Area high school girls basketball teams are excited to play after it looked as though the buzzer was about to sound on the season.
The metro east moved to Phase 4 of the state’s Restore Illinois coronavirus mitigation plan on Thursday, ushering in the start of a condensed hoops schedule.
Waterloo opened its season Tuesday at Red Bud with a convincing 50-25 win. Waterloo’s full-court press defense gave Red Bud fits early and often and the Bulldogs led 22-4 after one quarter. The Bulldogs shot 60 percent from the floor.
The Bulldogs, who finished 11-16 last season, host Civic Memorial this coming Tuesday.
The only two returning starters for Waterloo in 2021 are sophomores Sam Lindhorst and Norah Gum, who both showed potential last season. Lindhorst averaged 8.5 points per game and Gum averaged eight points. Gum scored 17 points on Tuesday and Lindhorst scored 12.
Three seniors on this year’s squad are Anna Dawson, Claire Schultheis and Natalie Gum.
“We will have a couple of other sophomores and freshmen as well filling in for some minutes,” Waterloo head coach Tim Augustine said. “We are looking to using this year to grow as a program each and every day we get to play.”
Other players for the Bulldogs include juniors Ellie Schwehr and Madison Dougherty, sophomores Cali Smith and Rylee Ivers, and freshmen Olivia Colson and Katelyn Davis.
Gibault opened play Monday at Marissa with a 44-29 loss. The Hawks led 12-11 after one quarter but were outscored 24-11 in the second half.
Gibault is led by senior point guard Maddie Davis. The four-year starter averaged 10.2 points and nearly six assists per game last season for the Hawks, who finished 18-14 but lost top scorer and rebounder Ashlyn Wightman to graduation.
Davis scored 26 points to lead the Hawks in a 51-49 win at home Wednesday over Roxana.
Key returners with varsity experience include senior Melissa Bernal and juniors Alyssa Grither and Emma Blaskiewicz.
Three players with limited experience who are expected to step up include juniors Autumn Ramey and Sarah Ann Steibel and sophomore Emma Schmidt.
Newcomers are freshmen Kailynne Small and Bri Baldridge. Small scored nine points Monday night.
“It is going to be a fast and furious next 30-some-odd days, and with a short lead on full contact practices, I expect our seniors to lead the way,” Gibault head coach Matt Blaskiewicz said.
The Hawks host Roxana on Wednesday and Christ Our Rock Lutheran on Tuesday.
Columbia, which went 11-17 last season, looks to get back to its tradition of winning basketball in 2021. They’ll have to do so with a limited roster.
“We have seven players on the varsity roster this season, so it’s going to be important that our girls take care of their bodies during the 15-game schedule in five weeks,” Columbia head coach Scott Germain said.
Key returners for the Eagles include 6-foot-tall junior Taylor Holten, 5-foot-9 sophomore Karsen Jany and 6-foot-2 senior Ava Khoury. Holten and Jany averaged 8.6 and 8.3 points per game last season, respectively.
“We will be expecting big things from Taylor this year on the inside,” Germain said. “We will rely on Karsen to score from the perimeter and handle the ball for us this year. Ava is one of the strongest girls we have had come through CHS, and we look forward to seeing her shine during her senior season.”
Varsity newcomers include seniors Kelsey Ohlendorf and Natalie Busch, junior Alexa Hildebrand and sophomore Emily Holmes.
Valmeyer welcomes the return of its top scorer from injury and a new head coach – both with the same last name.
Tinleigh Jakimauskas, a senior, missed all of last season with a torn ACL but led the Pirates at 14.2 points per game as a sophomore.
Her father, Jason Jakimauskas, takes over as head coach.
“Big news for Valmeyer this year is our numbers,” he said. “This will be the first time in at least five years that we are able to have both JV and varsity teams.”
Valmeyer, which went 2-22 last season, hosts Red Bud on Thursday and plays Saturday at Marissa.
“Injuries and a low number of players left us to play a game with only three players at one point,” he said.
Other key players include seniors Ashlyn Berning and Brianna Miller.
“Everyone on this team has a specialty that is unique to them,” the head coach said. “It should be an exciting season.”
A Dupo squad that went 13-11 last season has eyes on winning more in 2021.
The Tigers return one of the area’s top players in 5-foot-9 junior forward Octavia Heidelberg. She averaged nearly 12 points and 15 rebounds per game last season.
“We only lost one player to graduation, so we’re pretty much the same team we were last year,” Dupo head coach Matt Carpenter said.
Other returning players are senior Maddie Esmon, juniors CeCe Armstrong, Abby Francis and Lexi Curtis, and sophomores T’Yonna Burris and Kyann Prater.
“Hopefully we all stay safe and healthy and can play as well as we did during our conference schedule last year and we’ll see what happens,” Carpenter said.
For a full schedule of local high school basketball action, click here.