With the Illinois Valley Central freshman girls’ team winning the North Central Illinois Conference for the fourth year in a row in 2012, the future of Lady Ghost basketball looks strong.

With the Illinois Valley Central freshman girls’ team winning the North Central Illinois Conference for the fourth year in a row in 2012, the future of Lady Ghost basketball looks strong.

“They put forth a good effort not only in the games but at practice,” coach Alex Razo said. “Everyone likes the games but it is not always easy to work hard in practice and, for the most part, they did.”

The team finished the season with a 15-8 record overall and an 8-0 conference record against NCIC foes St. Bede and Princeton.

“The goal we set every season is to win the conference, so they know from the very first practice what is expected of them,” Razo said. “Each year the new girls do not want to be the freshman team that did not win the conference, so it is a good motivator to get them working hard.”

That hard work also helped the girls bond as a team.

“I think that we all worked really well together because we were all friends before the season, and we just got a lot closer through practicing and playing together,” Madi Horack said. “It was really fun because I got to know everyone better. We were a really encouraging group to each other, so when things got tough we helped each other get through it.”

During the season, the team beat skilled opponents in Peoria Notre Dame, Manuel, Richwoods and Peoria Central.

“We won second place at the Ottawa Freshman tournament against mostly 3A schools,” Razo said. “There were eight teams at the tournament. We came back from 18 down against Limestone to win and 10 down against Minooka with four minutes to go and won in overtime to get to the championship game.”

Despite the successful season, the year was not without difficult stretches.

“We did have one four game losing streak and could have very easily given up on the season, but the girls kept working and got out of the slump and finished the season playing very well,” Razo said. “The losing streak was against some very good teams, including two sophomore teams at the Stark County Sophomore Tournament, but the girls just believed in what we were doing and worked their way out of it.”

During the difficult stretches of the season, the team would fall back on its chemistry to make it through the rough patches.

“We always worked together, and we would always stick together,” Demi Johnson said. “We would talk to each other when things got tough and help each other out. They are a really fun group to play with. When we would make a mistake, we would try to help pull each other back up.”

Getting out of the difficult times in a long season is a testament to the level of character displayed by the girls on the team.

“We just have been fortunate to have had quality players and, usually, they are better than the other Conference teams,” Razo said. “We have lost some freshman to the sophomore team but still have players who have been willing to work hard and have been given an opportunity which they may not have had when they were at the junior high level and have taken advantage of it.”

From a coaching standpoint, Razo said the squad was a great group.

“They were fun to work with,” Razo said. “They got along with each other and really did a good job of supporting each other. We did not have three freshmen, who played with the sophomore team all season, so to have the success we had was very satisfying.”

For the girls who helped the freshman team win its fourth straight conference title, they already have their sight set on bringing the title to the Lady Ghosts at the next level.

“I’d like to win the conference again, and I’d like to get better as a player too,” Horack said.

See next week’s edition of the Chillicothe Times-Bulletin for coverage of the sophomore girls’ conference winning season.