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Streamwood's Jessica Cerda (right) recently became the sixth player in program history to earn a Division I scholarship. | Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media

After completing eighth grade, Streamwood’s Jessica Cerda did not want to leave the sanctuary that the tiny Schaumburg Christian School had been since she was almost too young to remember.

“I was extremely shy and I really didn’t want to go to a public school,” she said. “But my parents felt that a public school would provide more opportunities for me. They felt it was time for me to break through.

“I think I’ve adapted pretty well,” Cerda added. “I love Streamwood. I love the school. I think I put a lot more time in at school than I do at home.”

Streamwood may have made an impression on Cerda, but it’s nothing compared to the impression the four-year varsity star has made on the girls basketball program at Streamwood.

The 5-foot-10 senior guard is the school’s career leader in three-point field goals, was an unanimous Upstate Eight all-conference selection as a junior, and recently became just the sixth girls basketball player in the school’s history to earn a Division I scholarship when she committed to Chicago State.

Her shooting (she has made 137 three-pointers in her career including 10 in five games this year) and versatility (injuries forced her to play point guard for much of last season ) wowed the coaches at Chicago State.

“They were looking for a shooter, but they also saw how well she handles the ball and how well she can pass,” Streamwood coach George Rosner said. “We like to run, and the girls know that if they get out on the break that she can get them the ball. She can really fire it.”

Part of Cerda’s physical strength is the result of intense rehabilitation after she tore the ACL in her right knee during AAU ball following her freshman year.

“My orthopedic surgeon knew how important basketball was to me,” Cerda said. “A week after I tore my knee I had the surgery, and a week after the surgery I was doing physical therapy. I came back after four months.

“It was crazy,” she added. “Everybody thought I wouldn’t be back until January. I was so lucky to be put in those hands. He told me how important quad strength was to preventing knee injuries. I never worked out my legs as much before. Now I keep my quad muscles strong so it won’t happen again.”

Cerda returned to help Streamwood finish 22-6 (including 10-2 in the Upstate Eight) and reach the regional finals her sophomore year. Last year, however, injuries sidelined three key players and the Sabres finished 15-14, losing in the regional finals to South Elgin.

“We were really short on players last year,” Cerda said. “But this year everybody is back and everybody seems to be stronger. We’ve been in the weight room doing extra workouts and we run a lot in practice. We have to avoid injuries. Everyone has to stay healthy.”

A healthy team would go a long way to helping Cerda achieve the one goal that has eluded her during her career at Streamwood — a regional championship.

“I’m going to be extremely disappointed if we don’t win a regional,” she said. “We always talk about it. It’s been my goal since freshman year. We have a good team. There’s no excuses. We just have to put in the work.”

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