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Basketball

Girls basketball: Fillies, Steamers ready to team up for Gazette squad

TRAC rivals no longer

Fulton's Jordan Price goes up for a layup ahead of Morrison defender Kassidee Church during a game this past season. Price and Church will play for the Gazette team on Thursday in the Sauk Valley Media All-Star Classic at Sauk Valley Community College.
Fulton's Jordan Price goes up for a layup ahead of Morrison defender Kassidee Church during a game this past season. Price and Church will play for the Gazette team on Thursday in the Sauk Valley Media All-Star Classic at Sauk Valley Community College.

For the last 4 years, Tyler Whitebread has had to game-plan against Fulton’s Jordan Price, Faith Kennedy and Whitney Wynkoop.

This week, the Morrison girls basketball coach gets the luxury of drawing up an offense to integrate that trio of Steamers with six of his Fillies – and six other standout seniors from the Daily Gazette coverage area – in the 2017 Sauk Valley Media All-Star Classic at 5 p.m. Thursday at Sauk Valley Community College.

“As soon as I got the roster, I was already thinking about some of the offensive skill-sets, particularly with the Fulton girls,” Whitebread said. “We played them four times this year, and saw them quite a bit the last few years, and it’s definitely nice to have them on our side.”

Whitebread will be coaching his entire starting lineup and a key reserve one more time, as well. Kassidee Church, Emma Melton, Emma Sitzmore, Lauren Vos, Jaeden Workman and Shayna VanDerLeest will take the court as a group one last time, and they’re looking forward to being together again before heading their separate ways for college.

“I’m just glad to be playing with these guys again one more time,” Sitzmore said. “It’s great to be back with these girls and Coach Whitebread. It’s nostalgic, and it feels nice.”

“It’s cool being back with all my best friends,” Church added. “I’m glad I have the opportunity to play with them again, and play with some really good other girls from other schools.”

Especially the rivals from 10 miles west on Highway 30. While Morrison defeated Fulton in three of the four meetings – the Steamers got the Fillies in the Warkins Classic in Erie right after Christmas – there was always a lot of respect between the programs for their talent and determination.

“It’s nice to play with them rather than against them,” Church said. “It’s nice to be friends now, not enemies anymore.”

Like the Morrison coach, Price has actually analyzed a bit with the nine players coming together. She knows the strengths she and her fellow Steamers bring to the table, and feels the Fillies added in will make a potent combination.

“I think that it helps a lot, Fulton and Morrison coming together, because I know there’s a lot of very skilled players on Morrison’s team, and combining both should give us a pretty good group,” Price said. “We played them four times this year, so we obviously know the things that they’re going to run. I think it will be easy to pull us together on a team because we’ve played each other so many times.

“We know the girls really well, too, and we’re pretty good friends outside [of school], so I think it will be fun playing with them.”

Sitzmore agrees, and also noted that the other six girls on the team – Cheyenne Harrington and Mya Pearson from Sterling, Olivia Babcock and Bailey Bickett from Rock Falls, Makenzie Fink from Eastland and Sidney Aude from Milledgeville – will also help provide quite a punch when their skills are utilized together.

“It’s a little weird, but it’s really cool,” Sitzmore said. “They’re all good players, and it’s nice that we can play with all these great athletes. I think we should be able to string it together really well. We’ve got a lot of great athletes, good contributors, and if we kind of get going, can start clicking and meshing, I think we should be pretty good.”

The Fillies are hoping that they can get the chance to walk off the floor together one last time – “Maybe toward the end, we can all be in together – that would be kind of cool, kind of like a send-off,” Sitzmore said – but are really ready to bask in the chance to play ball one more time before some of them hang up their basketball sneakers forerver.

“The goal is to have fun, definitely; I don’t really care about winning,” Church said. “I want to have fun with my friends one last time.”

Whitebread isn’t buying it.

“Right now, our girls are pretty high-energy, fun-spirited,” he said, “but once we start playing, they’re going to definitely want to compete.”

Price has no doubt about that.

“I definitely want to get a ‘W’,” she said. “I just think it’s fun to be able to put my basketball shoes back on again and play with some of the girls that I didn’t think I’d ever play with again. I’m excited – but it will be better if we win.”

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