Ag. Science harvesting basketball success

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Don’t look now, but Mother McAuley and Marist aren’t the only girls basketball powerhouses in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood community.

In fact, neither the Mighty Macs nor the RedHawks have the community’s best record.

That stature belongs to a little school you may or may not have heard of called Chicago High School For Agricultural Sciences. Or as we commonly call it on our sports pages, Ag. Science.

As of Thursday morning, the mighty Cyclones were 16-1 and flying high after winning their own Christmas tournament.

They’re led by seniors Carly Trinley (7.0 ppg, 3.1 apg) and Colleen Kull (6.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg), juniors April Baar (11.7 ppg) and Kate Patnett (6.0 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and freshmen Brittany Nash (11.7 ppg) and Janae Heard (9.1 ppg, 7.9 rpg).

Their only loss this season came Dec. 4 in a 44-39 Public League Blue-South battle against unbeaten Brooks in which two players were out with injuries and two others fouled out. The Cyclones finished with four players on the floor.

They’ve already beaten longtime city rivals Longwood and Julian and scored a big win at Christmas over Evergreen Park.

With Kull and Patnett at 6-foot, Heard at 5-11, Nash at 5-10, and Trinley and Baar 5-6 and 5-7, respectively, in the backcourt, they’re a balanced team physically.

“Four of us (Nash, Patnett and Kull) played volleyball and started together, and April also played with us, so we have a chemistry,” Trinley said. “Since we’re a small school we have small teams. And with that you don’t get a lot of talent in a lot of variety.”

In the fall, the volleyball team went 19-7 and became the first in the program’s history to win a Class 3A regional title as Nash (27 assists) and Trinley (11 kills) led the way in a three-set victory over Tinley Park. The basketball team, which will compete in Class 2A, is following right in those footsteps.

“The balance on this team is tremendous. I think they’re learning that effort pays off,” said fourth-year Cyclones coach Ed McNulty, who previously coached boys basketball at St. Ignatius and St. Rita and coached on a pre-Olympics team in China.

Not that anybody really has noticed.

“Yeah, that kind of bothers me,” Baar said. “We work so hard and we always come to practice and are so happy to play. It does make us mad that no one knows about us at all.

“Even when I say the name of our school, no one knows about it. Especially not for sports.”

Ag. Science, by its own mission statement, is “a college preparatory high school that provides opportunities for diverse students from across the city to study agriculture with the goal of developing marketable skills as well as college level competencies.”

The 78-acre campus, at 3807 W. 111th St., consists not only of classrooms, but a kitchen, fields and a barn that houses cows, pigs, sheep and horses.

There are more than just would-be farmers attending Ag. Science.

Kull wants to pursue horticulture and plant genetics, but Baar wants to be a nurse, Nash a photographer, Patnett an accountant and Trinley a veterinarian.

They’d also like to be known as very good girls basketball players. Mother McAuley and Marist? Bring it on, Patnett said.

“Sometimes I wish that we could have that exposure for our team,” Patnett said. “I feel that we’re good enough and I feel like people focus on those big-name schools and really don’t focus in on the smaller schools who are actually doing well.

“We’re a small-named school. But we’ve built up our program.”

Oh, one last thing about Ag. Science. Even though it’s a magnet school and can draw from any part of the city, every girl on the roster is either from Mount Greenwood or Beverly.

Nash, for one, said she was contacted by both Marist, for basketball, and Mother McAuley for volleyball.

“But my sister went here,” Nash said of Ag. Science. “I really liked this school. When I first got here I knew they were all dedicated to play. So I had to come in and be dedicated. On a team, everyone has to work together, so that’s how I went into it. And with everyone working hard, and me working hard, we got to where we need to be.”

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