Judah's Chambers, Lee a dynamic pair
CHAMPAIGN — They are the area’s best Dynamic Duo: Chambers and Lee.
Or perhaps, Lee and Chambers.
They don’t wear capes, but they have been known to pull off heroics. The names may sound like a law firm, but they represent the individuals who form the No. 1 set of scoring teammates among East Central Illinois girls’ basketball teams.
Kristina Lee is the area’s No. 1 scorer. Leslee Chambers also ranks among the top 10. Collectively, they’ve combined for as many as 96 percent of Judah Christian’s points in some games. Chambers and Lee each have had nights with at least 25 points, and they are teaming up for nearly 39 points per game.
On Thursday, there was more involvement from teammates, but the Tribe suffered a 58-49 loss to Decatur Lutheran in an East Central Illinois Conference contest. Lee totaled a game-high 25 points, and Chambers had 11 points to go with a team-high 15 rebounds.
They are the school’s lone senior players and two of the three non-freshmen on the varsity roster. Though the fourth-year varsity players have improved since they were ninth-graders, what makes them the happiest are the contributions of the school’s non-seniors.
“We can’t do it alone,” Chambers said. “We’re a five-person team, and all five need the same focus and to do this together. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on the younger girls taking the next step.”
It’s a work in progress. Freshman Brooklyn Harris made both of Judah’s three-pointers and finished with seven points.
“The culture at Judah is changing because of our freshmen, and it’s a great opportunity for Kristina and I to take the freshmen under our wings and say, ‘This is the way we need to play, with this heart and passion,’ ” Chambers said.
“As seniors,” Lee said, “it’s our responsibility to be leaders and set the example.”
A loss in the conference opener isn’t a discouraging sign for the Tribe.
“It’s through hard times that we’ll make ourselves better,” Chambers said. “It’s a fun process seeing the freshmen grow.”
Lee and Chambers remain the focal points of opposing team’s defenses, yet they continue to register double-doubles like they did against the Lions. Lee grabbed 12 rebounds.
“Other teams zero in on them,” Judah coach Chris Chambers said, “but they’re able to rise above that. They’re bigger, faster and more confident this year. They have that senior mentality.”
The players are successful because they know each other — and their moves — so well.
“Kristina and I have played with each other since fourth grade,” Leslee Chambers said. “We know where the other person is on the court. Each year we’ve taken great leaps and grown into basketball players and leaders. We’re enjoying the game and cherishing our time as seniors.”
Chris Chambers expected the production he has seen from his senior duo.
“Two years ago, Kristina had some breakout games as a sophomore,” he said. “This year, she has been very consistent and, at times, it doesn’t seem like she can miss.”
As for his daughter, he added, “She has always had a positive leadership attitude and is about the hardest worker. She played a lot of basketball in the offseason, and that gave her the confidence to play against the bigger, faster players.”
One of Thursday’s spectators — for a portion of the first half — was UI women’s coach Matt Bollant, whose squad had a home game two hours after the Judah game tipped off.
Chris Chambers said it’s not intimidating to have the Illini coach — who has children attending Judah — in the bleachers.
“He always has an encouraging word,” Chris Chambers said.
Leslee Chambers appreciated Bollant’s gesture to see part of the high school game.
“We love Coach Bollant and thought it was very supportive of him,” she said.
With nine players on the team, Judah is unable to play junior varsity games, but Chris Chambers said the outlook is bright. Six of the squad members are freshmen.
“The last two years, we survived the low numbers,” he said. “Now we’re back on good footing. It’s a good freshmen group, and they’re getting a lot of playing time.”
There’s never a moment in a game where at least two ninth-graders aren’t on the court. At times, three freshmen join Leslee Chambers and Lee, both of whom played all 32 minutes against Decatur Lutheran.
“They realize they have an important part on the team,” Leslee Chambers said. “We asked the freshmen to pick one word to describe how we’re going into the new (calendar) year and they had words like positivity, effort, legacy, purpose and encouragement. We’re coming together.”
Junior Allison Wolf, whose 15-footer broke an 8-8 first-quarter tie, grabbed six rebounds for Judah (7-7). Allison Conway and Brooklynn Durst are the two freshmen who started against the Lions. Harris was the first player summoned from the bench in the opening quarter.
“We’ve had great wins and big slumps,” Leslee Chambers said. “We’ve gone through struggles, but we’re able to have so much fun. This year has been more fun than ever.”