Herald-Whig

Illinois Girls High School Basketball Previews

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Illini West's Baylee Clampitt drives past a Bowling Green defender in last years Super Fan Shootout at QND. | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley
Michael Kipley 1|
Posted: Nov. 11, 2017 12:01 am

Brown County

Coach: David Phelps (62-51 at Brown County, fifth season; 139-82 overall, ninth season).

2016-17 season: 14-18 (4-5, fifth place in the Western Illinois Valley Conference).

Returning starters: F Mariah Markert, 6-0, Sr.; G Alexis Doyle, 5-5, Sr.; G Ally Heldt, 5-8, Jr.; F Kylie Moorman, 5-8, Sr.; C Hannah Ingram, 5-11, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: G Chloe Alsup, 5-6, Sr.; G Bre Gooding, 5-3, Jr.; F Kacy Dunlap, 5-8, Soph.; G Emma Volk, 5-4, Soph.

New faces: G Macy Blentlinger, 5-9, Fr.; F Belle Koch, 5-9, Fr.

Key losses: None.

Outlook: No team in the area will be as experienced as the Lady Hornets.

For the second straight year, Brown County returns everyone from the previous season. That starts with a pair of double-digit scorers in Markert with 12.5 points per game and Heldt with 11.4 ppg.

Doyle will bring ballhandling and perimeter play to the team, while Moorman and Ingram will be strong inside.

"We should be much deeper this year with nine returning letterwinners and a solid freshman class coming in," Phelps said. "We should have a good shot to compete for both a regional and conference crown."

Central-Southeastern

Coach: Matt Long (439-274 at Central-Southeastern, 25th season; 475-316 overall, 28th season).

2016-17 season: 30-4 (12-0, first place in the West Central Conference North and South Divisions).

Returning starters: G Laney Lantz, 5-7, Jr.; F Zakila Wiskirchen, 5-8, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: G Leah Turner, 5-6, Jr.; F Jacey Nall, 5-8, Sr.; F Khaleah Hughes, 6-0, Sr.; F Alivia Lantz, 5-7, Jr.

New faces: F Kennady Marlow, 5-9, Soph.; G Natalie Dearwester, 5-6, Soph.; F Mallori DeWitt, 5-7, Sr.; G Avery Waner, 5-6, Soph.

Key losses: F Kolby McClelland, F Brianna Hildebrand, G Alaina Vance, F Megan Lee.

Outlook: Rebuilding may not be the right word to describe the Lady Panthers' season. But they do have their work cut out for them.

Four of the top six players are gone from back-to-back Class 2A state tournament teams. There is still some talent, especially with Laney Lantz and Wiskirchen.

Lantz was the team's leading scorer last year with 16.8 ppg. Wiskirchen is a very quick player and one of the area's best athletes.

Long admits there are some question marks.

"We will have to develop a new identity," Long said. "But we have some solid players to build around. How quickly we develop leadership and trust will be a big factor."

Illini West

Coach: Grant Surprenant (114-46 at Illini West, sixth season; overall, same).

2016-17 season: 26-8 (6-2, second place in the West Central Conference North Division).

Returning starters: G Baylee Clampitt, 5-7, Sr.; F Rylie Harrell, 5-11, Sr.; G Kailee Artman, 5-5, Jr.

Other returning letterwinners: F Katie Rhodes, 5-7, Sr.; G Kendra Johnson, 5-6, Jr.; F Hannah Wood, 5-7, Jr.

New faces: G/F Gracie McDowell, 5-7, Jr.; F Destiny Shumaker, 5-8, Jr.; G Daytona Dooley, 5-4, Jr.; G Brooklyn Krueger, 5-4, Jr.

Key losses: G/F Brianna Grotts, G Erin Johnson.

Outlook: The Chargers turned in the program's first-ever Sweet 16 appearance last season. Don't be surprised if they take another step farther this year.

Three starters return, led by Clampitt, a three-year starter who scored 16.2 ppg last season. She is joined by Harrell and Artman in the lineup.

Illini West returns a deep bench, which will need to step up to replace Grotts and Erin Johnson. Last year's Chargers junior varsity team went undefeated at 17-0.

"Our goal is to build off last year's success," Surprenant said. "But we understand in order to do that, we need to work really hard as a team and focus on playing good team defense, rebounding well and control the tempo on the offensive end."

Liberty

Coach: John Leapley (63-32 at Liberty, fourth season; overall, same).

2016-17 season: 13-18 (1-3, fourth place in the West Central Conference South Division).

Returning starters: G/F Christen Balzer, 5-5, Sr.; F Taryn Roe, 5-8, Soph.; G/F Paige Knuffman, 5-7, Soph.

Other returning letterwinners: G Kenzey Wagner, 5-5, Soph.; G Allison Coonrod, 5-5, Soph.; F Faith Vance, 5-5, Jr.; F Whitney Parkhill, 5-6, Soph.

New faces: C Issy Gimm, 6-0, Fr.; G Jayden Schuette, 5-6, Fr.

Key losses: G Katelyn Obert, C Kaleigh Powell, F Autumn Buckley.

Outlook: The Eagles went through some growing pains last season but still managed to reach a Class 1A regional championship game where they lost to Unity.

Much of the leadership will come from Balzer, the team's only senior. Leapley is excited to return a talented sophomore class, which includes two returning starters in Roe and Knuffman. Roe led Liberty last year with 12.5 ppg and 6.0 rpg.

The Eagles will miss the all-around play of Obert.

"We have a lot of young players but they all played a lot of varsity minutes last season," Leapley said. "If we can get our competitiveness to make each of the kids play harder and as a team, we should be able to contend for a regional championship."

Pittsfield

Coach: Jeff Shireman (81-96 at Pittsfield, eighth season; 21st season overall).

2016-17 season: 15-17.

Returning starters: F Lilly Pepper, 5-10, Jr.; G Lauren Kennedy, 5-10, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: G Sydney Bauer, 5-6, Jr.; F Gretchen Wessel, 5-7, Jr.; F Abigail Heavner, 5-7, Sr.; G Madison Miller, 5-7, Sr.

New faces: F Chloe Lemons, 5-9, Fr.; G Chloe Walston, 5-5, Soph.; G Kayla Merryman, 5-5, Soph.; G Kara Williams, 5-5, Soph.

Key losses: G Maddie Palmer, F Katie Moore, F Katie Bland, G Kennedy Merryman.

Outlook: The Lady Saukees' program is now a three-school co-op, thanks to the addition of Griggsville-Perry. Pittsfield and Pleasant Hill have joined forces for nearly a decade.

The addition means that there is extra experience. That starts with Pepper, who developed into one of the area's top post players with 14.6 ppg and 8.4 rpg per game. Kennedy started for three seasons at Griggsville-Perry and will be instrumental for Pittsfield.

Shireman is excited to have more depth.

"That's going to be one of our biggest strengths," Shireman said. "We will have a size advantage over many of our opponents which hopefully we can use to our benefit."

Unity

Coach: Brad Begeman (153-54 at Unity, eighth season; overall, same).

2016-17 season: 24-11 (2-2, third place in the West Central Conference South Division).

Returning starters: G Katie Conry, 5-5, Sr.; F Addison Miller, 5-7, Jr.; G Kaylee Nichols, 5-7, Jr.

Other returning letterwinners: F Alaina Voss, 5-10, Jr.; F Addison Eger, 5-9, F Carson Moore, 5-9, Jr.; G Alyssa Steinkamp, 5-3, Jr.

New faces: G Morgan Kasparie, 5-3, Jr.; F Krista Schrader, 5-11, Soph.; G Kami Conry, 5-5, Fr.

Key losses: F Jordan Hildebrand, G Kaylee Kuhn, G Claire Rabe, F Piper Obert, G Haley Miller.

Outlook: Last year was a season of firsts for the Lady Mustangs. Their first sectional championship led to their first trip to the Class 1A state tournament and a second-place finish.

The top two scorers, Hildebrand and Kuhn, have graduated but Unity returns three starters. Katie Conry will be one of the team's top shooters, while Miller will bring two years of experience. Nichols did a lot of the ballhandling last season.

Begeman is looking forward to seeing what this team turns in.

"It will be a process as this group never really played together until this summer," Begeman said. "If we have quality practices and continue to work hard, we could possibly have a very solid team come February."

Western-Payson

Coach: Elizabeth Seals (22-8 at Western-Payson, second season; overall, same).

2016-17 season: 22-8 (3-1, second place in the West Central Conference South Division).

Returning starters: F Blair Borrowman, 5-9, Sr.; G Anna Melton, 5-5, Sr.; G Aftyn Harrison, 5-5, Jr.; G Haley Hickerson, 5-5, Sr.; G Kamryn Flesner, 5-6, Sr.

Other returning letterwinners: F Jordan Walston 5-7, Jr.; F Tori Predmore, 5-10, Jr.; F Savannah Hall, 5-8, Jr.; G Hannah Fry, 5-6, Sr.

New faces: F Riley Epperson, 5-11, Jr.; G Tori Schieferdecker, 5-7, Jr.

Key losses: None.

Outlook: Western and Payson Seymour both expected to return a lot of experience this season. That was increased when the schools decided to co-op.

The talent starts with Borrowman, a four-year starter who signed with Lindenwood University last week. Borrowman, who scored 21 ppg for Western last season, will be joined by Flesner and Hickerson, a pair of Payson products who averaged 16 ppg last winter.

Getting the chance to put the pieces together excites Seals.

"The co-op has created a very dynamic team," Seals said. "We will have many weapons and will make it very difficult for teams to scout."

West Hancock

Coach: Wilson Neill (13-19 at West Hancock, second season; overall, same).

2016-17 season: 13-19 (2-6, fourth place in the West Central Conference North Division).

Returning starters: G Kailee Pfeiferling, 5-10, Sr.; F Emma Knipe, 5-10, Jr.

Other returning letterwinners: F Lexi Carel, 5-10, Sr.; G Madisyn Andrews, 5-5, Jr.; G Myah Gray, 5-7, Soph.; G Krisama Greer, 5-6, Sr.

New faces: C Bailey Hollis, 5-11, Jr.; G Gracie Boyles, 5-5, Jr.; G Josi Radel, 5-6, Fr.; G Megan Fox, 5-5, Fr.

Key losses: C Olivia Gibbs, G Abi Shaw.

Outlook: The graduation of the 6-foot-2 Gibbs means the Titans will not have the inside presence they did a year ago.

So expect West Hancock to be quicker on both ends of the floor and shorter in the post.

Knipe, who is 5-10, will take over much of the load inside after scoring 7.2 ppg and grabbing 6.2 rpg last year. Pfeiferling, a four-year starter, returns and is a solid inside-outside contributor.

"I think we'll be much quicker on the defensive end and could cause problems for teams without quality guards," Neill said. "Our biggest issue will be our lack of size inside, but we will try to use our speed to make up for that shortcoming."