Ella Ormsby and Ally Cesarini | Bill Stone

Lyons Township High School seniors and returning starting Ella Ormsby and Ally Cesarini are experiencing a different feeling this girls basketball season.

It’s the kind that inspired Ormsby to take – and make – a clutch 3-pointer that proved to be the game-winner when the Lions edged Downers Grove North 27-25 on Jan. 31.

“I don’t really know what went through me. I got it right away and I just quickly shot it,” Ormsby said.

They’re just two reasons the Lions (27-4) earned the No. 2 seed to Kenwood in the IHSA Class 4A Proviso East Sectional. They play No. 7 Hinsdale Central (11-18) for the Riverside-Brookfield Regional title Feb. 16 after beating No. 15 Proviso West 67-31 on Feb. 13. 

The Lions climaxed another memorable regular season by winning the West Suburban Conference Silver Division title with a perfect 12-0 record for the second straight year.

The ultimate dream is the Lions’ first sectional title and downstate trip since 1999.

“Definitely just the way that we have jelled together throughout course of the entire season [has fueled us],” Cesarini said. “It’s definitely fun to be kind of the senior duo with Ella. I trust her a lot on the court. I know she’s going to make the right decisions.”

Last season, the Lions captured their first regional since 2016 but struggled in a 52-33 loss to Whitney Young for the sectional title, opening an 18-11 lead but then shooting 6 for 34 the rest of the game.

With Young (23-5) the No. 3 seed, the teams could meet in the Feb. 21 sectional semifinals. Young beat the Lions 53-47 in the Montini Tournament semifinals on Dec. 29.

“It was a pretty disappointing game and we know we didn’t even play well. We’re definitely looking to get them back,” Cesarini said.

Cesarini (Park) and Ormsby (McClure) attended different junior highs. They met in seventh grade when Cesarini joined Ormsby’s Chicago Hoops Express traveling team.

“I was pretty intimidated of her,” Cesarini recalled. “I was very quiet and shy at that time. She just had a good relationship with everybody on the team and our head coach Jerald Davis. I knew she had a good reputation and was a good player.”

Cesarini has played for the LTHS varsity since freshman year. Ormsby played with the sophomores as a freshman and joined varsity as a sophomore.

“I feel like we got closer through high school because we were both sophomores on varsity and had that mutual thing of being the youngest kids on the team,” Ormsby said.

This season, it’s junior starters Elin O’Brien and Kennedy Wanless who are emerging and three key newcomers — 6-foot-2 starting sophomore center Nora Ezike and freshmen Emma O’Brien and Avery Mezan.

Ezike scored her varsity-best 24 points in the 68-45 victory over West Suburban Gold Division champion Downers Grove South in a crossover game Feb. 8. Elin O’Brien had 15 points on five threes and Cesarini had 13 points with five steals.

Cesarini (17 points) and Ormsby, Ezike and Elin O’Brien (11 points each) led Monday’s scoring.

Point guard Ormsby continues building upon her assists and defense as a junior. Besides Downers North, she’s delivered crunch-time shots and free throws several times.

“I feel like my goal was just to be able to score a little bit more, more than last year, and open things up for everyone else,” Ormsby said. “I feel really confident with the ball in my hands.”

Cesarini wants to continue contributing in more ways than scoring. She often guards the opponent’s top offensive player and even has made many high-profile blocks.

“I think my defense has been pretty good. I’ve been getting a lot of steals and deflections so I’m definitely most proud of that,” Cesarini said.