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Girls basketball: Lincoln-Way West looks forward to more success

Lincoln-Way West's (5) Tara Hastings drives to the basket in front of Lockport's (11) Payton Grcevic held at Lincoln-Way West High School on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 in New Lenox. Larry W. Kane for Shaw Media. West won 65-46
Lincoln-Way West's (5) Tara Hastings drives to the basket in front of Lockport's (11) Payton Grcevic held at Lincoln-Way West High School on Tuesday, November 15, 2016 in New Lenox. Larry W. Kane for Shaw Media. West won 65-46

MORRIS – After their second game last week in the Morris Ladies Shootout, the girls basketball players from Lincoln-Way West found a small piece of shade outside of the steamy field house.

The temperature was in the 90s outside and not much lower inside with no air conditioning and three games going on simultaneously all day.

But playing multiple games in sweltering conditions is all part of the summer work ethic for Lincoln-Way West and many other basketball teams as they prepare for next season.

“When you’re playing a lot of minutes and in conditions where it’s hot and humid, you can kind of see some character pop up,” West assistant coach David Gallagher said.

West was 4-2 in its two-day, six-game excursion to Grundy County for the 32-team event. The Warriors defeated Sycamore, Coal City and Kankakee on the first day of competition.

They lost in overtime to Canton to start the second day, but rebounded with a 56-42 win over Lincoln-Way East. West’s finale was a 38-34 loss to Rock Island, an abbreviated game because of the heat and fatigue.

Although the calendar reads June and hot weather, it’s the time high school basketball teams begin to blend returning players with newcomers who have little or no varsity experience.

West graduated three starters from the group that put together a 21-5 record last season, Emily Atsinger, Stephanie Athanasoulis and Courtney O’Donnell.

But there’s good news, too.

“The good news for us is we have some younger players,” Gallagher said.

Sophomore Taylor Gugliuzza, the returning point guard, tops the list. After seventh grade at Hickory Creek and eighth grade at Liberty Junior High, Gugliuzza was able to step in and run the Warriors’ offense.

“In high school, everything is so much faster,” Gugliuzza said. “Everyone knew what to do and when to do it.”

The summer competition, which includes a travel team for Gugliuzza, can be a time to relearn and refine.

“Get off all the rust, just get back into it,” she said. “Fix my shooting, fix all the things I’ve not been doing so well.”

And welcome her sister, Tara, an incoming freshman, to the team. The Gugliuzzas will join the Swanbergs – Sara, a senior, and Sydney, a sophomore – as sister combinations on the Warriors.

“When you’re like us and you lose three seniors, you kind of have to figure out ‘OK, what’s going to be the identity of our team for this next year?’ ” Gallagher said.

“Summer ball gives us as coaches a great opportunity to see different kids play, in some cases for the first time against varsity competition.’’

Junior Tara Hastings, a returning starter at guard, has a similar view of the benefits from summer basketball.

“Getting more comfortable, playing together as a new team,” Hastings said. “There’s some girls from the younger levels, so we have to get used to playing with each other. We try to win, but it’s more to see where we’re at going into the regular season.”

West’s 2016-17 season ended with a 51-37 loss to Marian Catholic in the Class 4A Andrew Regional championship game. The Warriors defeated Thornton, 67-54, in the semifinals.

“It was a young Marian team, but they’re good,” Gallagher said. “They’ve got a lot of talent. It was close for three quarters. The fourth quarter slipped away from us.”

“I don’t know what happened in the fourth quarter,’’ Hastings said. “We gave up a lot of shots.”

West finished second in the SouthWest Suburban Red Conference last season to Bradley-Bourbonnais, which graduated DePaul recruit Vinisha Sherrod.

“Bradley will be a tough team again,” Gallagher said.

The Warriors believe they’ll be ready, too.

“You start getting an idea in summer what kind of things you can do defensively, offensively,” Gallagher said. “You start preparing for the regular season.”

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