By Giuliana Allegrotti
It was their worst game of the year.
Back on Dec. 2, the New Trier girls basketball team lost to conference rival Niles West 52-45. New Trier was sloppy on both ends of the floor; unforced turnovers and lackadaisical defense plagued the team the entire game. They had poor body language and looked defeated long before the game was even over.
It was easy to understand, then, why memories of that game were on the minds of New Trier players last Friday night, as they looked to avenge that early December loss against Niles West.
“We were all embarrassed by it,” senior guard Kristie Kalis said. “We knew we were better than them, we just didn’t play well.”
New Trier won handily 66-40 last Friday, never even allowing Niles West to get within striking distance. The win brought the Trevs to 4-3 in the Central Suburban League play and 12-8 on the season. They’ll play a non-conference game against Libertyville Tuesday night, and resume CSL play again Friday against Glenbrook South.
To play so remarkably different against Niles West in roughly one month’s time started with the team’s mental approach, according to junior forward Jacqueline Vinson.
“Last time we played them we had a lot of lapses so our mentality was a big thing,” Vinson said. “All week we were just focusing on what we needed to do at practice to stay focused and really play as one.”
On Friday, it started from the opening tip. New Trier was up 23-4 by the end of the first quarter.
“We had to come out with energy because if you don’t, it’ll set the tone for the rest of the game. That’s what happened last time,” Kalis said. “We went out this time knowing we had a chip on our shoulder.”
The team also went out with more confidence, and for good reason. New Trier is 5-1 in their last six games, averaging 49.6 points per game, and moving the ball as well as they have all season. On Friday night, they finished with 12 assists.
“We’re a whole new team, it’s really unbelievable,” Vinson said. “The great thing about us is everyone has the ability to shoot and we have confidence in everyone. We trust each other.”
Of all 16 girls on the team this year, only senior guard Maggie Murdock saw quality minutes during last season. Head coach Teri Rodgers said it’s taken time for this young group to understand what it means to play at the varsity level.
“When you’re playing sophomore or freshman, mistakes are happening all the time and there’s so many that it doesn’t really cost you,” Rodgers said. “But at this level, you can’t take a play off because it’s going to hurt you. We just don’t take plays off like we used to.”
Selflessness is another characteristic of this new-look New Trier team. When asked about her offensive explosion Friday night, Kalis, who scored all of her 18 points in the first half, deferred to her teammates.
“It’s more a team thing,” Kalis said. “We just know who is doing well that game and who’s on fire and we just give them the ball. I think everyone knew that I was in my zone so they just passed it to me.”
Rodgers said she was pleased with her team’s effort Friday night and called the game “a good measuring stick” of how much the team has learned over the last month. She is cautious, though, of getting complacent.
“There’s still a lot of things we’ve got to improve on. We’ve got to continue getting better at attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line, we’ve got to get better against the press. Those are the areas of growth we are really trying to sure up in the next month.”