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Lilly Dockemeyer, Lincoln-Way East top Sandburg

Lincoln-Way East’s Lilly Dockemeyer loves to shoot. Plain and simple.

Depending on the practice, the senior guard might put up as many as 75 shots.

That’s a lot, but she realizes the objective — winning, especially in the postseason.

“Every shot you take, you’ve got to have confidence it’s going to go in every single time,” she said. “Even though you’re not going to make every shot, you’ve got to shoot it when you’re open.”

Dockemeyer got open Tuesday night, hitting two big 3-pointers early that propelled the Griffins to a 60-39 victory over conference rival Sandburg in a Class 4A Joliet West Sectional semifinal.

Those shots by Dockemeyer would help build a 14-point lead at the end of the first quarter for Lincoln-Way East (28-5), which beat Sandburg (19-15) for a whopping fifth time this season.

Senior forward Lana Kerley led all scorers with 17 points and the 5-foot-9 Dockemeyer added a pair of rebounds for the Griffins, who will play another conference rival in Homewood-Flossmoor (22-7) at 6:30 p.m. Thursday for the sectional title. The Vikings beat Lincoln-Way Central 43-32.

For Dockemeyer, who finished with six points, the moment was easy peasy.

“I just caught the ball and I was wide open,” Dockemeyer said of her 3-pointers, which were the first points of the game for the Griffins. “I had confidence it was going to go in.”

Lincoln-Way East's Hayven Smith (42) blocks Sandburg's Ellen Driscoll layup during the Class 4A Joliet West Sectional semifinals in Joliet on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown).
Lincoln-Way East’s Hayven Smith (42) blocks Sandburg’s Ellen Driscoll layup during the Class 4A Joliet West Sectional semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

Senior forward Juliana Paddock and senior guard Noor Ali scored 15 points apiece to pace Sandburg. Ali hit four 3-pointers, all in the third quarter, as the Eagles battled to stay close.

It’s tough to beat a team three times in one season, much less five. And yes, Dockemeyer said the Griffins played like they had a chip on their shoulder, but it had little to do with the Eagles.

“I think it was pretty big for us,” she said. “I mean, it’s Sandburg, of course. But we want to do it for ourselves and do it for our teammates.”

Illinois recruit Hayven Smith, a senior center who had 11 points and nine rebounds Tuesday, agreed with Dockemeyer about the Griffins’ focus.

“It’s playing more games and playing more basketball with this group of girls,” Smith said. “It’s doing it for ourselves.”

Lincoln-Way East's Alaina Vargas (4) tries to get in the lane against Sandburg's Zoe Trunk during the Class 4A Joliet West Sectional semifinals in Joliet on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown).
Lincoln-Way East’s Alaina Vargas (4) tries to get into the lane against Sandburg’s Zoe Trunk during the Class 4A Joliet West Sectional semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

Dockemeyer, who started playing basketball in fourth grade, has developed into a top-level shooter from long distance in multiple ways, including putting up those extra shots in the gym.

Along with that, she has had stints with three club programs. And as a youngster, she also received a lot of help from Dave Esterkamp, the founder of The Ranch in Frankfort.

“When teams really try to take out Hayven inside, that opens up some shooters,” Lincoln-Way East coach Jim Nair said of Dockemeyer. “We wish we could get her a couple more shots because she’s one of the best shooters in the area.”

Nair confirmed Dockemeyer is a natural fit as a leader among the six seniors, with Kerley and Smith as captains. Dockemeyer’s style is predicated on picking up her teammates.

“When someone is having a bad shooting night, I just tell them to keep going, they’ve got it,” she said.

Lincoln-Way East's Lilly Dockemeyer (15) is boxed in by Sandburg's Ellen Driscoll (4) and Grace Fuller (1) during the Class 4A Joliet West Sectional semifinals in Joliet on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown).
Lincoln-Way East’s Lilly Dockemeyer (15) gets boxed in by Sandburg’s Ellen Driscoll (4) and Grace Fuller (1) during the Class 4A Joliet West Sectional semifinals on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. (Vincent D. Johnson / Daily Southtown)

Does she have to tell herself that? Sure, but there’s a Taylor Swift twist here.

“I have teammates tell me, that if I’m in my head, to shake it off,” she said.

It would seem that no matter what happens Thursday, Dockemeyer’s career is just getting started. She’s committed to play in college at Olivet Nazarene, which runs a unique system.

“They do a different style of play,” Dockemeyer said. “They go five in and five out, where you go hard for two minutes and then you sit.”

In other words, it’s like a shift in hockey. Go for broke, rest up, and then get back in.

“They want to shoot every possession,” she said.

Gregg Voss is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.

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