Elgin found out last season what it’s like to not have guard Maggie Powers’ on-court direction when she got sick and had to miss the title game against Westminster Christian in the first Elgin Classic.
The Maroons (4-9) lost that game but will have their leader for this year’s second Elgin Classic, which features Elgin, Larkin, Westminster, Harvest Christian and Elgin Academy. The Maroons hope to make a title run behind Powers despite a five-game losing streak.
“She’s a fabulous captain,” Elgin coach Nick Bumbales said. “She basically runs the first hour of practice. I set it up and let her go at it and the kids follow her lead. She’s a good team leader.
“I want the kids to have input for what we’re doing. She’s been a great role model for our whole program.”
Powers is averaging 10.2 points and two assists per game. She has a 19-point high game and a few 17-point games and has supplied plenty of backcourt defense in addition to an on-court presence that lets teammates know who to count on in the clutch.
“Maggie is a great captain and good leader, and the thing about her is she knows how to stay calm and collected even when the rest of us might be running around like chickens with our heads cut off,” teammate Abby Pierre-Louis said.
The tournament opens Thursday with Elgin against Elgin Academy at Harvest Christian and Larkin facing Harvest. It brings Elgin and Larkin together Friday at Elgin Academy for a rematch after Elgin won a conference game last month.
Each school hosts a round. The tournament concludes with day games on Martin Luther King’s birthday at Westminster Christian.
The Elgin-Larkin rematch pits Powers against Larkin’s Victoria Patterson in a friendly battle.
“Victoria and I are really good friends,” Powers said. “We play in the offseason for the same AAU team. So we know each other real well.”
Counting conference play, Elgin has three games in four days this week and expects to have center Tamara Milosevic back at some point for the Classic after an ankle injury. She began practicing last week.
The Maroons could be very formidable inside after sophomore Alicia Panthier stepped up in Milosevic’s place to average six points and 11 rebounds at the Falcon Classic. Pierre-Louis averages 6.3 points on the year and provides a shot-blocking presence.
“Westminster has to be the favorite,” Bumbales said of the Classic. “Their post players have always killed us, but we’ve always played really close games against them except for the one when we didn’t have Maggie. And we’ve done well against them when we played in the summer.
“And Larkin is so quick, they might be the quickest backcourt in our half of the conference.”
Since losing 53-46 to Elgin on Dec. 20, Larkin (4-10) has bounced back and scored a pair of impressive wins at the Oswego East Christmas tourney. The Royals beat Plainfield North 51-37 and Downers Grove South 60-58.
It’s obvious to coach Ruben Flores what Patterson, Quixmia Washington and Co. must do to be competitive.
“We need to attack the rim,” he said.
This week, Larkin begins a stretch of four games in six days.
Westminster coach Ken Flickinger anticipates a different type of game than his team has been used to with Class 1A opponents when it faces off against Elgin and Larkin in the Elgin Classic.
“Larkin and Elgin are both a lot better this year and those games are going to be at a much faster pace than we’ve played many at,” Flickinger said.
Friday’s 6:30 p.m. Classic opener for Westminster (14-1) against host Elgin Academy will be the Warriors’ first game since Dec. 21. Besides the Classic, they have a big game Saturday at Dubuque, Iowa, against perennial Wisconsin small school power Cuba City.
“We’ve had film on them and they’re a nice-looking basketball team,” Flickinger said. “It’s two good small schools and they are a lot like we are. A year ago they were good with a young team and virtually no seniors so they have everyone back.”
Westminster’s only loss this year was against Hinckley-Big Rock in a game when illness hit several players. Senior Liz Meschewski was unable to play.