Watseka/Central Girls Basketball

Central’s Kamryn Grice looks for an open shot over Watseka’s Kennedy McTaggart during a game in Watseka last season.

Last season, girls basketball in the Sangamon Valley Conference came down to two teams, with Watseka barely edging out Paxton-Buckley-Loda for the conference crown.

With the top teams returning most of their top players, the shortened 2021 season will be an interesting race, as the Warriors will have some competition to fend off in the final year of the SVC.

Watseka brings back its fab 5

Watseka head coach Barry Bauer is lucky enough to bring back all five of his starters from last season, which includes three all-conference and Daily Journal All-Area players.

Natalie Schroeder, Kennedy McTaggart, Kinzie Parsons, Allie Hoy and Sydney McTaggart are set to return as starters for the second straight season. In addition, the Warriors will return their entire roster from last season, excluding the graduated Kadyn Stevens.

After finishing last season 22-9 and 6-0 in the SVC, Watseka hopes to win its fourth straight SVC title.

“We’re returning our entire roster except for one senior, so we have high expectations,” Bauer said. “With no postseason schedule, winning the conference will be our top goal this season, especially since it is the last year of the SVC.”

Trojans to rely on veterans

First-year head coach Chuck Butterbrodt is preparing his squad to take the next step after Dwight finished below .500 and just two games back from Watseka in the SVC last season.

The Trojans will be led by their five seniors, including senior letter winner Kayla Kodat, who averaged a team-high 17.5 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last year. Outside of its seasoned veterans, Dwight will look for some key contributions from nine underclassmen, which includes five freshmen.

“We’re excited about getting back in the gym and being able to get games this year,” Butterbrodt said. “I am looking forward to the senior leadership of the five returning seniors this year.”

Cissna Park ready to keep learning

The Timberwolves only won one game in conference last season, but don’t expect that to happen again under sixth-year head coach Anthony Videka.

Cissna Park didn’t lose a single player to graduation last season, so the Timberwolves will be heavily loaded with seniors this upcoming season.

This year’s roster features five seniors, including Mikayla Knake and Kenadee Edelman. Both players were named all-conference selections last season, and together they will look to help freshmen Addison Seggebruch, Morgan Sinn, Regan King and Brooklyn Stadeli gain valuable experience playing in both varsity and junior-varsity competition.

“We have a young team, including our seniors,” Videka said. “Even though we have limited experience, we can see improvements when comparing ourselves to last season. This season will be a turning point for our program.”

Raiders ready to do all of the little things

After a disappointing season that resulted in just eight wins for Iroquois West last season, Kristy Arie is determined to make the Raiders’ presence known within the SVC through hard-nosed defense.

This year’s squad lacks some perimeter shooting. However, similar to many of the SVC schools this season, Iroquois West will return all five of its starters from last season.

The Raiders will lean on seniors Shelby Johnson, Emma Lopez and Ashton Miller for a majority of their offense; meanwhile, freshman guard Ilyana Nambo is expected to see some quality minutes at either point guard or shooting guard.

“We aren’t a great shooting team, but I look for us to work hard on the defensive end and to do the little things that will give us a chance to compete in most games,” Arie said.

Redskins bring in new faces

Unlike most schools in the conference, Momence has many moving parts this season.

On top of introducing Rebekah Wigmore as the new head coach, the Redskins also are bringing in two foreign exchange students in Margherita Costi and Giuliana Alaimo.

They will join Adyson Duran and Celeste Rose, who are both set to make their returns to the court this year after injuries kept them away from the game.

Kaitlyn Piekarczkyk and Alicia Cruz are expected to lead Momence’s offense as the only returning starters from last year’s squad.

“I am looking forward to the start of this season,” Wigmore said.” This group of varsity girls works well together. They are friends both on an off the court.”

Grice set to lead Central

Last season, the Comets were up and down under sixth-year head coach Rebecca Swigert-Fenton. Central finished just below .500, going 13-15 and 3-4 in conference, which was good enough for fourth place.

In order to get back into SVC contention, the Comets will have to figure out how to replace their defensive anchor Madison Kleinert, who graduated last season with Riley Thompson, another starter from last year’s roster.

Senior Kamryn Grice will look to improve on her stellar junior year, when she averaged about 10 points and nine rebounds.

“These seniors are so deserving and have given me everything I’ve asked for for four years,” Swigert-Fenton said. “I’m glad they are getting the opportunity to go out on their own terms.

Milford looking to re-load with new pieces

Although Milford is not part of the SVC, the Bearcats are still part of Iroquois County, which is where all the SVC schools are located, and some of these SVC schools will join Milford in the Vermilion Valley Conference next season.

After taking home a regional title for the first time since 2009 last season, the Bearcats will be forced to reload their roster after losing four key seniors to graduation, including program leader Kaylee Warren

Milford finished last season 19-10 and 10-4 in conference, which was good enough for fourth place in the Vermillion Valley Conference. Coach Tom Marshino couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Cody is a sports journalist who's been with the Daily Journal since 2020. He's been a sports reporter since his days at the University of Iowa where he graduated in 2019.