LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. -- Savannah Trees could ever have imagined Libertyville would roll through the regular season unbeaten.
If Trees could have foreseen it, she probably wouldn’t have said after Libertyville’s first victory back on Nov. 16 she wasn’t going to wash her uniform until the Wildcats lost again.
Eighty-seven days and 27 wins later, Trees has lived up to her promise, although some would probably wish she hadn’t.
“It’s not as bad as you think because I try to spray it with good smelling stuff,” Trees said, laughing. “My warm-up jersey, I usually eat stuff wearing it, so I sometimes spill on it.”
Trees can be forgiven for her off-the-court sloppiness because on it she’s been nearly immaculate. As Libertyville’s point guard, Trees, the ESPNChicago.com/Muscle Milk Prep Athlete of the Week, has a perfect blend of scoring and distributor to elevate the Tigers to being one of the state’s premier teams.
“What she brings to us outside of being a talented player is she’s one of the smartest players around,” Libertyville coach Kathie Swanson said. “She knows what to do and how to do it.”
The 5-foot-8 Trees prefers to be a pass-first point guard. It’s actually a mentality Libertyville's roster as a whole possesses. The Wildcats have succeeded beyond anyone’s expectations this season largely because they all share the ball so well.
In a win over Barrington in late November, seven players scored between four and nine points for Libertyville. Alex Haley’s nine points led the way. The game wasn’t an anomaly either. It was pretty average for the season.
“They don’t care how many points they score,” Swanson said.
Trees believes that, too, but there have been games in which she’s forced herself to be selfish for the team’s sake. There’s no better example of that than the Wildcats’ final win to complete their undefeated regular season.
On Wednesday in the North Suburban Conference championship game, Libertyville was tied with Wauconda 27-27 with five minutes to play. Trees read the situation and understood what had to be done.
“I needed to take it upon myself,” Trees said.
She drained a 3-pointer. She scored, was fouled and sank the free throw for another three-point play. She sank four more free throws. When the buzzer sounded, Tree scored the game’s final 10 points, and Libertyville had won 37-27.
Tree’s clutch performance was nothing new to Swanson. She’s come to expect Trees to play her best in the marquee games. Against New Trier, Trees had 17 points. Against Stevenson, she had 12 points, eight rebounds and four steals. She had 17 points in the championship game of the Mundelein holiday tournament.
“The bigger the game, the bigger she steps up,” Swanson said. “She knows her moments.”
And Trees looks forward to those moments.
“There’s definitely more excitement,” said Trees, who is often called Sav by her friends. “Everybody is pumped for those games. I think the excitement makes me play better. I know those are the games where I’m needed to step up and show leadership and make big shots. I love that role. There’s some pressure sometimes in that role, but I love that.”
Star players tend to embrace those tension-packed moments, but where Trees separates herself is she nearly enjoys practicing as much as she does playing in game. It’s something she picked up as a kid.
“I was bored, and I would go shoot in my driveway,” said Trees, whose older brother Josh was also a point guard at Libertyville. “I would get better and better. A lot of people don’t like practice. They like the game. Anytime I can be on the court, I love any chance I get. I love improving my game and being the best player I can be.”
Colleges of all levels have been in touch with Trees. While a Division I program could be an option for her, Trees is taking her time to decide.
“I don’t want to go somewhere and play my senior season and have to sit for three seasons,” Trees said. “I want to go someplace where I can play and maybe win at national championship.”
Before Trees makes her collegiate choice, she and Libertyville have plans for the playoffs. A season ago, the Wildcats won a regional championship.
This season, they’d like to at least win the school’s first sectional championship since 1994. And if Trees had her way, Libertyville would make it downstate, and she wouldn’t have to wash her uniform ever again.
Her parents wouldn’t mind that either.
“They think it’s weird, but it’s less laundry for them to do,” Trees said.