Like many student-athletes, Marist senior Le’lani Harris has been looking forward to her senior season.

She looked forward to being a team leader, a huge contributor and helping lead the RedHawks to a big season.

For Harris, there was another reason.

She wanted to savor her senior season with Mary Clare “MC” Brusek and Emily Bojan, her friends and teammates going back to the trio’s days at Queen of Martyrs Elementary School.

“We’ve been playing together our entire lives. We don’t even know playing without each other,” Harris said. “We’re really going to enjoy this year together. It’ll be bittersweet. We knew our senior year could be our best year. We always want to end strong.”

Opening the season on Nov. 17 with a home nonconference game against Crete-Monee, Marist rolled to a convincing 67-38 victory.

Senior Kira Chivers led the way with 17 points and 6 assists to go with big efforts from Brusek (14 points, 7 rebounds), Harris (12 points, 7 rebounds), junior Elise Ward (10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks) and Bojan (3 points, 8 rebounds, 2 steals).

The Harris-Brusek-Bojan combo was a standout trio for Queen of Martyrs during their elementary school days.

The girls started playing together in first grade at school and then joined the school’s team in fourth grade.

Over the next five seasons, Queen of Martyrs went a staggering 202-4, including a 45-0 mark as eighth-graders.

The Wildcats won both the Southside Catholic Conference and South Suburban Basketball League in eighth grade.

The next year at Marist, all three were on the varsity as freshmen.

“[Coach Mary Pat Connolly] even teases us, ‘Oh, those Martyrs girls,’” Brusek said with a laugh. “Every year, you know it’s going to be a big step up from the past. Now we’re seniors. We’re all excited for that and that we’ll be able to do it together.”

Up on the varsity since they were freshman, the Martyrs seniors have seen their roles increase with each passing year.

In last season’s shortened COVID season, all three girls were key rotation players for the RedHawks.

Now with star Sydney Affolter a freshman at the University of Iowa, the spotlight is focused on Marist’s senior class. The Class of 2022 is ready to go.

“We definitely have so much talent right now. We have such good team chemistry,” Bojan said. “That’s a huge plus. All our seniors have been playing together since freshman year. We’ve been building on that. It’s such a great class.”

Harris, a quick guard who can shoot from the perimeter or drive to the hoop, will be counted on to help shoulder the scoring load as part of a balanced attack.

“We love Syd. We’re supporting her, and we know she’s supporting us,” Harris said. “It’s good for us this year. This is our time, our turn. We’re taking advantage of this opportunity we have.”

Harris has not committed for college yet, but she plans to continue her academic-athletic career at the collegiate level.

Brusek and Bojan have both committed already in other sports, Brusek with Western Michigan University for volleyball and Bojan with the University of Wisconsin for softball.

For both athletes, it was essential to keep playing basketball.

“I knew I was going to play,” Brusek said. “I’ve had that goal since freshman year that I wanted to play double sports all four years. I’ve had that in my mind. I can’t leave this group of girls. They’re amazing, and everyone is so supportive.”

Bojan said the same concerning going out for basketball this year.

“I know my grandpa would have been devastated if I didn’t,” Bojan said. “I love Coach Connolly and this team. I wanted to finish out this ride with Le’lani and MC and all our seniors. It’s awesome being able to come out here, get a little break from softball and have such a fun time.”

Marist finished 17-1 last year, winning the conference tournament in a season when no state series was hosted.

The RedHawks have high hopes with a traditional winter season, starting with their senior class and the Queen of Martyrs trio.

“It’s amazing. You can tell they know each other so well,” Connolly said. “They’re so accountable to each other. You’d think they’d fight like sisters, but they don’t. It’s a thing of beauty when they get out on the court together and start running.”