By Bob Balgemann


It was one of those girls basketball seasons in the NIC-10 that saw a logjam of teams competing for a place in the Top 5.

Harlem was bound for one of those spots until an unexpected end to the abbreviated season thwarted that anticipated finish.

Head coach Beth Meyer put it this way: “A short-handed Harlem battled with multiple injuries and a COVID-related absence down the stretch, which left a lot of what-ifs and unanswered questions lingering. Nevertheless, it was a monumental season where the Huskies proved to be amongst the top teams in the conference by finishing second despite these challenges.

“We are grateful that the girls had an opportunity to play this season and we will continue to ‘move forward together, be stronger together and triumph together,'” which was the team’s motto this year.

The Lady Huskies finished at 8-5 in a year when rival Hononegah went 12-1 to win the championship. In all, there were seven teams in contention for top spots right up until the last couple of games.

Normally, the NIC-10 girls basketball season begins in November and wraps up in February of the following year. This time, with a time-shortened calendar forced by the coronavirus pandemic, all games were played in the second portion of the season.

No matter what the 2021-22 school year brings, Coach Meyer is optimistic about it being a opportunistic time for her team.

Very few high school sports teams are in a position to say, after seeing what graduation has done to their starting lineup, that they’re in a position of reloading, not rebuilding. Harlem will lose three seniors this year, each an integral part of its basketball team. But on the upside there are reasons for coaches and fans to be optimistic about what the future holds.

First the losses, in the persons of seniors Ali MacGregor, Taylor Goodwin and Jasmine Wallace.

MacGregor is bound for Concordia University Chicago, in suburban River Forest, having signed a national letter of intent to attend that NCAA Division III school this fall. The Cougars are members of the 13-team Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.

She was all-conference during her junior year at Harlem, averaging 10 points per game while shooting 42 percent from the floor and hauling down an average of nine rebounds per contest.

This year she led the team by playing 344 minutes over the 13 games and grabbing 139 rebounds. She made 49 percent of her field goal attempts and averaged 10.4 points per game. Ali was a presence on defense as well, recording a team best 35 steals, 32 pass deflections and finishing second in blocked shots with six.

Goodwin played 257 minutes over 12 games, third high on the team, finishing with 24 steals, 19 deflections and corraled 25 rebounds. Offensively, she led Harlem with 25 assists, averaged five points per game and made a team-best 87.1 percent of her free-throw attempts (27-of-31). Wallace appeared in nine contests, totaling 51 minutes with five deflections, four steals and being one of two players to take a charge.

Coming back

The 2021 roster of 12 players showed seven juniors and two sophomores, giving Harlem a solid core to start the new season.

At 6-feet, 3 inches tall, junior Mya Davidson was the protector of the team’s paint. She was an intimidating factor defensively with 75 rebounds, and 14 blocked shots, the latter a high for the team, and a second-best 26 steals. Offensively, she led the Lady Huskies by averaging 13.2 points per game as she made 52.5 percent of her shots.

Three-year starter Julie Bailey, a junior and one of six guards, is due to come back and joins Davidson as a primary scoring threat. She averaged 11.1 points per game on overall shooting of 40 percent as Harlem’s main threat outside the 3-point arc, from where she nailed 20 shots last season. She had a sharp eye at the free-throw line, making 22-of-26 attempts for a team’s second best 84.6 percent. She played in 11 games, totaling 243 minutes, fourth high among her teammates.

On defense, she recorded 24 deflections and 19 steals.

Another guard, junior Myah Udell, played in all 13 games and totaled 219 minutes of court time. She averaged 2.7 points per game and went 9-of-12 at the free-throw line, for 75 percent. Defensively she had 16 deflections and nine steals.

The core of those who also got lots of playing time includes sophomores Nikki Harrison and Brooklyn Brien and junior Keyara Bailey.

Harrison, a forward, joined Davidson in making life difficult for Harlem’s opponents when they tried to get uncontested shots at the basket this season. She played in 12 games, logging 204 minutes, making 46.5 percent of her shots and averaging 6.3 points per game. She also had 23 assists. Defensively, she collected 52 rebounds, third best on the team, six blocked shots (tied with Davidson for second), to go with 23 deflections and 15 steals.

Brien, a guard, accumulated 138 minutes during her 10 games and picked up 19 deflections along with 25 steals.

Keyara Bailey saw action in 12 games and averaged 3.1 points per game while making 81 percent of her 11 free-throw attempts. She blocked two shots, had nine deflections and 10 steals.

“Finley Lafferty and Deyana Franco-Daye will continue to improve and contribute to the Huskies,” Coach Meyer said. “We are also excited about some of our current lower-level players, such as Paige Stovall, who rose to the occasion and had an impress stat line when she was moved up for the last two games of the year, to fill some gaps in the varsity lineup.”

She concluded by saying, “The future looks bright for this talented group, and I expect to be competing for a conference title again!”

Lafferty was in eight games and logged 63 minutes, grabbing 16 rebounds, blocking one shot and deflecting seven passes. Deyana Franco-Daye played in nine games, accumulating 48 minutes and blocking one shot.

Stovall played in the final two games of the season, counted 39 minutes of floor time, and finished 2-for-2 on shots from long range. She averaged four points a game, and had four steals. 

Alyssa Fulton and Makenna Corrigan had limited playing time. 

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