By Randy Whalen
For the Oak Lawn, its annual Girls Holiday Basketball Tournament was a microcosm of its season so far: A split decision.
The Spartans went 2-2 in the tourney, held last week, putting their record at 7-6 entering this week. A team that had high hopes coming into the season is confident it can get healthy and make a run in the second half.
Oak Lawn won its first game of the tourney on Dec. 14, a 55-5 victory over Guerin. They followed that up with a 56-23 loss on Dec. 16 to eventual tournament runner-up, Lockport, and in the final round of pool play fell to Lindblom, 62-40, on Dec. 18.
The Spartans finished the week by edging Romeoville, 42-39, to take fifth place. In that game, senior guard Reagan Cameron led the way with 20 points. Cameron was named to the All-Tournament team and averaged nearly 20 points per game in the tourney.
In the championship game on Saturday, Dec. 21, Kankakee improved to 15-1 with a 72-42 win over Lockport (12-4).
Sophomore guard Mia Kennelly, one of Oak Lawn’s top players, has missed most of the season with a sprained left knee, coach Mark Sevedge said. The Spartans were 2-0 when Kennelly injured the knee in the third quarter of the third game of the year. She had 17 points and eight rebounds at the time.
"We ended up losing that game and lost some other close ones too,” Sevedge said. “I feel like we've left a couple of wins out there. We've had to adjust our game and have done that. But we are looking forward to her being back in the lineup."
Kennelly was hoping to get cleared to play last week for the tourney but was told to check back in a couple weeks. She’ll miss this week’s Riverside-Brookfield Tournament, but hopes to be back by Jan. 7 when the team travels to Country Club Hills to take on Hillcrest.
"I just like to play all out and be physical," Kennelly said last week as she watched the Spartans play in the holiday tournament. "I was running, chasing down a rebound when I hurt my knee.
"I'm missing playing a lot. Missing being out there with them. But I'm seeing them work hard and I want to come back strong."
Oak Lawn was 19-12 last season and returned several of their top players, so there were certainly high expectations for this team. With Kennelly out, others have had to step up.
One of those is senior forward Sarah Saleh.
"With all our hard work in the offseason, we expected a lot of wins,” Saleh said. “We've learned from our wins and learned from our losses. We just keep growing as a team.
Saleh contributed 10 points and 15 rebounds against Romeoville in the fifth-place game.
Other players that the Spartans are looking to include junior guard Emma McGrath, along with senior forwards Julia Janks, who missed last season with a broken ankle, and Megan Savaglio.
"There's a lot of season left and this group loves to compete," said Sevedge, who is in his sixth season as head coach. "We just keep trying to get better each day."