Change of Heart Helped Tinley Park's Lorenzen Enjoy History-Making Girls Basketball Career
Reliving the Glory Days: Tinley Park basketball program's all-time leading scorer Keri (Lorenzen) Cialdella led Titans to the IHSA girls state tournament in 1988-89.
Keri (Lorenzen) Cialdella quickly realized her first impression of Central Middle School basketball coach Lou Broccolo was exaggerated.
It did jumpstart her basketball career, however.
“In my eyes, he was this big Italian guy with veins sticking out of his neck,” Cialdella said with a laugh. “He told me, ‘You’re going to play basketball.' I was like, ‘OK.' I had no intentions of playing basketball and then I walked through the junior high doors and saw Lou and everything changed. I credit Lou with my basketball career.”
What a career it turned out to be.
After being a two-time all-conference player at Central Middle School in Tinley Park, Cialdella went on to become Tinley Park High School’s all-time leading scorer before graduating in 1989.
“She claims that I scared her into playing and maybe I did, my voice is kind of deep and growly,” Broccolo said. “Keri had the gumption to come out and it turned out she liked it and was really good at it. She worked at her game and got very good. I coached 28 years and had a lot of really good players, but Keri and (Tinley Park teammate) Kathy Nolan were the best I ever coached.”
Middle School Pact to Make History
It was during middle school, when Cialdella and some of her teammates made a pact to lead Tinley Park to the state tournament for the first time.
“We wanted to go downstate by the time we were seniors,” Cialdella said. “When we got to Tinley Park, that was our mission. It was strong on our mind the whole time. We were dead set on making it and were willing to put blood, sweat and tears into it.”
Cialdella was promoted to the varsity ranks as a sophomore and when her junior high teammates joined her as juniors, they led Tinley Park to a 24-5 campaign.
That success set the stage for the 1988-89 season, but the Titans received a wake-up call with a season-opening loss to Joliet West.
Tinley Park bounced back to win its next 29 games and secured the program’s first and still only trip to state.
“Nothing was going to stop us from reaching our goal,” Cialdella said. “I was fortunate to play with the group of girls I did and to make it down with my sister (Lauri) was spectacular. I felt like I was in the spotlight a lot more, so she didn’t have the opportunity to shine as much as she could’ve, but I learned a lot from her playing at home all the time.
“It was great to experience. We played in tiny Tinley Park gym, so to play in such a huge stadium, and have so many fans and family, was exciting. (Former Tinley Park coach) Jay Lundy did a good job of bringing us all together.”
Tinley Park (29-2) lost to New Trier by four points at state.
Cialdella, at 6-foot-4, was the tallest player on the team, but there was plenty of height to go around. Alison Jurges, Lolita Gill, Dawn Piech, Beth Conley and Lauri Lorenzen were all at least 5-11. Kathy Nolan shined as the team’s point guard, while Tammy Morgan, Joy O'Donnell and Patty VanKuiken also contributed.
“We were devastated when we lost, but I was super proud of the girls,” Lundy said. “We will all remain friends forever. It was just a dream team and I loved coaching them. They were all outstanding academic students. The families of the girls were very supportive and almost like a second family to me. Everyone got along and there were no quarrels, jealousy or animosity.”
Lundy wasn’t surprised by what Cialdella, who went on to play at DePaul, was able to accomplish.
“I played college ball, but playing defense on Keri at practice put bruises on me,” Lundy said. “She was big and strong and just a tough player. She had a lot of excellent and unselfish players surrounding her and that made her a better player.”
Cialdella averaged more than 21 points and 12 rebounds as a junior and senior, but was quick to pass the buck for her success.
She is the school’s all-time leading scorer and is likely the career leader in rebounds.
“I got a lot of credit because I was the tallest, but I give my teammates a lot of credit,” Cialdella said. “I wouldn’t have done anything without them. We truly were a team. It’s an honor to hold that record, but my driving force was the goal we had to make it to state.”
COMING THURSDAY: Log on at 6 a.m. Thursday to find out what Keri (Lorenzen) Cialdella is doing now.