SouthtownStar girls basketball Player of the Year: Ashton Millender

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She twice was a state finalist. Once a state champion. Many times a scoring leader. Occasionally a last-second hero.

Who could forget that 25-foot bank-in just before the buzzer sounded that stunned Marist in a Class 4A sectional final in 2013?

“I still can’t believe that (happened),” laughed Marian Catholic’s Ashton Millender, the SouthtownStar 2013-14 Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

Millender pretty much did it all during her four years at Marian Catholic, closing the books in the Class 4A third-place game with a 16-point, seven-rebound performance in a victory over Geneva.

“It’s kind of sad knowing that I won’t be playing for Marian anymore,” she said. “But I feel that I gave it my all.”

The 5-10 DePaul-bound senior averaged 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and hit 71 three-pointers for the Spartans (28-5).

Millender earned Player of the Year honors in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, and was all-tournament at both the Oswego and Montini Holiday tournaments.

“Ashton was a very versatile player who we could always count on in any situation,” Marian coach Dan Murray said. “Obviously, the way she stepped up in big games and the type of player she has been over her career, should make her one of Marian’s all-time best players.”

Millender has been playing basketball since she was in third grade. An older brother, Alan, was a basketball player at Seton.

Ashton didn’t follow in Alan’s high school footsteps, instead choosing to attend Marian to play for Annie Byrne.

Her varsity debut as a sophomore for the Spartans in 2011 was a harbinger of things to come. Marian was trailing Lincoln-Way East 17-2 in its season opener when Millender grabbed a rebound at one end and swished a three at the other. It was the start of a game-high 20-point night.

“I know my purpose here at Marian is to shoot the ball,” she said after that game. “I just keep telling myself to stay focused and not be afraid to shoot the ball.”

It was one of many team-leading performances Millender produced as the go-to scorer for the Spartans during the next three seasons.

It truly was a stepladder to success. Millender ended her sophomore campaign at 12.8 points and as a junior improved to 15.5, with 73 three-pointers.

The fairy tale ride to the Class 4A state title in 2013 saw Millender emerge as one of the Southland’s most clutch players.

Aside from the heroics vs. Marist, she also scored 29 points as the Spartans ended a three-year postseason losing streak to Young.

“The state championship … that meant a lot to me,” Millender said.

And basketball?

“That means everything. My life is basically basketball. On the court is where I’m more of a leader.”

At DePaul, Millender will reunite with former Young player Chanise Jenkins.

“I used to play with Chanise (in club), and she used to come to my AAU practices,” Millender said.

“Coach (Doug) Bruno (of DePaul), he’s a really good coach. The players there are fun to be around. It’s very exciting.”

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