The basketball season may be long over, but the 2021-22 Lady Jackets basketball team -- known by some as the "Magnificent Seven" -- has not been forgotten.
On Wednesday, April 27, coaches Clint Cowan and Amber Skorcz hosted an event to recognize and honor their Lady Jackets. Players and their families gathered in the CHS cafeteria to celebrate the season.
Cowan praised the efforts of the seven players who "stuck it out" for the entire season.
"We started the year with ten players. After a few weeks, three of them realized that basketball was not for them and they left the team," Cowan said. "All that was left was the seven girls that are here tonight, sometimes referred to as the Magnificent Seven."
The remaining Lady Jackets included one freshman, three sophomores, one junior and two seniors. Cowan shared praise on each of the seven.
On lone freshman Rylie Conley: "Rylie had a great first year. She needs to be a bit more vocal on the floor, but as a freshman, she contributed significantly and helped us out a lot," Cowan said.
Regarding sophomores Josalynn Anaya, Jazzi Merideth, and Emma Diskey: "Josalynn is a hard worker. I am excited to see her bud into a key contributor. Jazzi is a hard worker and our best defender, and Emma is dedicated and will do whatever we ask of her. I look forward to having them back next season," Cowan said.
On junior Camrynn Howie: "Camryn is our leader. She is communicator and is a great teammate to everyone on the team," Cowan said.
In praise of seniors Kailyn Absher and Alyssa Seymour, Cowan said: "Kailyn is very athletic. She is fierce and plays with physicality. Kailyn was selected as a member of the 2022 Lady Jacket Mid-Winter Classic Tournament. Alyssa is a very hard worker. She gets up and down the floor and has a great sense of finding the ball."
Cowan said throughout the season it was impossible to practice with just seven girls. "The seven we had, however, worked very hard each day. The first half of the season we lost several games because we got tired and were out of shape.
"In the second half of the season we got in shape because the girls worked very hard over Christmas beak and did what it took to get tough and conditioned. We seemed to really get our legs at our Lady Jacket Mid-Winter Classic Basketball Tournament. The last few weeks of the season we actually wore out several teams late in the game."
As a team the Lady Jackets scored 72 points twice last season, once against Gibault, 72-52, and again against Sparta, 72-36. The Lady Jackets had an overall record of 14-16 and a Cahokia Conference record of 4-6.
The Lady Jackets had numerous season records and key accomplishments. They won the Consolation Championship of the Gibault Candy Cane Classic with wins over Metro-East and Valmeyer.
The Jackets were runners-up in the 2022 Lady Jacket Mid-Winter Classic Tournament with wins over Cobden, 69-18, and New Athens, 45-38, to get into the championship game vs. the Freeburg JV. Chester lost a close battle late in the final quarter to the Midgets, 44-40, to take second place.
The 2021-22 Lady Jackets set a new team record for rebounds with 949 boards. The previous record was 906. Seymour set a new "best field goal shooting percentage in a single game" record, shooting 92% against Wesclin. The previous record was 91% set in 1999 vs. Roxana by Brittany Hiens. Seymour set a new single-season rebounding record with 386 boards. Hiens set the previous record of 286. Seymour also set a new career rebounding record with 843. She beat the previous record of 586 set by Jennifer Knowles.
Howie set a new game assist record with 12 against Gibault. The previous record was 10 held by Jennifer Hittmeier and Peyton Clendenin. Howie also set a new Lady Jacket single-season assist record of 160. She beat the previous record of 118 set by Destiny Williams.
Finally, Coach Cowan set a record of most wins by a first-year head coach with 14 wins, beating Connie Clendenin's record of 12.
On Thursday, Jan. 27, Chester hosted the No. 1 ranked team in Class 1A, the Okawville Lady Rockets. The girls from Chester lost that contest, 64-40, but stood proud against the best team in the state of Illinois in Class 1A.
That same week, the Chester Lady Jackets received 3 votes in the 2021-22 Associated Press Girls Basketball Poll. "This shows all the hard work that the girls had been doing. They're getting noticed. We are building something special with this program and I can't wait to see how it continues to grow," Cowan said.
The Jackets ended up fourth out of six teams in the Cahokia Conference Illinois Division. Seymour was voted to the 2021-22 All-Conference Team. Despite losing most of their scoring offense from last year's squad, the 2021-22 Lady Jackets averaged 6 more points per game that last year's team.
For their valiant efforts in 2021-22 every player earned a letter or pin. Coach Cowan praised each and every player for their hard work, dedication and loyalty to the team. Two major awards were presented -- Team Leader and the Most Valuable Player.
The Team Leader award went to Howie. "Camrynn took responsibility for the team. She kept everyone in line and always kept everything together. Cam was a true leader in every way," Cowan said.
Seymour was named the 2021-22 Most Valuable Player. Coach Cowan said, "Alyssa was selected to the All-Tournament Team of two of the four tournaments in which we competed this season including Gibault Candy Cane Classic, and the Lady Jacket Mid-Winter Classic."
Seymour was also named to the 2022 Cahokia Conference Illinois Division All-Conference Team; the 2022 All-South Team and named as an Honorable Mention on the Class 2A All-State Girls Basketball Team. She has signed to continue her basketball career next fall at Southwestern Illinois College (SWIC).
Cowan thanked assistant coach Amber Skorcz and volunteer assistant coach Rick Powley for their contributions to the success of the 2021-22 season.
"I had a blast with this team this year," Cowan said. "I really appreciate the parents who supported us throughout the year and thank the responsible players we had. You parents raised some really great kids. I look forward to next year."