There wasn't room for just one atop the Three Rivers Conference girls' basketball standings last year.|
Instead, two teams ended up sharing the TRAC-9 crown, as reigning conference champion Riverdale (24-6) made room for Prophetstown (22-10) at the top, with each time winning 12 of 14 league games to finish one game ahead of another contender, Kewanee (21-9).
Having advanced to the Class 1A sectional final last winter, veteran coach Don Robinson's Lady Prophets return their two top guns in senior guard Cassie Reiley (14.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3 steals) and senior forward Riley Walters (10.5 points, 5 rebounds), but have to replace three departed starters, including honorable mention all-conference pick Catherine Medrano (7.5 points, 4.5 rebounds).
"The deal is, we're not scaring anybody size-wise," said Robinson, who enters his 36th season with a career record of 616-312. "But these girls played hard, and our fresh-soph team won the conference with a 14-0 record, so we're looking for some good things to happen. It make take awhile for (the younger players) to adjust to the quicker pace, but so far, practices have been pretty exciting.
"One thing, we've got to make sure we're organized. We're throwing in some new stuff right now, but still trying to keep things simplified.''
As far as the TRAC-9 race goes, Robinson always stresses throwing out what last year's team did, and instead focusing on what lay ahead for the Lady Prophets.
"A lot of it is mental,'' said Robinson. "We want to keep trying to improve, and not rest on our laurels.''
Riverdale, which saw its bid for three straight 2A regional titles snapped on its home court with a regional-final loss to Rock Falls, has a slightly stronger nucleus to work around this season, with three of the Rams' starters -- their top three scorers in 2011-12 -- all back.
Heading up that group is senior guard/forward Hannah Nimrick and her 16.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Classmates Elle May (11.5 points, 5.5 steals) and Jess Corson (8.5 points, 5.5 rebounds) provide further strength.
"Everybody can score; we don't just have one person to go to," said Riverdale coach Mick Kopriva. "If someone gets stopped, we have someone else who can pick up the slack, so we've got a pretty balanced attack. And, we've got some good speed too.
"Our numbers are a bit of a problem again, but as long as we stay healthy, we'll be right up there. We just can't afford to lose anybody.''
Looking to crash the party this winter is Erie (12-18), which returns three-fifths of its '11-12 starting lineup, although graduated standouts Taylor Stewart and Kali Unruh (between nine and 10 points per game) will be tough to replace.
But after falling one win short of the program's first regional title since 1985, the Cardinals feel like they're ready to take that next step.
"We took some big steps this past summer and did some nice things,'' said Erie coach Brian Howell. "The experience these girls got playing in the regional finals did a lot for their psyche and confidence, and we've got some big girls this year. We challenged them quite a bit this summer to see how they'd respond, and this team has a different mental makeup.
"We want to at least be in the top three in the conference, and look to contend for a regional title. These girls want that real bad; they've all got that can-do mentality.''
As for Kewanee, the Boiler Girls do have to replace leading scorer and rebounder Lexis Lozano-Blanks (11 points, 10 rebounds) along with fellow three-year starter Shannon Sellers' six points and seven boards per night.
However, coach Chuck Blake's three returning starters all averaged between six and eight points per game, with senior forward Eusebia Quintero putting up seven boards a night.
"We do have a pretty quick team, and we're counting on that to offset the fact we're not particularly tall,'' said Blake. "With us, we're going to try to use a lot of presses, trapping and things like that. We're a fairly good shooting team, and I think we have potential, but potential hasn't done anything for us yet (this season).''
At Fulton (11-20), hopes are high with the return of six letterwinners, including the entire starting five led by senior forwards Morgan Wierema (10 points, 10 rebounds) and Morgan Sanquist (9.5 points, 8 rebounds).
"I think the girls' expectations for this year are probably higher than the program has had for awhile,'' said Steamers' coach Jesse Abbott. "We got 11 wins, more than we'd had for some time, and the girls know the expectations for them are higher this year. They expect more out of themselves, and they're anxious to make a name for themselves.''
Both Bureau Valley (1-28) and Morrison (5-23) have new coaches in Tiffany Gonigam (a BV alum) and former Sterling Newman three-sport standout Tyler Whitebread, respectively. Both have their work cut out for them, particularly at BV, where the Storm take a 27-game losing streak into the new season.
THREE RIVERS CONFERENCE GIRLS' BASKETBALL CAPSULES
Bureau Valley Storm
Coach: Tiffany Gonigam (1st year).
2011-12: 1-28 (0-14 TRAC-9); lost 53-14 to Spring Valley Hall in the Class 2A Princeton Regional quarterfinal.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Cathy Johnston (5-7 G), Emily Mathew (5-9 F). Jrs.: Katelin Johnson (5-8 G), Nicole Bornsheuer (6-0 C), Lacey DeVenney (5-5 G).
Newcomers -- Srs.: Krista Naaktgeboren (5-5 G), Vikky Matuszewski (5-8 F), Susan Brummel (5-9 F/C). Jrs.: Christy Williams (5-7 G), Jazmine Delbridge (5-6 G), Shannon Rueter (5-6 G). Soph.: Heaven Bennett (5-11 F), Irini Petros (5-10 C).
Coach: Brian Howell (7th year).
2011-12: 12-18 (5-9 TRAC-9); lost 48-31 to Prophetstown in the Class 1A Erie Regional championship.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Desirae Lawson (5-9 F), Paige Rus (5-10 F), Kayla Waggoner (5-4 G), Victoria Young (5-7 F). Jrs.: Laykin Miner (5-4 G), Courtney Cobert (5-5 G).
Newcomers -- Jrs.: Lindsey Tempelmann (5-5 G), Lexi Floming (5-9 F), Bailee Claussen (5-4 G). Fr.: Peyton Rus (5-8 G), Rachel Cobert (5-9 F).
Coach: Jesse Abbott (2nd year).
2011-12: 11-20 (5-9 TRAC-9); lost 34-18 to Prophetstown in the Class 1A Erie Regional semifinals.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Morgan Wierema (5-11 C), Morgan Sanquist (5-8 F), Sam Raab (5-6 G), Katherine Wayne (5-6 G), Rachel McDonnell (5-10 F). Jr.: Rachael Beiermann (5-8 G).
Newcomers -- Sr.: Kelsey Leffler (5-8 G). Jrs.: Marla Stoecker (5-9 F), Amy Barzgari (5-7 G), Monica McMahon (5-5 G).
Kewanee Boiler Girls
Coach: Chuck Blake (7th year).
2011-12: 21-9 (11-3 TRAC-9); lost 52-51 to Spring Valley Hall in the Class 2A Princeton Regional semifinals.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Jen Ensley (5-7 G), Eusebia Quintero (5-8 F), Allie Brown (5-7 G), Kylie Smith (5-8 F), Cecilia Martinez (5-7 G), Amber Jordan (5-6 G). Jr.: Gabby Kubiak (5-7 F). Soph.: Raeshonda Chandler (5-9 F/C).
Newcomers -- Sr.: Makayla Jordan (5-10 C). Jr.: Jennifer Kubinsky (5-6 G). Soph.: Doriane Fontanze (5-9 F).
Coach: Tyler Whitebread (1st year).
2011-12: 5-23 (3-11 TRAC-9); lost 45-35 to Sterling Newman in the Class 2A Riverdale Regional quarterfinals.
Returning letterwinners -- Jrs.: Chelsea Eads (5-9 G), Brandi Hosford (5-9 F). Soph.: Lakin Goodman (5-10 G), Ashley Greul (5-11 C).
Newcomers -- Soph.: Adrienne Banks (5-10 F), Rachel Davis (5-5 G), Alyssa Canales (5-4 G).
Prophetstown Lady Prophets
Coach: Don Robinson (36th year).
2011-12: 22-10 (12-2 TRAC-9, co-champs with Riverdale); lost 36-24 to Freeport Aquin in the Class 1A Eastland Sectional championship.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Cassie Reiley (5-3 G), Riley Walters (5-6 F), Molly Corbin (5-4 G). Soph.: Clare Kramer (5-8 F), Corrie Reiley (5-2 G).
Newcomers -- Jrs.: Karlie Stafford (5-7 F), Kaeli Kovarik (5-3 G), Cydney Westen (5-7 F), Brooke Remley (5-7 F).
Coach: Mick Kopriva (20th year; 25 total seasons at Riverdale).
2011-12: 24-6 (12-2 TRAC-9, co-champs with Prophetstown); lost 48-40 to Rock Falls in the Class 2A Riverdale Regional championship.
Returning letterwinners -- Srs.: Hannah Nimrick (5-10 G/F), Jess Corson (5-7 F), Elle May (5-3 G), Breanah Lamb (5-7 F). Jrs.: Lauren Claus (5-2 G), Sydney Mericle (5-6 F).
Newcomers -- Soph.: Megan Groves (5-3 G), Hannah Arnold (5-6 F/C).
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