DECATUR — Last year didn’t end the way the girls basketball teams in the Herald & Review area hoped, with no teams making state and just one sectional champ.
The good news is there was a crop of underclassmen ready to continue the rich tradition set by teams like Central A&M, Teutopolis, St. Teresa and Nokomis — all programs that have cut down the nets in girls basketball state title games.
The one team that did win a sectional last year is one of the state’s most consistent winners. Teutopolis has won regional titles the last eight seasons and has only failed to win regionals four times in the program’s history (since the 1978-79 season). Jamie Sandschafer, Shelby Thompson and Raegen Drees will be tough to replace, but that’s what T-Town does. With coach Laurie Thompson entering her 12th season as head coach after serving as former coach Dennis Koester’s longtime assistant, the Shoes shouldn’t have any trouble reloading with seniors Jolene and Sadie Bueker leading the way.
Here are some of the top storylines entering the girls basketball season, which begins Monday night:
Much of the scuttle heading into the season is about Effingham. The Hearts have been a consistent winner under longtime coach Jeff Schafer, but this team has potential to be one of the Hearts’ best.
Not only do the Flaming Hearts return juniors Carsyn Fearday (15.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.2 steals) and Miranda Fox (9.6 points, 4 assists), along with senior Shelby Myers, they got transfer point guard Abby Weis from Effingham St. Anthony — who, along with Fearday — was H&R All-Area Second Team.
The area’s best player last year, Okaw Valley’s Paige Robinson, is looking for an encore performance to her H&R All-Area Player of the Year season last year. Robinson averaged
21.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 3.4 steals and 2.9 blocks last season, but could be even better last season after becoming more than just a shooter during the course of the year. She’s hoping to lead the team to more success as well after the Timberwolves fell to Central A&M in the regional finals.
Same old Raiders?
Last year, in what was a “down” year for Central A&M, the Raiders went 16-13 and won a regional title.
Winning a sixth straight regional won’t be easy. The Raiders lost Emma Meyer and Olivia Jordan, both contributors to the 2016 state runner-up team, though they return sophomore Channing Reed, who was a solid contributor as a freshman, and senior Taryn Sams. They also have one of the area’s best coaches in Tom Dooley.
Lincoln had been one of the area’s least successful programs for nearly a decade until coach Taylor Richmond and senior Kaelyn Froebe arrived. Poised for the team’s fourth straight winning season, Froebe is shooting for her third straight H&R All-Area First Team selection after averaging 18.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.8 steals and 3 assists last year.
Eisenhower has struggled record-wise in recent years, but has the potential to improve this year led by senior Seven Sassano.
Sassano could be the first player in Eisenhower history to collect 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds, and coach Sean Flaherty said she’s focused on improving her numbers (9.6 points and 12.3 rebounds) from last year. And, with some talent around her this year, this could be the Panthers’ best season in recent memory.