helps establish a consistently focused and energetic yet relaxed game atmosphere.
“They don’t let anything bother them,” Hutchens said.