Girls hoops stars align on court

Stritzel chosen as Player of the Year; RBHS nets 3 All-Stars

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Melvin Tate

Contributing Reporter

For all of Annie Stritzel's individual accomplishments, the best attributes regarding the Nazareth Academy senior star are she's a winner and she makes teammates better.

Stritzel, a Harvard recruit, capped off her remarkable high school career by leading Nazareth to a third-place finish in the Class 3A state playoffs this year. The team finished second in 2018. Over the past two seasons, the Stritzel-led Roadrunners won 63 of 70 games while quickly establishing the program as a state power.

In her last game, Stritzel scored a game-high 30 points and pulled down a team-best eight rebounds to power Nazareth past Sacred Heart-Griffin 61-54 in the third-place game of the state tournament.

"Annie is going to go down as one of the all-time winners," said Nazareth coach Ed Stritzel, also Annie's dad. "She's been downstate three times now in her career. She just wins games and I wouldn't trade her for anybody. I think we've got the best all-around player in Illinois on our team."

Teammate Jovanna Martinucci added: "Playing with Annie is really great. Once you get her the ball, she opens up so much for everyone else and it's really exciting."

Strtizel, the Landmark Player of the Year in girls basketball headlines the first team. Martinucci, a heady senior point guard known for her leadership, joins Stritzel as a first-teamer, along with standout players Brenna Loftus (Riverside-Brookfield), Lily Courier (Lyons Township) and Kaylen Evans (Nazareth).

Loftus, a high-scoring sophomore forward, led the Bulldogs to 20 wins and a Metro Suburban Conference championship. She also earned MVP honors in conference.

The selfless Loftus prefers to talk about her team.

"I'm so proud of all the girls for being able to pull out a conference title," Loftus said. "The thing I'll remember most about this season is how much fun we had together as a team.

"I'm extremely excited about what's in store for us next season," she added. "I think we have a lot of potential to keep playing well. We have some promising years ahead of us."

 Courier is the Lions' best all-around player, while Evans bolstered the Nazareth lineup this season after transferring from Marian Central Catholic.

RBHS players Sarah JnoBaptiste and Mary Maloney lead the second team, along with Fenwick freshman Elise Heneghan, LTHS guard Elli Kasonovich and Trinity forward Makiyah Williams.

JnoBaptiste is a versatile player who can score, rebound and defend, while Maloney directed the RBHS offense efficiently with an excellent assists-to-turnovers ratio.

LTHS coach Meghan Hutchens praised the contributions of Kasonovich.

"Elli was such an influential factor in our preparation for each game," Hutchens said. "She had to defend some of the toughest girls in the area."    

Williams is regarded as one of the state's best players in the Class of 2021.

"Williams is a fantastic player," Oak Park and River Forest coach J.P. Coughlin said. "She can do everything. And she's only a sophomore which is scary."

Marty Farmer contributed to this story.

                                                                                                                                           

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