By: Luke Drase
One of the most storied basketball programs in the state of Illinois is back at it.
Fresh off a 28-4 season, Maine West will be looking to make a run downstate as they return all of their main contributors from last years sectional championship team.
Leading the way for the Warriors is head coach Kim deMarigny, who will be entering her second year in charge of the Maine West program after taking over for the legendary Derril Kipp, who passed away in July of last year.
Although the teachings of Kipp still influence deMarigny’s, having a year of experience has helped deMarigny know what to expect while developing her own coaching style.
“I have an idea of the things I like to do, my style, which I know are heavily influenced by Derril,” said deMarigny. “At least this year I can say I’ve done this before. Everything isn’t completely brand new for me Even though I was his assistant for six years it’s still very different when the reins are completely in your hands.”
Helping coach deMarigny manage the high expectations of the upcoming seniors are an impressive crop of seniors, which include four year varsity players in Catherine Johnson and Allison Pearson.
Both Johnson and Pearson have seen it all during their tenure at Maine West, going from a 9-19 team their freshman year, to state contenders as seniors.
The wealth of experience brings a unique attribute to the team, one that coach deMarigny knows she can count on to get the Warriors through the season.
“Those girls can lead the squad. They know what needs to be done, the expectations for excellence that we require,” said deMarigny. We just brought on a couple new people and they don’t let those kids miss a line or cheat on a drill. They’re watching to make sure they hold that standard of excellence.”
Along with Pearson and Johnson, fellow seniors Jessica Riedl and Alisa Fallon will also play in important roll for the Warriors.
Fallon, along with Pearson, recently signed their national letter of intent to continue to play basketball at the next level, joining a long line of Maine West basketball greats.
deMarigny said: “It’s exciting to have those two girls start their year off knowing they’re going onto the next level. They were very excited and as a program we were excited just to continue the tradition that Derril had sending more girls onto the next level.”
Joining the seniors is a talented crop of underclassmen including junior Rachel Kent and sophomore Angela Dugalic.
The balance between experienced veterans and hungry underclassman sets up a unique dynamic that will undoubtedly help Maine West in the long run.
“We will rely heavily on our seniors for experience and to keep us calm during pressure situations,” said deMarigny. But the youth keeps us fresh and excited for the future. Those kids bring a new sense of urgency because they are not as established and are trying to work their way in, so they’re going hard all the time.”
Despite seemingly having the talent and depth to compete for a place downstate, the road will not be easy for the Warriors.
Maine West has one of the toughest non-conference slates in the state, having to play Evanston and GBS in their CSL crossover matches, while also facing defending state champions Geneva, and a final 16 team in Marist.
deMarigny said: “We need to be able to handle the high pressure situations and we want to know where we stand. We did try to beef it up a little bit and we’re looking forward to how we stack up against comparable competition.”
Not only will the Warriors have to navigate the tough non-conference slate, but the back to back CSL North champions will be a big target on their back during the conference season, as they have only dropped one conference game over the last two seasons.
“First of all we need to realize we have a target on us,” ” said deMarigny. “It will be tough to get up to a level of play every night, but that’s were champions are made. They have know that whoever the opponent is could beat us on any given day. That’s what we have to instil in our girls. If we play our game things should take care of themselves.”
With everything seemingly in place for a deep tournament run, expectations have never been higher for a program that has seemingly been there time and time again.
Unfair or not, there is pressure for Maine West to at the very least, return to a sectional title game. But if there is one team that can cope with the high stress situations, it is the senior-laden Warriors.
“We just want to do the best we can, to go as deep into the tournament as we can,” deMarigny concluded. “We’re going to try and not put pressure on ourselves because that’s your worst enemy. We’re just going to play our game and achieve each of our goals along the way.”
Maine West will tip off their season on November 14th against Proviso West in the Hoffman Estates tournament.