Abby Shepard | Sophomore | Beecher
Most sophomores just finished their second seasons of JV basketball, but Shepard just ended her second straight all-area campaign. The sophomore sniper also was named to her second River Valley All-Conference team and even found praise as an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class 2A Special Mention. Shepard was the leading scorer for the RVC champs (11.8 points per game) on 41 percent shooting and added two assists, four rebounds and three steals per game. The Bobcats graduate a terrific senior trio, but Shepard will be a reason why the team will has good reason to believe it can defend its conference crown next season.
Kaylie Sippel | Senior | Beecher
It’s not the flashiest nickname, but "Ms. Consistency," dubbed such by coach Adam Keen, is fitting for Sippel. In three years of playing basketball, Sippel was a three-year starter and a first-team selection to the RVC All-Conference team, a steadying force for a team that piled up 64 wins in that timespan. As a senior, Sippel averaged 11.4 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.8 steals per game. She has been a mainstay on basketball and volleyball all-conference teams in her prep career, but Sippel is far from done with her high school career. She now will get ready to man her position at first base for a Beecher softball team looking to win its third state title in four seasons.
Claudia Dolliger | Junior | Bishop McNamara
The face of a new-look Irish team this winter, Dolliger showed massive progress from her sophomore season and became one of the best all-around forwards in the area, extending her offensive game to well outside the paint and anchoring the interior of the McNamara defense. The Metro Suburban All-Conference selection averaged 11 points, 10 rebounds and 2.7 steals per game, including a triple-double in a regional loss to Hoopeston. A four-sport athlete, Dolliger will shift her spring focus to the softball diamond next.
Faith Davis | Junior | Bradley-Bourbonnais
When Davis was on her game, few in the area could do what she could offensively, as evidenced by Davis' four games of at least 20 points on the year. The lengthy junior guard splashed 52 3-pointers and rode a hot wave from deep to the Class 4A 3-point shooting contest, where she finished second. Emerging in recruiting ranks for her length and scoring capabilities, Davis will remain a focal point for a Boilers team that will have to replace several seniors next year.
Evey Evans | Senior | Bradley-Bourbonnais
Making her third straight all-area appearance, Evans will move on to her two-sport career at Illinois-Springfield as one of the most accomplished area players in recent memory. A four-year starter, Evans topped 1,000 career points and 500 career rebounds in a senior campaign that saw her average 14 points, nine rebounds and a steal per game and drill 45 3-pointers on the season.
Emma Russell | Senior | Bradley-Bourbonnais
The fact three of the teams in the Class 4A Elite Eight came from the SouthWest Suburban Conference didn't stop the Boilers' three-year starting point guard from finding an all-conference spot. Russell averaged more than 30 minutes per game and didn't miss a single contest, averaging a well balanced eight points, three rebounds and four assists per game. The Boilers' ironwoman will continue her career at Olivet Nazarene University.
Kamryn Grice | Junior | Central
Grice was a walking double-double for the 13-win Comets this season, averaging 10.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, also adding 54 blocks on the year to show off her rim protecting capabilities. The junior forward burst onto the scene, not only making her first all-area team but also earning her first conference honors of any kind -- a first-team spot on the Sangamon Valley All-Conference team. The rest of the SVC will have to worry about Grice’s scoring, rebounding and shot-blocking prowess again next season, when the Comets’ top dog will be back once again.
Paiton Lareau | Freshman | Donovan
Lareau wasted no time making her presence felt at the high school level, leading the River Valley Conference in scoring as a freshman, averaging 15.1 points per game and also finishing in the top five in rebounding with 7.2 boards per game. Those numbers gave Lareau a spot on the River Valley All-Conference first team. The Wildcats won more games this season than the previous two combined, and with their focal point back for the next three years, they could be a team on the rise in the RVC.
Kayla Kodat | Junior | Dwight
One of the state’s best-kept secrets, Kodat is one of the most talented three-sport athletes in her class. In her third year with the Trojans, she earned an IBCA Class 1A Special Mention honor for the trouble she caused the rest of the Sangamon Valley Conference, in which she earned first-team all-conference honors. Kodat’s 17.5 points per game were second in the area, and she displayed a true talent from deep with 59 3-pointers. She proved to be plenty more than a scorer, also averaging 7.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.9 steals per game. Kodat will strive for more honors in softball and volleyball before returning for her senior season on the hardwood.
Abby Beck | Junior | Gardner-South Wilmington
Beck made a name for herself as a sophomore, earning her first all-area nod, and the Wildcats’ junior only improved this year. The River Valley Conference Player of the Year, Beck was the leading scorer (12.8 points per game) for a G-SW team that reached the Class 1A Sweet Sixteen. Aside from her RVC honor that put her on the all-conference team for the second straight year, Beck was an AP Honorable Mention and IBCA Special Mention. Her offense was above par, but it’s Beck’s all-around skills that made her lethal. She averaged 4.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists and an eye-popping 5.2 steals per game, which gave her a school record 170 on the season.
Kaitlynn Kavanaugh | Senior | Gardner-South Wilmington
Kavanaugh was last year’s RVC Player of the Year before surrendering the title to her teammate, but she had another stellar season. The three-time all-area and all-conference selection topped the 1,000 career-point mark and set a new program standard on the boards, averaging 10.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game as a senior. She also swiped just more than two steals per game despite a lack of opportunities in the low post. Slightly undersized at 5-foot-8, Kavanaugh’s rare blend of toughness, strength and quickness made her a nightly terror for the rest of the area during the past several years. She and her classmates leave behind one of the school’s most tremendous athletic legacies.
Allie McGuirt | Senior | Grace Christian
A four-year starter, McGuirt arguably saved her best for last, averaging 12.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game and finishing with about 100 steals on the defensive end. McGuirt's career numbers are tremendous — 977 points, 611 rebounds 256 steals and 148 blocks. The heart and soul of the Crusaders was able to put an exclamation point on her career by helping lead the team to the Association of Christian Schools International Midwest Region Championship.
Abby Sanford | Senior | Grace Christian
Along with McGuirt, Sanford gave the Crusaders a valiant one-two punch of senior captains that will leave a long lasting impression on the program. Her 11 points per game were impressive, but Sanford really made her presence felt defensively, where she averaged 4.5 steals per game. She joined the 1,000-career-point club this winter and finished her high school career with 386 rebounds, 376 steals and 213 assists.
Hadleigh Loitz | Senior | Grant Park
Loitz has been a Grant Park mainstay across all seasons since she began high school, and this basketball season was no different. The All-River Valley Conference selection steadied the Dragons with 8.8 points per game, led largely by an efficient 83 percent from the free-throw line. And in a conference that boasts great perimeter defenders such as Beck and Beecher’s Margaret Landis, Loitz was right there as one of the elite, averaging five steals per game. The Dragons’ senior leader and team captain will shift her focus to the softball diamond, where she once again will hold high aspirations for herself.
Mya Johanson | Senior | Herscher
Johanson was held to just 18 games because of injury, but she showed in limited action why she was a third-team all-state selection as a junior. The University of Denver commit averaged 18.3 points, 7.1 rebounds, two steals and two blocks per game in limited action. For her career, the three-time all-conference and all-area choice is all over the Herscher record book. Her 926 points are third in school history and her 72.3 percent effort from the free-throw line is second. She is also in the top 10 in blocks (111), rebounds (458) and 3-pointers (63).
Avery Jackson | Sophomore | Kankakee
Jackson was the secondary scorer for the Kays, and she made use of the open looks Amber Storr helped provide her. The sophomore guard averaged 16.8 points per game and added six rebounds and an area-best 5.8 steals per game. Whether it was blowing past a defender in a one-on-one situation or taking a rebound or steal down the court for a quick layup, Jackson used her elite speed as an asset. Fellow all-area selections Storr and Imani Williams will graduate in May, but Jackson will be back as a two-time Southland Athletic All-Conference selection and will look to continue the tremendous rebirth the Kays’ program has undergone in the past three years.
Amber Storr | Senior | Kankakee
The two-time Daily Journal Player of the Year, Storr isn’t just one of the best players in area history but one of the best players in state history. She led the state and was fifth in the nation in scoring at 31.8 points per game this season, a senior campaign in which she passed idol Candace Parker on the career scoring list and won her second career regional title. In two years at Kankakee, Storr won two Southland Athletic Conference Player of the Year awards, two first-team appearances on the Class 3A AP and IBCA teams and was named Most Valuable Player at three of the four tournaments the Kays competed in this year. Aside from her scoring prowess, Storr also averaged 7.7 rebounds and 5.1 steals per game.
Imani Williams | Senior | Kankakee
Storr might have been the offensive leader for the Kays, but it was Williams who served as the heart and soul of the regional champions in the eyes of coach Annette Brandy. A two-time All-Southland selection and IBCA Honorable Mention, Williams was a capable scorer, averaging nine points per game, but it was her work in the margins that made her one of the state’s best. She led the area in rebounds (13.4 per game), assists (8.3 per game) and blocks (4.2 per game) and averaged 5.6 steals per game. In her senior season, Williams amassed 1,000 career points and double-digit triple-doubles for her career, one that saw her earn at least Daily Journal Honorable Mention honors three times. Williams’ next chapter will come at East Tennessee State University.
Kaylee Warren | Senior | Milford
Warren is yet another local senior who starred in all seasons. A two-time all-area selection, the Bearcats’ senior once again earned Vermilion Valley All-Conference and All-Iroquois County honors. Her 141 career 3-pointers are a school record and played a large part in her reaching 1,000 career points this season. Warren displayed plenty of different skills on the court this winter, averaging 15 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.8 steals per game. And those 15 points per game weren’t just from the field, as Warren shot a cool 80 percent from the free-throw line as well.
Kaitlyn Piecarczyk | Junior | Momence
Simply put, Piecarczyk is already one of the most celebrated players in program history. The first-team Sangamon Valley All-Conference selection led the team in scoring (15.1 points per game), rebounds (4.3 per game) and steals (2.7). As team captain, Piecarczyk drew nine charges and is her class academic leader, which led coach Derek Coy to say she gave him a coach on the floor this season. Piecarczyk has one more year to continue her progression.
Courtney Burks | Senior | Peotone
Burks is a four-year contributor who will be moving on from Peotone but not before cementing her legacy as one of the school's best point guards and most lethal 3-point shooters. Despite facing attention from the opposition's best perimeter defender every night, Burks still averaged 9.3 points and 2.3 assists per game and displayed a defensive knack with 1.6 steals per game. Burks is part of a senior core that won 80 games in four years, with half of those seasons including a regional championship.
Mae Graffeo | Senior | Peotone
A three-peat all-area selection, Graffeo already had cemented herself as a program legend before her senior year started. She only built upon that, moving out to the perimeter more, where she averaged 13.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, as well as tying for a team-high 1.6 steals per game. Graffeo also three-peated first-team all-conference honors in the Illinois Central Eight Conference and was an Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Class 2A All-State Honorable Mention. She leaves Peotone with 1,125 points, third in school history.
Daniele Cherry | Junior | Reed-Custer
Cherry saw her role continue to grow as the season went on, and by the time the season ended, she was one of the area's most feared shooters. Her hot hand lent to her averaging a hair more than 10 points per game, but even more importantly, Comets coach Nick Klein said Cherry has "something you can't coach — the ability to make big shots in the toughest moments." That led to Cherry drawing two defenders as the season went on, giving multi-time all-conference selection Kylie Balgemamn some operating room down low. Cherry was also an All-ICE selection and has another year left to potentially repeat.
Jaden Christian | Senior | Reed-Custer
Christian topped 1,000 career points, 400 steals and 350 rebounds and assists in a senior year for the books. The Comets' point guard earned ICE All-Conference and IBCA Class 2A Honorable Mention honors as the conductor of a team that finished with 23 wins, tied for third in school history. In her last year of prep hoops, Christian did it all, averaging 13.4 points, 3.6 steals and 3.5 assists and rebounds per game. With spring near, Christian turns her attention to track and field, where she will look to make her fourth trip to state.
Reilly Dersien | Senior | Trinity
The Eagles piled up 22 wins on the season and Dersien certainly had a hand in many of them. She led the team in scoring at 15.2 points per game, with her team-high 42 3-pointers helping that number. And Dersien wasn’t just a volume shooter from deep, as her 42 triples came on just 104 attempts, good enough for a 40 percent clip. Despite playing on the perimeter, Dersien was able to haul in 6.6 rebounds per game, second on the team to Veronica Harwood. She earned all-conference honors in the Illinois Christian Conference and will turn the keys of the program over to a more-than-capable crop of sophomores and juniors.
Kennedy McTaggart | Junior | Watseka
McTaggart has a terrific combination of size and skill that allowed her to be a ferocious point to the Warriors’ signature full-court press, allowing her to record 40 steals and deflect and interrupt who knows how many more passes. The All-Sangamon Valley Conference pick recorded eight double-doubles from her forward position, making herself one of the area’s most premier post players. On the season, McTaggart averaged 9.6 points and 9.3 rebounds per game and shot an efficient 45 percent from the field. With another year to polish her footwork and other areas of her game, expect those numbers to continue to skyrocket next season.
Natalie Schroeder | Junior | Watseka
The Warriors lost a ton from last year’s Sweet Sixteen squad, but Schroeder was the one returning starter who helped Watseka once again reach a regional championship game. The point guard led the team in scoring (12 points per game), free-throw percentage (69.4 percent), assists (2.6 per game) and steals (41) and set a new school record with 70 3-pointers. Those numbers helped Schroeder earn a spot on the SVC All-Conference team and win the team’s Most Valuable Player award. Along with McTaggart and Kinzie Parsons, Schroeder is one of three all-conference selections who will be back for coach Barry Bauer next season.
Chloe Sanford | Senior | Wilmington
TheWildcats had their best season in over a decade and Sanford was the primary reason why. She nearly averaged a double-double, finishing the season with 13.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, propelled by a four-game finish to the season in which she averaged over 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Special Menton: Margaret Landis, Beecher; Amari Stevenson, Bishop McNamara; Gaetana Davis, Bradley-Bourbonnais; Hanna Offerman, Central; Mikayla Knake, Cissna Park; Madison Emerson, Coal City; Madelyn Storm, Gardner-South Wilmington; Shelby Johnson, Iroquois West; Taylor Albertie, Kankakee; McKenna Evans, Peotone; Kylie Balgemann, Reed-Custer; Veronica Harwood, Trinity; Kinzie Parsons, Watseka; Claire Rink, Wilmington.
Honorable Mention: Rhiannon Saller, Beecher; Ty Hill, Bishop McNamara; Natalie Prairie, Central; Kennedy Fair, Gardner-South Wilmington; Alexa Doty, Grace Christian; Delaney Panozzo, Grant Park; Sydney Ramsey, Kankakee; Kenna Selk, Manteno; Jakki Mowrey, Milford; Jasmin Toepfer, St. Anne; Sierra Hummel, Tri-Point; Sara Haller, Trinity; Megan Mann, Wilmington.