Right from the start of this Lyons Township High School girls basketball season, junior guard Elin O’Brien has seen the selflessness that helped make last season so successful.
“I would say we shared the ball really well,” O’Brien said. “There was good team chemistry and communication for being such a young and new team.”
The Lions shared the points and kudos after their 60-30 victory over Lane Tech on Nov. 26 made them the champions of their round-robin Thanksgiving tournament for the second straight year with a 4-0 record.
The Lions opened by beating Wheaton North 64-31 on Nov. 18, followed by Conant 47-21 on Nov. 19 and Leyden 66-26 on Nov. 23.
“I think a big thing was our ball movement. Right off the bat, we had a really high assist number,” senior Ally Cesarini said. “We’re being smart with [the ball]. If the shot’s not there, we know not to take it and look for something else.”
Instead of a traditional all-tournament team, each team has one player each game selected as Most Valuable Player by the opponent.
LTHS’ MVPs were 6-foot-2 sophomore Nora Ezike (Wheaton North), Cesarini (Conant), O’Brien (Leyden) and freshman Avery Mezan (Lane).
LTHS coach Meghan Hutchens said Cesarini initially was also named MVP Saturday but asked that Mezan be recognized instead.
“I thought Avery played really well that game, got a lot of rebounds, especially for her small size (5-5), worked really hard. I thought she deserved it,” LTHS coach Meghan Hutchens said.
Cesarini was a consistent force by averaging 13 points, five rebounds and four steals as well as seven blocked shots. She reached double figures in all four games.
Ezike averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in playing the first two games. Other standouts were O’Brien (8.8 ppg), senior Ella Ormsby (3.5 assists, 2 steals per game) and freshman Emma O’Brien (6.8 ppg, 4 rpg).
“As a coach, I take a lot of pride that the same kid didn’t win MVP of the game, which means we have some balance to our offense and we’re finding each other and jelling together,” Hutchens said. “I love that we’re willing to push tempo and find the open person and make that extra pass.”
The Lions expected a tough game against Wheaton North, a 2022 IHSA Class 4A sectional finalist like LTHS. Ezike (13 points), Elin O’Brien (12 points) and Cesarini (11 points) led the way.
O’Brien notched a varsity career-high 18 points against Leyden behind 4-for-7 three-point shooting, followed by Ormsby (14 points) and Cesarini (10 points).
Cesarini scored 15 points on Nov. 26. Mezan, Emma O’Brien and Maeve McDougal each added eight. Cesarini (14 points) and Ezike (12 points) were top scorers against Conant.
With Ezike out of town, Emma O’Brien, Elin’s sister, stepped into a starting role the final two games.
“I love it. It’s really fun [being teammates] and it’s an extra thing to build upon our relationship,” Elin O’Brien said. “It’s exciting we also get to do it next year as well and play two years together.”