In Year 1 of her regime as coach of Waukegan’s girls basketball team, Shanta Parnell found one really good, potentially elite player.
Between now and next November, she must find four girls to play with Kylah Collins so that there’s not another repeat of the one-win season that ended on Monday exactly as it started in December — with a beatdown.
This time, Highland Park clubbed the Bulldogs 69-38 in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A regional tournament at Grayslake North.
The Giants’ next challenge is a 7:30 game Tuesday against powerful Grayslake North.
Monday’s game featured senior star Lena Munzer of Highland Park (24 points in three quarters) and rising star Collins (20 points and a hand in virtually everything positive that occurred for Waukegan).
“We definitely improved from our first game to our last game. It was a tough one today, but we gave it our all,” said Collins. “We’re definitelyi going to be working on boxing out and taking care of the ball. Turnovers really hurt us today. We also need to learn how to score when our opponent is on a run.”
Waukegan had 22 turnovers in the game, 13 in the second quarter when the score went from 19-10 to 37-15.
“Kylah is my little project,” said Parnell of Collins, who did not play for Waukegan as a freshman. “I saw her in open gym. She’s progressively gotten better. She’s a good kid. When I tell her to work on something, she goes and works on something. She can really score and has a high basketball IQ that she’s still developing.”
On the Highland Park side, Munzer will be playing next year at Yale. Lizzy LoGrande added 13 points and Mackenzie Paulsen had 10 points off the bench. Ten of the 12 Giants scored.
“We were definitely hungry to get a playoff win,” said Munzer, a four-year varsity starter who never had won a regional game before Monday night. “It was a big win for me and the team. A lot of people stepped up. A lot of people came to play and we played well as a team, especially on the defensive end.
Parnell took over the Waukegan program about as late as you can take a program over — in November, for Brandon Brown.
“When the basketball season ended last year, these girls didn’t really pick up a ball until I got the position,” Parnell said, “so we’re a whole year behind. That’s obvious to see, but they made strides in the right direction. Now that they know the level they need to play at, they’ll be ready to compete next year.
“We told them not to look at the win-loss situation, but to look at how they improved throughout the season. If you’re improving every game, then you’re on the right track. We’re going to get stronger, improve our fundamentals, and have more positive energy, and we’re going to do what other basketball programs do to get ready for the next season.”