LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE GIRLS- 1-23-09

Tom Batters
Brooke Bisping (lfet), Morton senior guard

The NBA has its All-State game in the middle of the season, so I see no reason to wait to announce my All-Star girls basketball team.

This team, which consists of players from the Mid-Illini and Mid-State 6 Conferences, would be fun to watch on the court. In fact, that would be a great idea. Somebody should organize a Mid-State 6, Mid-Illini All-Star game. Maybe I’ll work on getting that going myself. Anyway, here’s my team:

• Starting guard - Brooke Bisping, Morton. This is a no-brainer. Bisping, who will play at Bradley next year, averages 23 points per game. She is a bona fide Player of the Year candidate. She plays hard, misses a free throw about once every two years, and plays the game the right way.

• Starting guard - Mariah Smith, Richwoods. Smith, who is only a sophomore, can also be listed as a forward, but I’ll put her at guard for this team. Smith can do everything. She is the best player I have ever seen at moving without the basketball and getting herself open for easy shots. She has a smooth three-point shot and a pretty pull-up jump shot. She averages 17 points per game. She scored 27 points last week in a big win over Peoria Central.

• Starting forward - Jenni Erlandson, Dunlap. Erlandson is a lot of fun to watch because she is so versatile. She is a tall (6’0”) and strong player in the post, but she can also shoot from anywhere on the court. She has the best three-point shot of any 6-footer I have seen.

• Starting forward - Elle Bielfeldt, Peoria Notre Dame. Bielfeldt is listed as a center, but I think she makes the perfect power forward. She drives to the basket effectively, and she is a rebounding machine. Bielfeldt is playing great lately. It seems like she records about 15 points and 8 rebounds per game each night out. She is now averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds per game for the season.

• Starting center - Tiffany Kellum, Peoria Central. Kellum, who leads the Mid-State 6 Conference in scoring (17.5 points per game), is tough to stop in the paint. Even with two players on her, she is able to post-up and get the ball down low. She usually converts these opportunities with a soft touch off the glass.

• Coach - John Gross, Richwoods. In a previous column, I declared Peoria Notre Dame’s Ron Carrothers my Coach of the Year. I still believe that because of the remarkable turn-around he has orchestrated at ND. But, I will take Gross to coach my All-Star team. Gross, a 30-year veteran with a state title and plenty of playoff experience, is a Hall of Fame-caliber coach who will go down as one of the best girls basketball coaches in the history of the state. Yes, he is that good.

So, there you have it. That’s my starting 5 and my coach. I’d love to hear your thoughts. E-mail me at tbatters@timestoday.com

SCORE FOR THE KIDS

On Feb. 3, the Dunlap girls basketball team will participate in “Score for the Kids” basketball game against Canton to benefit St. Jude Hospital.

The team is requesting support through donations of merchandise to raffle or monetary donation. Wrist bands will be sold at the door or you can purchase from any of the players.

Cost of bands is $5 for adults and $3 for students. Businesses contributing will be announced at the event and in printed literature.

Contact Duane Peterson to donate. Make checks payable to St. Jude Children’s Hospital and mail to Dunlap High School. 5520 W. Legion Hall Road Dunlap, 61525.

SHHHHH...

Is it me, or do the fans at girls basketball games this year seem a little scarce? At a recent Dunlap home game, you could have literally heard a pin drop during timeouts. There were only a handful of fans there to cheer on the Lady Eagles. Richwoods and Notre Dame games are slightly better, with a pretty good number of students and parents there to cheer on the teams, but it would be nice if the girls games had the same fervor as the boys games. Tuesday night’s game between Richwoods and Central had a nice crowd, but there were still a few empty sections of the stands. So, come on fans, especially students. Get out and catch these teams in action. The competition is just as great as the boys games and each team has some fantastic players to watch.

ON THE REBOUND

Peoria Notre Dame’s Elle Bielfeldt leads the Mid-State 6 Conference with 7.8 rebounds per game. Richwoods has the next three leading rebounders in Mariah Smith (7.3), Katie Murphy (6.8) and Maddie Nieukirk (6.6). Natecia Augusta of Limestone leads the Mid-Illini with 8.7 rebounds per game.

INTERESTING QUESTION...

Why is Manual’s boys basketball team one of the best in the conference (and the state), but it’s girls basketball team is one of the worst? The Lady Rams are winless in conference play and just 7-10 overall. With talented players such as Britany Mathews and Simone Russell, you would think Manual would be more competitive.