Pain worth the gain to Redhawks' Crissy
By Bob Sakamoto
Tribune staff reporter
March 8, 2003, 10:37 PM CST
Coach lauds her defensive ability
NORMAL, Ill. -- Rachel Crissy came walking gingerly out of the Redbird Arena locker room Saturday afternoon holding an icebag.

Where does it hurt?

"My face, my ribs and my knees," said Crissy, a 5-foot-8-inch junior guard who had to guard Regina Dominican's powerful 6-0 center Christina Quaye during the Redhawks' 56-54 semifinal victory. "This is worse than after a hockey game."

Crissy plays on a boys hockey team in Addison, and had to miss three basketball games this winter because of scheduling conflicts.

She had less than six hours to recover for the Class AA girls championship game victory, where she drew an even more difficult assignment: Fenwick's All-State center Erin Lawless. Crissy didn't fare quite as well and was switched off Lawless, who scored her team's first 12 points, after the first quarter. But after the overtime thriller, Crissy and the Redhawks were able to celebrate an unbeaten season and a state title.

Nothing exemplified Crissy's toughness more than the Quaye elbow to her nose in the fourth quarter that produced a trickle of blood. Crissy arose from the floor, wiped off the blood with a towel and re-entered the fray.

"I wanted to get to the state championship, and if it took physical punishment to get there, I was going to take it," Crissy said. "One time, I banged my knee against [Quaye], and another time she caught me with a shot to the ribs as we were fighting for position."

Crissy's close friend Candace Parker had 32 points and 11 rebounds while being freed up from having to bang around inside with Quaye. While reigning Ms. Basketball Parker is clearly Naperville's franchise player, Crissy is the team's secretary of defense.

"It tells you what we think of Rachel when we assign her to guard the other team's center, who is also their best player," said Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum. "She is our toughest player and the best on defense."

Crissy used up four fouls in making Quaye earn her 19 points.

"I went to see Rachel play hockey, and if you didn't know who she was, you couldn't tell she was the only girl out there," Nussbaum said. "She brings a toughness to our team that the others feed off of."

Crissy said Parker, her friend since the 6th grade, "pestered" her into coming out for basketball with her.

So Parker is to blame for all of this?

Crissy started to smile, but that only aggravated the facial pain, so she wound up grimacing. "If this is the price for playing in a state [final], I'm willing to pay it," she said.

Copyright (c) 2003, The Chicago Tribune