Here is a team-by-team look at Illinois high school girls basketball in the area:
Coach: Sarah Kearby (0-0 at Brown County, first season).
2011-12 record: 9-19 (3-5, fifth place in Western Illinois Valley Conference).
Returning starters: G Breanna Leerhoff, 5-3, Sr.; F Jenna Yingling, 6-0, Jr.; G/F Cheyenne Grainger, 5-8, Jr.; F Vanessa Markert, 6-2, Soph.; G Emily Kitchell, 5-6, Soph.
Other returning letterwinners: F Hannah Cross, 5-5, Sr.; G Emily Hendricker, 5-4, Sr.
New faces: G Megan Winston, 5-1, Soph.; G Emily Burgett, 5-2, Soph.
Key losses: G Aimee Kerley, G Payton McKinnon, G Melissa Kackley.
Outlook: The Lady Hornets graduated their floor general in Kerley but return five players who started a majority of the games last year. The team's nucleus revolves around Markert, who averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds per game, while being selected to the Herald-Whig all-area second team.
Leerhoff will be expected to step in at point guard, while Yinling and Grainger will give Markert help down low.
Kitchell will play on the perimeter along with Leerhoff.
"The graduation of Kerley leaves some big shoes to fill but we've got some players we're anxious to see step into game situations," Kearby said.
Coach: Matt Long (332-226 at C-SE, 19th season; 366-269 overall).
2011-12 record: 14-17 (3-2, third place in the West Central Conference).
Returning starters: F Erin Flesner, 5-10, Jr.; F Kaylee Irvin, 5-9, Sr.; G Kara Twaddell, 5-7, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: G Dakota Limkemann, 5-6, Soph.; F Madison Steinkamp, 5-11, Jr.
New faces: G Malarie Myers, 5-7, Sr.; F Tori Conover, 5-11, Sr.
Key losses: F Alivia Nelson.
Outlook: The Lady Panthers are coming off an uncharacteristic sub-.500 season. C-SE's primary goal remains the same -- controlling the tempo on both ends of the floor.
Nelson's production will be missed after averaging 15.7 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. More than one player will need to step in for her.
Flesner and Twaddell will be looked on to continue their improvement from last season, while more will be expected from Irvin.
Myers, a starter two years ago, is back after sitting out last season with an injury. Limkemann and Steinkamp will try to crack the starting lineup.
"Our strength will be our size and we will need to become stronger with the ball," Long said. "Our success will depend on how hard we work and if we are hungry enough."
Coach: Josh Arnsman (0-0 at Griggsville-Perry, first season).
2011-12 record: 6-20.
Returning starters: F Alyson Bingham, 5-9, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: G Frankee Craven, 5-5, Soph.; G Morgan Huddleston, 5-5, Sr.; F Karissa Sidwell, 5-8, Sr.; G Jodi Finney, 5-5, Jr., G Haelee Harris, 5-4, Jr.
New faces: G Ashley Scranton, 5-5, Soph.; G Mikayla Smith, 5-6, Fr.; C Kobie McCallister, 5-10, Fr.; G Kelsy Scoggins, 5-4, Fr.; F Rachel Lightle, 5-6, Soph.
Key losses: C Marlee Bradshaw, F Jackie Bingham, G Alana Brown.
Outlook: In his first season in the Griggsville-Perry system last winter, Arnsman coached the eighth-grade team to an Elite Eight finish in the state tournament. He hopes some of that success carries over to the high school level.
It'll be a challenge. Of the 11 players in the program, six are freshmen and sophomores.
The most experienced returner is Alyson Bingham, who is a three-year varsity returner.
"We're going to be young. A lot of these players have not seen much time on the varsity court," Arnsman said. "We're not going to be very big so we're going to try to create some turnovers and get some layups."
Coach: Grant Suprenant (0-0 at Illini West, first season).
2011-12 record: 17-13 (8-2 in the West Central Conference).
Returning starters: G Graci Bastert, 5-6, Jr.; F Elyce Trout, 5-8, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: G Jessica Fox, 5-6, Sr.; G/F Aubrie Carlisle, 5-8, Soph.; G Michaela Gronewold, 5-6, Soph.; F Shelbi White, 5-10, Soph.; G Josie Finch, 5-5, Soph.
New faces: F Abbey Douglas, 5-10, Sr.; F Holly McDowell, 5-10, Sr.
Key losses: G/F Lauren Gronewold, G Katelyn Jacoby.
Outlook: A topsy-turvy offseason wrapped up with the hiring of Suprenant, who spent last season as an assistant coach at John Wood Community College.
It'll be tough for him to replace the experience of graduates Lauren Gronewold and Jacoby, who averaged nearly 27 points per game last season.
But a youth movement should pay dividends this season.
Bastert, limited with back ailments early last season, rounded into strong fashion, averaging 10 points, 2.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, while Trout's playing time increased down the stretch.
Fox is the only senior with much playing experience, while a strong sophomore quartet of Carlisle, Michaela Gronewold, White and Finch steadily improved last season.
"It's hard to replace anyone who averaged what Lauren did," Suprenant said. "We need to find one or multiple players who can fill that void on the offensive and defensive end.
"This team has gotten better every day and has shown flashes of how good we can be which is exciting."
Coach: Brad Bergman (0-0 at Liberty-Payson, first season; 22-37 overall, second season).
2011-12 record: 10-18 (2-5 in the West Central Conference).
Returning starters: G Lanessa Graham, Sr.; F Maranda Neisen, Sr.; G Katelyn Wolf, Jr.; G Kristen Loos, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: F Brooke Wiewel, Soph.
New faces: G-F Shelby Wellman, Sr.; G Ashlyn May, Sr.; G-F Madelyn Hyer, Fr.; F Makayla Buckley, Fr.; G Katie Cook, Fr.; G-F Michaela Leapley, Fr.; G Ashley Lefringhouse, Fr.; G Hope Rush, Fr.; G Adrian Siebers, Fr.
Key losses: G-F Kara Larson, G Keylee Gregg.
Outlook: Bergman is anxious to welcome some experience to the Lady Eagles in his first season as head coach.
He realizes, though, he will also need to rely on youth.
The senior trio of Graham, Loos and Neisen gives Liberty some much-needed experience and leadership. Wolf, a junior, will also give the Lady Eagles scoring production.
After that, Liberty gets young in a hurry.
"The keys to being successful will start with learning a new system," Bergman said. "Some would call this a rebuilding year, yet we are preparing and working to win today."
Coach: Jeff Shireman (14-14 at Pittsfield, second season).
2011-12 record: 14-14.
Returning starters: G Shea O'Brien, 5-5, Sr.; F Addi Lagemann, 5-9, Sr.; F Alyssa Heavner, 5-9, Sr.; G Cady Klatt, 5-5, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: G Allie Hoover, 5-6, Soph.; G Jaylee Clements, 5-5, Jr.
New faces: G Brittany Miller, 5-5, Sr.
Key losses: F Laura Chamberlain, F Sydney Hawley, F Lorren Newingham, G Ashlee Dilley.
Outlook: One of the area's top returning scorers is back along with a strong supporting cast.
O'Brien is a four-year starter who poured in 19.8 points per game last season, while surpassing the 1,000-point plateau for her career. However, teams have learned not to focus their defensive energy solely on O'Brien.
Heavner was third on the team in scoring with 6.1 points to go with 6.1 rebounds per game. Lagemann and Klatt are also solid role players.
Shireman was satisfied with how his team played this summer.
"I was pleased with our play, teamwork and scoring distribution, which will be a key factor in this year's team success," Shireman said. "Overall, I am very pleased with our senior leadership and the desire for all our players to become better in practice."
Coach: Brad Begeman (41-15 at Unity, third season).
2011-12 record: 25-6 (6-0, first place in the West Central Conference).
Returning starters: G-F Breanne Begeman, 5-9, Sr.; F Brooklyn Moore, 5-10, Sr.; G Jill Donley, 5-4, Sr.; G Maggie Bowles, 5-7, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: F Whitney Murphy, 5-9, Jr.; F Libby Beers, 5-9, Jr.; G Ali Koehler, 5-4, Jr.; F Lexi Bohan, 5-7, Jr.
New faces: None listed.
Key losses: C Rachel Rush, F Kylee Churchill, G Bekah Tallcott.
Outlook: Last season ended with a loss to South Fulton in the Class 1A regional championship game. The Lady Mustangs have their sights set higher this time around.
Unity returns one of the area's best 1-2 punches in Begeman and Moore. Begeman averaged 14.5 points and 9 rebounds per game, while Moore checked in at 13 points and eight rebounds. Donley is back at point guard, while Bowles was the team's first player off the bench last season.
The Lady Mustangs didn't go very deep last season so there will be some inexperience.
"This group of girls have a great work ethic and play tremendous team ball," Brad Begeman said. "We have many offensive weapons and I expect to see some huge breakout games from several players this season."
Coach: Adam Brumbaugh (27-32 at West Hancock, third season).
2011-12 record: 16-14 (5-1, second place in the West Central Conference).
Returning starters: G Allison Dewald, 5-3, Jr.; G Shelby Koehler, 5-4, Jr.; G Madison Harmon, 5-6, Sr.; G Carly Runge, 5-6, Jr.; C Alexis Dooley, 5-10, Soph.; G Haleigh Hammel, 5-6, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: C Keaghan Shacklett, 6-0, Soph.; F Aleetha Mulch, 5-5, Soph.; G Taylor Kropp, 5-3, Soph.; F Allyson Buckert, 5-4, Soph.
New faces: G Ashley O'Dell, 5-5, Jr.
Key losses: G Jacey Hartweg, G Kelly Dorethy, F Kyra Koehler, F Faith Spory.
Outlook: The Titans improved their win total by five victories last season. They hope to turn that into contention for a regional title this year.
West Hancock graduated one of the area's best offensive weapons in Hartweg, but return plenty of scoring. Five returners scored at least 5.9 points per game last season, led by Dewald's 7.5 ppg to go with 3.6 steals per game.
The Titans will be a perimeter-oriented team although Brumbaugh is excited about the development of Dooley, who grabbed 5.1 rebounds per game last season to go with 5.9 points.
"We'll have a young team but our experience from the past two seasons will make us a hard team to beat," Brumbaugh said. "We hope to continue moving up the ladder again this season."
Coach: Jim Shields (6-20 overall, second season at Western).
2011-12 record: 6-20.
Returning starters: F Amber Platt, 5-6, Sr.; G Rachel Motley, 5-6, Sr.; G Loren Melton, 5-6, Soph.; G Morgan Ryan, 5-4, Sr.
Other returning: G Jayme Brace, 5-4, Sr.; C Evan Colston, 5-10, Jr.; F Shannon Gates, 5-9, Jr.; G Alexis Christison, 5-8, Soph.; Alexis Bellovich, 5-8, Soph.
New faces: G Makayla Robbins, 5-5, Soph.
Key losses: F Jaime Lister.
Outlook: The Wildcats hope to draw upon the knowledge and wisdom of a 30-year coaching veteran to win a few more games this season.
Western returns most of its players from last season. Motley was the team's leading scorer with 15.8 points per game, while Ryan followed with 13 points. Platt and Melton also emerged as capable scoring weapons.
Nine players with previous varsity playing time makes this one of the deepest Western teams recently.
"This season will challenge how far the seniors have come and how much very talented junior and sophomore classes will support them," Shields said.
-- The Herald-Whig Staff