Girls basketball players from New Trier High School allowed their gadgets to rest for a few minutes last weekend. Each put pen to paper. They jotted their thoughts, nobly eschewing the knee-jerk reaction to thumb-thumb-thumb a device’s keyboard.
The old-school moments took place in between games at the Class 4A state basketball finals in Normal.
“We wrote things down,” Trevians senior guard Jackie Welch said inside Redbird Arena on March 7. “We wrote what we wanted to accomplish here.
“We didn’t come down here to get fourth place.”
New Trier basketball coach Teri Rodgers wrote things down, too. She inked “grow” and “fun” on her piece of paper. “Fun” made more than a few appearances on her homework assignment.
“I must have written ‘fun’ five or six times,” said the coach, sitting to the right of Welch, who was sitting to the right of NT junior guard Haley Greer. Trevians junior forward Jeannie Boehm was sitting to the right of Rodgers.
“It’s a unique experience, going into a game and knowing it will be your last of the season,” Rodgers added at the press conference following the third-place game between New Trier and Homewood-Flossmoor. “I wanted our girls to have fun in their final game of the season.”
New Trier certainly had a blast — and fought hard, from opening tip to final buzzer — in a 43-41 defeat of H-F. The third-place showing was NT’s second under Rodgers and hiked the program’s state trophy total to four. It came a day after a dispiriting 57-28 semifinal loss to eventual state runner-up Fremd.
“We did not play well at all against Fremd,” Rodgers admitted. “After the loss, I told the girls, ‘This is a time when you get to show your true character.’ We had another game. They showed great character in their next game.”
Boehm, NT’s leading scorer, took three shots from the field against Fremd on March 6. She did not make one. She did not attempt a free throw in 29 minutes of playing time.
Boehm’s game against H-F?
“A little different,” a smiling Boehm cracked at the press conference on March 7.
The 6-foot-3, third-year varsity member finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and five blocks against H-F. She went 9-for-14 from the field and hit all four of her free-throw tries. Her point total represented 51 percent of her team’s point total. If all of that is a little different, then a whale must be a little different in size than a gnat.
“She had resolve and resilience,” an impressed Rodgers said after the third-place game. “She played with confidence [against H-F]. She did not let her game against Fremd define who she is as a basketball player. Had she not scored a point [against H-F], she still would have played hard. She always plays hard. She played hard against Fremd.
“Jeannie,” the coach added, “grew as a player and as a person this weekend.”
NT and H-F each scored only six points in the fourth quarter. Neither team scored in the final 4:45 of the frame. Each team took two timeouts in the final 36 seconds. Boehm’s bucket at the 5:51 mark turned out to be the game-winner. She notched her final block with 21 ticks left, and she came down with an offensive rebound — after a free-throw miss — with nine seconds remaining.
Greer, NT’s highly entertaining floor leader, also was clutch throughout the final eight minutes. After her layup at 7:17 put NT up 39-37, she drove the lane hard again, faked a two-handed pass to junior guard-forward Kathryn Pedi and netted another layup. That made it a 41-37 game, at 5:59.
H-F (20-8), down 43-41 with 2.1 seconds left, set up its final play for senior guard Bria Stallworth (9 points). The 5-7 Viking collected the inbounds pass, dribbled once and elevated from beyond the three-point arc. The 5-10 Greer, her right arm extended, raced toward Stallworth and soared, desperate to make sure the shooter at least blinked. Stallworth got the shot off, barely. The horn sounded.
The basketball hit nothing but the … front of the rim.
NT’s joyous players converged near midcourt, bouncing and celebrating their 31st win in 33 games. NT coaches embraced near a bench. NT fans in the Redbird Arena’s stands stood and roared and applauded.
The NT-Fremd game happened 35 years ago, or so it must have seemed to the contingent from New Trier.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these girls,” Rodgers said at the start of the press conference on March 7. “There are 17 other girls in that locker [including team manager Peyton Arenson] … I now wish I had requested all of them to join us in this room. We have 19 players on varsity, nine seniors. … that’s unique. A coach asked me, ‘How do you keep all of your kids happy?’ They’re happy because they’re supportive of each other, and they trust each other. They take care of each other. They know how to be inclusive.”
Notable: Boehm earned first-team all-state status from the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA). Greer and Pedi made the third team. Welch was an IBCA special-mention all-state pick. … It had to be a first. New Trier’s Trevians faced Vikings, only Vikings — Geneva at a supersectional on March 2, Fremd and Homewood-Flossmoor at the state finals last weekend — in their final three games this winter. … Greer finished with four points, four rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in the third-place game on March 7. Pedi scored seven points. Welch had five steals and a pair of blocks, a day after pacing NT with 12 points in the semifinal loss to Fremd. Trevians senior forward Rachel West (6 points) went 3-for-4 from the field against H-F. … NT blocked 11 shots against H-F. “It felt like 20,” H-F coach Anthony Smith said. “New Trier has great length. It was tough when we drove, going against their trees.” … Rodgers’ overall record at New Trier, after 17 seasons, is 429-136 (.759). “Teri works well with her players,” New Trier athletic director Randy Oberembt said in Normal. “She’s good at finding roles for everybody. She makes the girls’ experiences worthwhile and memorable.”