LANSING, Ill. (November 15, 2023) – Gigi Dillon is only starting her sophomore season with TF South girls basketball, but she already owns a program record.
But Dillon, whose 335 rebounds as a freshman were the most in one season in Red Wolves’ history, isn’t resting on her laurels.
The 5-11 forward worked at her craft over the offseason.
“I feel like my toughness, I got better (at),” Dillon said after South lost 58-41 to visiting Hyde Park in Monday night’s season opener. “And mentally. Last year I probably wasn’t mentally strong.”
She also worked on ball-handling and shooting, efforts that paid off against the Thunderbirds. Dillon finished with 14 points, seven rebounds, three steals, two assists, and a block. Senior teammate Rayvan Rush added 10 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, while Asia Haynes contributed five points, four steals, and two assists.
Dillon and coach Eric Bryce were glad to have a tough test out of the gate. Hyde Park is coming off a 23-8 season and is led by 6-3 Southern Illinois commit Mia Gaines, who had 18 points, 17 rebounds, and four blocks on Monday.
“I feel like we came out here, we probably (weren’t) that ready to go, but we’re going to make up for it,” Dillon said. “It was just the first game, it’s still the whole season ahead of us. I feel proud of all our girls who are playing. We’ve just got to come back harder.”
South’s last lead was 8-7. The Thunderbirds led 15-10 after one quarter and went on a 13-1 run in the second period to open a 28-11 lead. It was 33-18 at halftime as Gaines already had 16 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks. The closest the Red Wolves got in the second half was 13 points at 36-23 and 37-24.
Preparing for Gaines wasn’t easy, according to Bryce.
“We tried to find ways to mimic her in practice,” he said. “And you just can’t really mimic her size and what she’s able to do with her body. We had to change completely what we do on defense.”
There are plenty of teams the Red Wolves — coming off a 27-5 season and South Suburban Blue title — could have scheduled for an easy opener. But Bryce doesn’t want that. The previous two years South opened against powers Mother McAuley and Lincoln-Way East.
“As much as you can pick a game for a confidence builder, we’ve got to come out and see what we’ve got right away, to see what we need to fix sooner rather than later,” Bryce said.
Before the game, the Red Wolves honored Dillon along with several other program record holders:
- Tara Breshock (who played from 2002-04), who set season records for points (538) and free throws (114) and the single-game record for free throws (14);
- Claudia Locke (2004-07), the single-game record holder for assists (13);
- Lauren Nakoff (2000-03), the single-season assists leader (155);
- Jenny Madgiak (2001-04), who had a single-game record with 12 steals;
- current senior Jaiden Thompson, the career rebounds leader with 420;
- Rush, who owns program records for career assists (186), career steals (269) and single-season steals (131).
The Red Wolves beat Rich Township 1,812-1,624 on Monday as Andrew Danehl had the high game at 213.
The Spartans’ season ended with a 35-0 loss to host St. Rita on Friday in the CCL/ESCC semifinals.
Kyle Scott had 14 carries for 85 yards for Marian, which finished 5-6. Tyler Lofton added 10 rushes for 45 yards, while Carter Magerski was 13-of-17 passing for 63 yards with an interception and Kaleb Isom had seven catches for 47 yards.
The ending aside, the season had its share of highlights for the Spartans. They won the CCL/ESCC Red title with a 3-0 record, earned their first postseason win in years by beating St. Patrick in the CCL/ESCC quarterfinals and produced their highest-profile recruit in a while: Kansas-bound defensive back Austin Alexander.
Alexander is proud of what his class accomplished since coming into the program for the pandemic-delayed spring 2021 season.
“The seniors did a great job,” he said. “We built this thing from the ground up. … We started something that’s going to keep going.”
Second-year coach Nick Lopez is 9-11, the most wins in back-to-back seasons for Marian since it went 11-8 under the late Dave Mattio in 2010-11.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” Lopez said. “These seniors, they were supposed to be the ones who kind of helped us get back on track. They’ve done a great job at that.”
The Meteors split their first two matches last week, defeating Richards 1,440-1,348 on November 7 and losing to Reavis on November 9.
Fernando Rios (155-170) and Caden McLucas (170-153) had the high series against Richards, while Rios (212) and Aiden Jordan (212) led the way vs. Reavis.
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