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They don’t have a lot of players on Crete-Monee’s girls basketball team. But the ones they’ve got are all in.
It’s a dynamic that never was more evident than Tuesday night when the Warriors, pretty much unheralded despite being 8-0, traveled to Andrew.
Early on, coach Christina Cobbins noticed that one of her smaller guards was struggling a bit covering Andrew’s 5-foot-9 Tiana Karopulos. She took a timeout.
“During the timeout I said, ‘Hey, that Karopulos, she’s big. We need to go bigger,’ ” Cobbins said.
Sarah Humphrey, a 6-foot freshman, spoke up.
“Sarah said, ‘I’ll take her,’ so we went with her,” Cobbins said. “That’s the type of kid she is. She’s like, ‘What needs to be done? I’ve got it.’ ”
Crete-Monee went on to beat Andrew 54-47 to claim one of the program’s biggest victories, probably, since 2008 — when a Warriors team just seven strong stunned Hillcrest in a Class 3A regional title game.
I’m not ready to declare this bunch, with just nine players and a new coach, is going to follow in the footsteps of the football team and win a state title. But you’ve got to love the attitude.
During Wednesday’s practice, Cobbins was going over her game plan with the team when one of the girls appeared to be a little too casual as she laid back against the wall. Cobbins stopped in midsentence.
“Hey, is that how you sit when I’m going over the game plan?” she said. The girl quickly sat up at attention. A satisfied Cobbins continued.
Tough love? Bring it on, said junior forward Ashley Henry.
“We’ve got a whole new program that we’re building and its all about discipline,” she said. “Everybody is hard-working. You will never catch anybody on the bench that’s ever mad or sad. We’re all together all the time.”
Cobbins, a former Warrior and a 2005 graduate, was an assistant coach last season when the Warriors went 12-13. She took over the program this year with the purpose of changing not only the results, but the mind-set.
She wanted kids who believed in themselves. She wanted workers. Just nine made the cut. Cobbins was not disappointed.
“With nine players you don’t have to worry about satisfying 15 players with playing time,” she said. “And if you can’t go that deep, then you just get the nine players in shape, so they can go all 32 minutes, or however long the game is.
“They are nine focused players. They’re all equal in skills, but they have their own set of skills that they embrace.”
Seven of the nine Warriors played together in the offseason for the Mean Streets club program. The year-round dedication obviously has made a difference for junior point guard Alexia DeBose. DeBose averaged just 6 points per game last season, and this year is focused on getting the ball to scorers such as Henry and freshman Lindzy Cox (both at 12.0 ppg) and Morgan Park sophomore transfer Marsha Howard (11.0 ppg). But DeBose can light it up, as she did scoring 21 points in a Glenbard East Thanksgiving Tournament victory over traditionally strong Geneva.
“The girls had already put in the work in the offseason,” Cobbins said. “That’s a large part of what it takes. The girls had already committed themselves to certain things. The main thing was defense. And they were in shape.
“I didn’t see us being 9-0, but I didn’t see a limitation put on us, either. I knew the only limitations we would have we would place on ourselves, not wanting to do the intangible things, like playing defense, boxing out.”
Humphrey didn’t exactly shut down Karopulos (18 points) in the victory over Andrew, but between herself, Henry and Howard, they were able to hold Franson, a 13 points-per-game-scorer, to just seven.
“She moves,” Cobbins said of Franson. “She’s not the average big girl that just stands there. She starts at the high post, sometimes she’s coming out of those corners, and she moves. And you could tell they were used to having her play 32 strong minutes. So we had to keep fresh legs on her, and front her the whole game.”
Yep, this Warriors boss is on top of things.
“She gives us energy, encourages us a lot to push in every drill, every sprint,” DeBose said. “Last year I didn’t feel we had the togetherness, the cohesiveness that we have now. I just remember going into that (Geneva) game thinking that I don’t like losing. I wanted to pick us up.”
Besides that, they don’t want the football team getting all of the glory.
“That might have something to do with it,” Henry said, laughing. “No, just kidding. But when you see another team, especially part of Crete, that has made history, that just makes you hungry to go out there and get something that you really deserve.”