After losing to rival Niles North in the final seconds and dropping a third consecutive contest, the Niles West girls basketball team came to a crucial point in its season.
“There were a lot of emotions after the North game,” junior point guard Katherine De Lara said. “It was a really personal game for us.”
The Wolves, after winning just four games a year ago, could have let the season turn south right then. Instead, the players took the 65-64 loss on Dec. 7 as a chance to learn.
“We all kind of came together after the [Niles North] game,” senior guard Kacie Simkins said. “We had a team talk after practice; we really boost each other up now.”
Niles West lost its next game to Glenbrook South, but followed that up with wins over Waukegan and Glenbrook North to improve to 3-4 on the season.
“We all love the game,” De Lara said. “Giving up isn’t our thing.”
A big part of why the girls were able to show such resilience is they’re a tight-knit group.
“Of my four years on varsity,” senior guard Alexandra Galanopoulos said, “this team may be the closest.”
“We’re definitely a lot closer than last year,” junior forward Julia Easter said. “[Last year] there wasn’t a lot of bonding off the court.”
This season, the Niles West girls have made a point to spend time away from basketball together, Easter said.
“Little things like going out to lunch and talking together as a team,” she said.
The players also have organized bigger activities, like a preseason bowling outing with the boys basketball team and an upcoming team sleepover. And for the holiday season the team raised money to buy presents for the children of a local family.
“We all pitched in and got the satisfying feeling of helping a family in need in our own community,” Galanopoulos said. A
ll of these experiences have served to bring the girls together on the court, where the only thing that matters to the players is the team’s success.
“We want to push each other to do well and do better,” De Lara said. “I like seeing a different person scoring the most each game. That really helps the chemistry.”
The Wolves are hoping to keep building on the recent success as conference play continues, and the girls know they can handle adversity if things don’t go their way.
“Our positivity helped us get through it [the losing streak],” Simkins said. “Now we’re hoping to keep this ball rolling, keep up our positive energy.
“As long as we go out trying hard, nobody can be upset with each other,” Simkins added. “It’s easy to play hard for people you like. It’s great playing with friends on the court.”
Originally posted on 12/26/13
By Jakub Rudnik