• 'Max's sister' makes name for herself

In the summer of 2005, Elle Bielfeldt practiced her jump shots so much, the neighbors would call her parents and say, with slight concern, “Um, did you know that your daughter is still playing basketball out on the driveway?”

They probably wanted to ask: “Is there something wrong with her? What kind of girl plays basketball all day and all night?”

Bielfeldt, a senior who recently scored her 1000th career point for the Peoria Notre Dame girls basketball team, remembers those long summer days and nights when she pushed herself to become one of the best to ever wear the Irish uniform.

“That’s when it all started — the summer before I went into eighth grade. Up until then, I was just a bench warmer. My dad even made fun of me. He called me the ‘brick on the basketball court,’ because I couldn’t make any shots. But, I worked hard and got a lot better,” she said

On Dec. 15, Notre Dame beat conference-rival Peoria Central for the first time in three years. Bielfeldt scored nine points in the fourth quarter and made two free throws with seven seconds left to seal the victory. In a close loss at heavily-favored Richwoods a week before, she made a three-point shot to get the Irish within one point with nine seconds left.

She does not seek pats on the back for these clutch performances, though. Instead, she would rather talk about her teammates, especially fellow seniors Madi Green and Abby Ferlmann, who have been though a lot together.

“It’s a team game, and we are all so close. We’re all like sisters,” she said. “I’m just glad whenever I can help the team win. But, it’s never just one person. Against Central, everybody played great. Against Richwoods, even though we lost, we all played our hearts out.”

Bielfeldt started playing basketball in third grade for PGSL. She attended Peoria Academy until eighth grade.

When she came to Peoria Notre Dame, she said she just hoped to make the freshman team, but former varsity coach Stephanie White had bigger plans.

“By the first varsity tournament, she (White) had me playing varsity,” she said. “It was pretty cool, coming from a small school, to see my name in the paper with the varsity players ... I remember getting yelled at a lot, for not boxing out. I learned that the hard way.”

Last year, Ron Carrothers took over as head coach and Bielfeldt said she had to make more adjustments.

“We started playing zone defense. That was different,” she said. “But coach Carrothers brought such a positive attitude to this team. He’s been great. He has made us all better players and we’re excited about what we can accomplish this year.”

Bielfeldt is one of Notre Dame’s top post players, but she developed a reliable 10-foot jump shot, and she can also score from three-point range.

“I worked a lot on my 10-footer,” she said. “I had it down as a sophomore, but I struggled with it last year. It’s nice to see it coming back this year.”

Bielfeldt attends many of the Notre Dame boys basketball games to watch her younger brother, Max, who is getting a lot of interest from Division 1 college basketball coaches.

When asked, “who is the better player in the family,” she smiled and said, “I used to be. I could beat him one-on-one up until a few years ago when he started dunking. Then, I didn’t stand a chance.”

Bielfeldt is her brother’s biggest fan.

“I’m just so proud of that kid,” she said. “My eyes are on him the whole game. If somebody starts talking to me, I’ll say, ‘shh. Pay attention.’ Basketball is talked about in our house 24/7. We all root for Max so much.”

Max is destined to play basketball in college someday. Elle, however, said she probably will not pursue college scholarship offers.

She recently got accepted to the University of Illinois, which, she said has been a dream for a long time.

“My family bleeds orange and blue,” she said. “I’m really excited to be able to go to school there. I thought about playing basketball at a smaller school, but I can’t pass up the chance to go to U of I.”