Thankfully their good at basketball or all anyone might talk about was the green-tile walls.

Regina Dominican H.S. gym part of the photo series Illinois’ Best High School Gyms; Tip off at an Illinois varsity high school girls basketball game between the Crusaders of Christ the King from Chicago and the Panthers of Regina Dominican from Wilmette, at Regina in Wilmette on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024.

(Photo copyright of Vincent D. Johnson)

This all-girls Catholic school has the largest small gym I’ve seen.

The capacity of Regina Dominican High School’s gym, nicknamed “The Panther Pit,” is 425, but unlike other gyms of a similar capacity like Leo H.S. & Lindblom Academy it doesn’t feel like you’re packed in a sardine can.

The school was built and founded in 1958 and the gym resides on the second floor. Without a doubt the most eye-catching thing about this gym is its green-ceramic faced bricks that border the gym and makeup the walls of the balcony. If you’re there during the daytime, it’s likely you’ll see the second most noticeable feature of the gym. The court length bank of windows that run along one of the sidelines.

The final thing you’ll probably notice is there’s a balcony, but you’ve got to turn-around to see it and chances are in this smallish gym you’re probably going to end up sitting there.

Like I said, the gym is small, but the players’ benches are chairs along the sidelines and up against to the first row of the lower bleachers. There’s an adequate amount of room along both baselines and and the sides, but if you show up after tip-off you’re going to have to say pardon me a lot to get seat in the 4 lower rows left on the lower level, because they only have access during the game from on each baseline side.

The balcony, surrounded by the green tile, still has what looks to be the original wooden benches from when it was built. It’s normally when the student sections are and according to head coach Bob Newton it can get quite loud when it’s a full house.

Regina’s Catherine Conway (23) takes a shot in front of the team bench during a game against Christ the King, at Regina in Wilmette on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024.

(Photo copyright of Vincent D. Johnson)

Trend setters in girls basketball

The school in a way is responsible for helping bring girls’ basketball to what it is today. Former athletic director and head basketball coach Mike Small helped get the IHSA to implement full court basketball for girls. Yeah, you heard that right. At one point Illinois was only doing half-court games for girls’ hoops.

The girls team also set the record for most consecutive wins in the state, girls or boys. Going 62-0 from 1973-1977. It has since been overtaken on both sides, but according to the IHSA, there are only 6 teams total above them.

While that streak ended in the first ever playoffs for girls basketball in Illinois, the Panthers have had some playoff success. Two Final-Four appearances in 1984 & 2003, and Sweet-16 appearances in 2008, 2010, 2013, 2022, & 2023.

The second most noticeable feature of this gym is the bank of windows along the sidelines on the north side of the gym. Jillian DeFranza (22) goes up for a basket against Christ the King, at Regina in Wilmette on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024.

(Photo copyright of Vincent D. Johnson)

Is it time for a make over?

Yeah, it’s a slight play on words for the all-girls school, but a capital campaign has already beautifully rehabbed the lobby area and facade around the building the gym is in and a new roof and air conditioning are up next. There’s also some talk about sprucing up the look of The Pit. Which may include some coverup on the green bricks, but the gym’s layout will probably remain the same.

Will it still be a gym that would make it into the book 5 years from now? Only time will tell. Either way, it’s a unique space that’s worth a visit if your school has a game there.

The American flag as a backdrop for my photos never gets old. Regina Dominican’s Olivia Fraterrigo (5) stands at the line ready to shoot a free throw against Christ the King, at Regina in Wilmette on Saturday, Jan. 13, 2024.

(Photo copyright of Vincent D. Johnson)

For the record, I actually kind of like the green brick walls. It’s what drew me to the place.

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