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Girls Basketball: Reapers ready to build on historic season

Plano star MaKayli Vann still working her way back from injury

John Chernick considers this a nervous time of year.

But a fun nervous.

Chernick, Plano’s girls basketball coach, has just one senior on the 10-person active roster when the Reapers start the season. His best player hasn’t practiced yet.

Plano, when whole, possesses the pieces to build on a historic season.

Talented sisters MaKayli Vann and MaKenzie Vann, the Reapers’ top two scorers and rebounders last year, return from a team that went 19-9 and was co-champions of the Interstate Eight Conference for the first time.

Plano opens its season this week at the Somonauk Tournament

With senior MaKayli Vann injured and not yet practicing, Plano will take a roster with four sophomores, one freshman and just one senior – Sami Stamper – to Somonauk.

“It will be interesting to start out, that’s for sure,” Chernick said.

When she returns, Vann is one of the most gifted players in the area. The 5-foot-9 guard averaged 19.6 points and 10.7 rebounds last year, her first after transferring from Indian Creek. MaKenzie Vann, a junior, averaged 10.7 points and 7 rebounds.

Both bring a certain competitive edge to the court.

“When they get on the floor, that competitiveness ratchets up,” Chernick said.

Both, too, can build on their big seasons.

“With MaKayli she just has to find her game, get back to doing what she does,” Chernick said. “With MaKenzie, we will really need her leadership with her sister out. She will really have to handle the ball well for us. Her defense is outstanding and, for her size, she’s one of the best rebounders I’ve ever coached. She still has to improve her decision-making when she has the ball.”

Chernick noticed big growth this summer from another returning player, junior Lexi Tisberger. He expects the Vanns and Tisberger to account for 60 percent of Plano’s shot attempts.

But more than last year, the Reapers should have others who can make shots.

Sophomores Lily Fernandez, Plano’s second guard off the bench last year, and Maddi Jude are both natural shooters who could give the Reapers eight to 10 points on a given night.

“When we had a third or fourth girl scoring last year, there was no stopping us,” Chernick said. “We have some girls that are natural shooters that we didn’t really have before.”

Another sophomore, Kaylee Read, received big minutes on the varsity by the end of last season and provides another athlete who can run the floor.

With youth, Plano’s summer games were somewhat ragged with the style of play the Reapers prefer.

But they still plan to get after teams.

The Reapers averaged greater than 15 steals and 63 shot attempts per game last year playing their frenetic style, and will continue to do so.

“Defensively, we’ll get to where we were last year when we pressured teams into a ridiculous among of turnovers,” Chernick said. “There aren’t too many teams that we feel will keep up with us.”

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