Four of five starters return for Elgin team looking to take step forward

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Elgin girls basketball coach Nick Bumbales looks around the practice court and sees nothing but familiar faces — very familiar. That can’t be a bad thing.

Not only are four of the top five starters and seven of the top eight players returning from a 9-20 team, but it includes four-year varsity players and two-year captains Maggie Powers and Jessica Ramirez.

“The kids know our expectation level is up and know what we’re up (against) competition-wise,” Bumbales said. “They know it’s always going to be difficult, but they’ve seen it all before, now.

“As a whole, the program looked much-better prepared over the summer and we want to continue moving in a positive direction.”

Powers, a point guard, averaged six points a game and is the player Bumbales says “holds everything together.”

Ramirez, a post player, averaged four points and nine rebounds. Anna Eckholm, a defensive specialist at forward, and 6-foot-1 center Tamara Milosevic (five points, seven rebounds) is the fourth returning starter.

Last year’s sixth player, Melanie Berg (4.5 points), is expected to be one of the better shooters, while returning 5-9 junior guard Abby Pierre-Louis (four points, seven rebounds) is a potentially higher-scoring, dynamic player who can also handle the ball and help Powers break presses.

“She’s athletically gifted and can play inside or outside,” Bumbales said. “She kind of holds the key to what our season could be like. If she progresses quickly on the perimeter, we could be competitive quickly.”

Junior 5-9 post player Destiny West (three points, seven rebounds) and 5-2 senior guard Fantasia Griffin also received playing experience last year.

Bumbales said 5-9 senior Lauren Alexander, 5-10 junior Megan Alexander, 5-6 junior Mimi Hernandez, 5-1 senior guard Lisseth Villacorta and 5-8 junior Amanda Graham will fill roles.

Handling the basketball has been a problem in the past, but they think they have that solved.

“Our first year with the program we were around 38 or 39 turnovers a game,” Bumbales said. “Last year it was in the 20s and that needs to come down too. But we looked better at it in summer.”

The Maroons shot just 25 percent from the floor last year, so outside shooting is another key of improvement for a team that opens Tuesday at Glenbard East and is hoping to score tourney titles at either Elgin Academy for Thanksgiving or in the Elgin Classic.

“The program hasn’t won a tournament title since 1995, so that’s one of our goals this year,” Bumbales said.

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