Deerfield freshman guard Nikki Kerstein is showing she belongs on the big stage.

A day one starter on the varsity, Kerstein is one of the breakout players this season. She added to her rapidly growing rep with a sterling showing in four games at the inaugural Morton College Girls Basketball Christmas Tournament in Cicero.

Kerstein scored a game-high 17 points to lead Deerfield to a 50-46 victory over Lake Zurich on Thursday in the consolation championship at Morton College.

Kerstein is just one part of a dominant sister combination, helping vault the Warriors into a legitimate threat for the Class 3A state championship.

Junior guard Lexi Kerstein added 6 points in the win over the Bears, with freshman guard Aubrey Galvan scoring 12 points and tallying 5 rebounds. Olivia Kerndt added 9 points for the Warriors (15-2).

“It feels great to do well against this competition,” Nikki Kerstein said. “It felt nice to play and do well against competition we don’t normally see. It’s all about team basketball for me, trying to get the win. I just want to be the best all-around player that I can be.”

The Bears (10-7) couldn’t duplicate the success from Wednesday’s win over Batavia. Lake Zurich was held under double digits in three of the four quarters, with Baylie Parks leading the team with 11 points and 8 rebounds

Lake Zurich freshman forward Avery Cooper, junior forward Brooke Wahlund and sophomore center Anna Gilbertson all finished with 9 points.

“I thought the game was fairly well played, but Deerfield hit shots when they needed to,” Lake Zurich coach Chris Bennett said. “We defended well, but we didn’t take advantage of opportunities. They’re a solid team, and will do some damage in Class 3A.”

After Galvan sank a long-range 3-pointer to open Deerfield’s scoring for a 3-2 lead, the Warriors never trailed the rest of the game. Nikki Kerstein, who was averaging 15.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 4.8 steals through her first 15 games, drilled a deep 3-pointer to push Deerfield’s lead to 29-25 with 3:19 left in the third. The Warriors held off a late surge by the Bears by making 5 free throws — 4 by Nikki Kerstein — in the last 31.7 seconds. The Kerstein sisters and Galvan combined for 11 assists in the win over the Bears to lead the Warriors to a 3-1 record in the tourney.

“This tournament told us a lot about who we are as a team,” Deerfield coach Nicole Keith said. “We played well under different situations against bigger teams. I’m pretty excited about playing at Hersey on January 4. That’s another game that will show us who we are as a team. Nikki played well and is learning to be a point guard and stepped up.”

Bennett said the Bears came away from the competitive tournament with several positives.

“I like the fact that we came out of this tournament knowing how close we are to being a really good team,” Bennett said. “We just have to take care of details. Avery had a bounce-back game, and she can play really well when she’s aggressive.”

By Bobby Narang
Daily Herald Correspondent

Updated 12/30/2021 7:11 PM