Top Sports Stories of 2022 in Suburban Life coverage – Shaw Local
It was a year when high school sports in Illinois finally became normal.
After two years of sports being canceled, moved to different seasons and playing in unprecedented conditions, athletes and coaches were finally able to focus on what they love. And they did it magnificently.
One of the greatest basketball seasons in Illinois history. A dominant playoff led by a softball player crowned by a no-hitter to a state title. A storied softball program is back on top. And an incredible comeback season in football ends in league mode.
Here are the best sports stories of 2022 from Suburban Life coverage.
Glenbard West wins basketball state
Paxton Warden turned around in the final minutes, glanced at the other four senior Glenbard West starters and waved his arms.
The trip was full.
The goal, whose seeds were sown seven years ago when the boys were in elementary school, came to fruition on March 12. Glenbard West ended a magical season the way it always does — dominantly.
Glenbard West, ranked No. 1 all season, led wire-to-wire, defeating Young 56-34 to win the Class 4A state championship at the State Farm Center in Champaign.
This is Glenbard West’s first national basketball title.
“People have been talking about it for a long time, but we’ve been dreaming about it more since we were in elementary and middle school,” said Caden Pierce, a senior at Glenbard West and a pledge from Princeton. “It started from there. Doing so is a dream come true with these seniors.
The margin was Glenbard West’s closest in seven playoff games and the Hilltoppers’ 30th victory by more than 20 points. They went undefeated against their Illinois rivals, with their only loss coming to Bronny James and Sierra Canyon at Wintrust Arena.
The victory cemented Glenbard West (37-1), best known for football so far this year, as one of Illinois basketball’s greatest champions.
Sage Mardjetko wins softball title with Lemont no-hitter
South Carolina junior Sage Mardjetko defeated St. Louis in the Lemont 3A Finals in June for the program’s first state softball championship.
Mardjetko struck out the first 13 batters he faced and left in the seventh to complete his 11th shutout game of the season. Rookie Maya Hollendoner scored the game’s only run on a wild run around the bases in the third inning.
Mardjetko did the rest as Lemont finished second in 2021 and won the 3A state title.
“This season has had its ups and downs, but the guys are definitely focused after finishing second last year,” Lemont coach Chris Traina said.
Youth Nazareth served as the state baseball champion
Nick Drtina was sitting in his bedroom relaxing when he got the text every kid dreams of from his coach.
“Can you go tomorrow?”
“I said definitely. I want it,” said Drtina, a Nazareth sophomore. I was like, “Oh my God, let’s go, let’s go.” I slept well at night, ready to go out there and push.
Drtina and the first group of Roadrunners really did.
The Louisville rookie had a shutout in the sixth inning despite baserunners in each inning. Nazareth broke through a scoreless game with five runs in the fifth and defeated Glenwood 5-1 in the Class 3A final at Duly Health and Care Field for the Roadrunners’ first state championship.
Nazareth (34-7), which returned five sophomores and one freshman Saturday, finished its season on a 17-game winning streak. Drtina (12-1), one of five Division I commitments, allowed one run on three hits and five walks with two strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings, breaking the 25-year-old Nazareth record with his 12th win.
“It’s the perfect time to do it,” Drtina said. “It is indescribable, unbelievable. Come to think of it, we still have two years to go. Three for some of us. I hope we can get the table up and running again.
St. Francis volleyball is back on top
Addy Horner, who was lying on the field, moved a few centimeters to the left to hug her teammate Emma Delaney.
Seconds later, amid a huddle of St. Francis players, Horner and Delaney rose slightly to take a break to celebrate, hugging again.
November 12 was a memorable night for the Spartans.
After a seven-year state title drought, St. Francis defeated defending champion Nazareth with a thrilling 25-23, 25-23 win in the Class 3A State Championship game at Redbird Arena.
The Spartans (30-12) won their 13th championship in their 21st state appearance, adding another state title trophy to their illustrious program history. It was the first state crown for seventh-year coach Lisa Stone.
Stone, a former assistant to legendary coach Peg Kopech, smiled from ear to ear after the game as he talked about his first state title as a head coach.
“It feels surreal and very exciting,” said Ston. “I really have no words to describe this feeling. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls to win my first state championship. It’s very exciting.”
Nazareth, IC Catholic Prep and Benet tied for second in the state softball tournament.
– Bob Narang
IC Catholic Prep and Nazareth won State Football titles
Zach Hayes’ interception with less than two minutes left gave Nazareth a 45-44 win over Peoria in the Class 5A State Championship game in Champaign in November.
It was Nazareth who was only 13 years old and started the vast majority of the underclassmen First team in IHSA history He was 2-4 state champion from the beginning of the season. The title is Nazareth’s fourth in program history and first since 2018.
Nazareth overcame a stellar performance from Peoria’s Malachi Washington, who rushed for 273 yards and six touchdowns on 47 carries. Washington’s sixth TD pulled Peoria within 45-44 with 5:15 to play, but Nazareth sophomore Gabe Kaminski stopped Washington’s leadoff run.
“This team was incredibly resilient,” Nazareth head coach Tim Racki said. The strongest team I’ve ever had.
Nazareth was one of two area teams to win state football titles in Champaign.
After a 10-0 lead, IC Catholic scored 48 straight points to outscore Williamsville 48-17 in the Class 3A state championship. It’s the Knights’ sixth state title in program history, fourth since 2016.
Wide receiver KJ Parker scored on a 65-yard pass from quarterback Dennis Mandala for IC Catholic’s first points. Running back Denzell Gibson then broke free for a 51-yard touchdown run with 1:34 left in the second quarter, and it was all Knights there.
Gibson rushed for 138 yards and tied a 3A title game record with four touchdown passes to IC Catholic quarterback Dennis Mandala.
“Our kids have been like that all year,” Knights coach Bill Krefft said. “What they’re talking about here is real: their desire to win for each other. I would like to say that we have a great regulation system at halftime. Everyone knows that. They are truly our children.
It’s been quite a football season in Elmhurst. Across town, York posted the first perfect regular season in the program’s 102-year history and advanced to the Class 8A semifinals.