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Maine East's Janelle Alba Garner makes a move past Evanston's Sierra Clayborn in the finals of the Evanston Girls Basketball Regional on Thursday, February 14, 2013 in Evanston. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
After exchanging handshakes, Maine East’s players sat on the sidelines at Beardsley Gym and let the image of what it looks like to win a regional title sink into their memories.
Maine East coach Karol Hanusiak hopes that vision, along with lessons learned from a 60-30 blowout loss to Evanston on Feb. 14, provides the Blue Demons with extra motivation this offseason.
“We’re only losing two seniors,” Hanusiak said. “I’ve got all these kids coming back. I want them to see what it looks like, what the feel is and the pictures (Evanston’s players took with the plaque), everything. Hopefully they’ll want that.”
The core of this year’s team was comprised primarily of juniors, and the Class of 2014 — including Elanta Slowek, Shaylee Sloan, Jazlene Gonzalez and Maria Protic — led the program to its first regional championship game in 11 years. This season was also the first time in 11 years the Blue Demons (15-15) reached double-digit victories, according to Hanusiak.
Maine East’s success did not make its postseason matchup against one of the state’s best defensive squads any easier, according to freshman guard Janelle Alba Garner.
“It was a little bit overwhelming, but you’ve got to get past that so you can play your best out there (to) get the win,” said Alba Garner, a freshman. “We have such a big future with this team.”
As Hanusiak said throughout the season, Maine East has had to learn how to win and get accustomed to playing in tight situations with games on the line.
The next step for returning players is to challenge, and defeat, teams like Evanston.
“This is good for us,” Hanusiak said of the 30-point loss to the Wildkits. “No one wants to beat teams that are inferior to you. You have to beat the better teams and, unfortunately at times, you have to lose to the better teams in order for you to get better.”~.