'We’re like sisters': Brimfield cousins have girls hoops team ranked No. 1

Adam Duvall
Journal Star
Ella Lune listens as head coach Maribeth Dura speaks to the team during a timeout in the game against Annawan at Brimfield High on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. Brimfield beat Annawan 80-31.

BRIMFIELD — Ella Lune and Elynn Peterson are best friends.

They’re also neighbors, first cousins and senior starters on the No. 1-ranked Brimfield girls high school basketball team. The pair have guided the Indians to a 7-0 start, winning those games by an average of 45.1 points.

So, what else is there? Well, maybe one thing.

“It would mean a lot,” Peterson said of potentially hanging a championship banner in Brimfield’s gym. “We should have had one last year and to not get that is disappointing, so looking forward to that and surpassing what we did last year, I think, is going to be a very nice achievement for us.”

An undefeated season in 2021-22 and winning all games by least double digits will outdo last season’s pandemic-shorten campaign. The Indians, who are riding a 23-game win streak following last season’s 16-0 record, are relying heavily on the talents of Lune and Peterson.

More:Peoria High, Brimfield girls both No. 1 in first Illinois high school basketball poll

Lune, a 6-foot wing, comes off a 23-point performance from Thursday’s 80-31 win over Annawan. The all-stater averages 18 points, 10.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 3.3 steals and 2.3 blocks in just under 19 minutes a game.

Her game has seen quite the evolution since entering the program four years ago.

“Naturally, at the grade school level, you want a tall (player), you’re going to put them in the middle and try to have them outreach people,” Brimfield coach Maribeth Dura said.

Consistent improvement has made Lune a nightmare for opponents.

“She’s a terrible matchup for anybody,” Dura said, “because you bring her out, that (defender) is going to be done. She can drive the basket. She’s got pretty good speed. She’s now developed a 3-point shot, so now she’s a threat.

“She can do whatever you want her to do inside and outside.”

Last December, she gave her verbal commitment to Eastern Illinois, then signed her national letter of intent in the middle of last month. Lune says her recruitment was a little different due to COVID, but an overall ‘really fun’ experience.

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Ultimately, it came down to whether the Ohio Valley Conference school was the right suitor for Lune. She consulted with her parents and coaches to provide the clarity she needed on committing.

Ella Lune prepares to pass the ball while Annawan's Maddy Rusk guards her during a game at Brimfield High School on Dec. 2, 2021. Brimfield beat Annawan 80-31.

“We just decided that Eastern was the best fit for me,” she said, “and when I visited there, I knew I made the right choice. I met the girls and they treated me like I was already on the team. I’m just super glad I chose Eastern.”

On the other hand, Peterson found the recruiting process very stressful.

The 5-foot-5 point guard decided in May to play at Lincoln Land Community College. Peterson’s on-the-court production — 13.1 points, 4.6 assists and 4.0 steals — has proven her focus is on winning.

“When I did verbally commit, it was just a nice breath of fresh air,” she said, “and I didn’t have to worry about that anymore, so I was really relieved.”

Lune and Peterson go head-to-head in practices — never on the same team. This is nothing new having played with and against each other for their entire lives. Both players have honed their skills, especially Peterson, who has improved her ball handling, 3-point shot and finishing around the rim.

“It can be good and bad sometimes,” said Lune, who will guard Peterson. “We’re like sisters. We grew up with each other. It’s really fun to just be playing with my cousin. In practice, it can get a little rough, because we’re so competitive.

“… It can get a little heated sometimes.”

Those two along with junior Elly Doe (8.1 points, 2.1 rebounds) and senior Sophie Bedell (7.9 points, 6.7 rebounds) are doing more than enough to make up for the loss of reigning player of the year Haley Wallace.

More:Here are the Peoria area's top 18 high school girls basketball players

Wallace, a unanimous all-stater, is at Loyola playing softball. She scored 19.6 points a game, while grabbing 8.1 rebounds to go with 4.3 assists and 2.3 steals. Losing her production was a point of emphasis for Dura heading into the season.

“When we started this year, my goal with this team was, ‘We have to make up Haley’s points and we have to make up Haley’s rebounds’,” Dura said.

Seems like mission accomplished, so far.

Moving forward, Brimfield will get into the thick of its schedule starting next Saturday with a visit to Morton, ranked second in Class 3A. Eureka, which is No. 6 in Class 2A, is the following Monday on the road with a trip to 3A Dunlap on Dec. 21. The State Farm Holiday Classic in Bloomington-Normal comes after on Dec. 27.

The Indians, who will also travel to 3A Canton on Jan. 25, are still looking for competitive teams to fill out the last week of the season.

“When we play those teams,” Lune said, “we just get to show what we’re capable of, lose or win, we’re going to learn from this. We’re going to push ourselves to be better.”

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at aduvall@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.