Westview Hills JV Girls Basketball Team Reflects on an Amazing Season
A season full of great wins, strong individual and team performances, and growing as a team is part of what defines the 2023 season for the talented group of middle school students of the Westview Hills JV Girls Basketball Team. Not only did they achieve a big win at regionals, and then sectionals, but they made school history by finishing in fourth place for the first time since entering the IESA competitions in 2018. The varsity team also had a great season, winning their regional championship by defeating a team that had beaten them twice previously, but were eventually defeated in sectionals.
For the players and coach Tim Strezo, the big moments were worth celebrating, but the season is more defined by learning confidence and staying positive while working together. Mr. Strezo has been teaching social studies and coaching at Westview for eight years and was so impressed by the players this year.
“The team is a great group who are so positive and supportive of one another,” said Mr. Strezo. “The players have different levels of basketball experience and really came together with great camaraderie. I tried to just remind them to stay positive and trust each other and trust the plays they were running while sticking it out to the end, even if we are down.”
They earned their spot at the state tournament by winning their sectional match against Jane Addams Bolingbrook with the final score of 33 - 22.
The state tournament was an exciting experience for the team, beginning with what they call the party bus that got them there that consisted of a playlist being played over the speakers with party lights and overhead bins. Games took place in Morton and the girls were tough in their first game and pulled off an exciting win over Arlington Heights South with a final score of 34-29. While they waited to play their second game, they were able to watch the other teams, observe what they are capable of and get prepared.
The team played tough in the second game but ended up being defeated by New Lenox Liberty losing 16 - 9 in an extremely defensive contest. They returned to Morton to play Frankfort for a chance at third place. They played extremely tough, thinking of new ways to score and stopping a very good point guard. When the game was over, the JV team had made school history and grown as leaders and players. For the seventh grade players, it was a season full of highlights.
“The game that sent us to state was a really tough and a good team, so that was something we are really proud of,” said Sophia Johnson. “Winning that first game at the state tournament, we knew we made school history.”
“The state tournament was a really great team bonding experience because we got to spend the day together and learn more about each other,” added Elena Vlahos. “There were times throughout the season that the other team thought they were going to be better than us, but we would surprise them with our performance.”
Coach Strezo says that there were several Michael Jordan quotes used as motivation pushing the players to keep going even when there was some frustration.
“Our bench had really great energy and that energy can bring a game to a whole new level,” said center Carley Brunell. “If we were down or the other team was catching up, it was not motivational but being able to bring them up and cheer on the teammates really can make a difference.”
Practices were largely built around learning plays and teamwork, with Westview seeing less practice time than other schools in the conference.
“We learned a lot about working with our teammates,” said Elise Velicu. “It’s so important to be able to come together with the different skills that we have and be able to communicate and lead with all of the players.”
The team says Coach Strezo’s approach to maximizing that time is something that helps set them up for success.
"He is very easy going and we have all had him as a teacher so we know him and trust him,” said center Lauren LePenske. “He doesn’t just coach to coach, he really wants to be there and he took the time to coach us and drove two hours to get to games,” added Carley. “He was so committed and showed us that he cared and wanted us all to play and to be successful.”
As the team looks forward to next year, they are all excited for what they can accomplish together.
“I want to go to state again,” said Maddie Kimball. “Our team will be really strong and we will have good balanced playing time and be ready to put in the work at practice.”
“We are definitely looking forward to next year with the core team sticking around and building on the work they put in this year,” said Strezo. “Their accomplishments on the court are a tremendous source of pride for these girls and having a fun and tight team is the reason that I coach.”