With consecutive Class 1A regional championships under their belts, the New Athens Yellowjackets opened the 2015-16 season with just two returning starters in Alina Lance and Abby Marlow and a whole lot of question marks.
Currently sitting with a 15-3 record and a week removed from winning their second tournament title of the season — the Chester Girls Invitational — there is no doubt those preseason questions have been answered. With three weeks remaining in the regular season, there is little doubt the Yellowjackets are buzzing towards another 20-win season.
“We had Alina and we had Abby both coming back and I can’t begin to tell you what those two have meant to this basketball team in terms of what they do on the court, but also the leadership they provide both on and off the court. They have both been tremendous,” New Athens coach Erik Hager said. “But we also had some other girls who saw some playing time last year and who had taken their lumps in practice the last two or three years. It’s been like this is their time and we’ve had several of them step and make big contributions for us all year.”
The Yellowjackets team approach was evident in Chester last week as three players scored in double figures to key a 51-32 win over Dupo in the title game. New Athens, whose three losses have come to once-beaten Lebanon, also defeated Dupo to win the Dupo Cat Classic to open the season.
In New Athens most recent title game win, Lance (14 points) and Marlow (11) led the way, but Hager’s squad also got 10 points from Jordan Drake and seven from Courtney Ragland. Hunter Parker, Hannah Dabb and Jodi Griffin also added key plays for the Yellowjackets.
HIGHLAND TOURNAMENT LOADED
Annually one of the most competitive girls basketball tournaments south of Springfield, the 2016 Highland Girls Invitational begins its weeklong run on Saturday with eight first-round games.
And what a week of girls hoops it should be.
Mississippi Valley Conference co-leader Triad (14-2) kicks off the event when it battles Carlyle at 10 a.m. and will be followed at 11:30 a.m. by what figures to be one of the more competitive first round games when O’Fallon (10-6) battles Mater Dei (10-7).
Also in the tourament field are three teams — led by top-ranked Central (16-3) — which are ranked in the top seven in the Class 2A state poll. Teutopolis and Hillsboro are the other two. Host Highland (15-3) cracked the top 10 in the Class 3A poll this week.
Other solid programs in the field are Salem, Okawville (12-7), defending champion Belleville West (11-6), Nashville (12-5), Wesclin and Althoff.
ANOTHER MILESTONE FOR TROECKLER
Civic Memorial junior all-state guard Allie Troeckler went over 1,500 points for her career with the 26 she scored in the Eagles 50-45 win over Quincy Notre Dame on Friday night.
She has 1,501 points for her career and is in second place on Civic Memorial all time scoring list behind former all stater, 2008 graduate, and current McKendree University assistant coach Katie Broadway's 2,079 points.
VAUGHT CLOSING IN
While Troeckler went over 1,500 points for her career, another three-year starter, Althoff junior Kyleigh Vaught, is currently 13 points short of the 1,000 mark for her career and could crack the milestone when the Crusaders take on Class 2A state power Teutopolis in the opening round of the Highland Girls Invitational on Saturday.
OKAWVILLE ENDS LEBANON STREAK
The last remaining undefeated team in the metro-east, girls or boys, is no more after Okawvillle handed Lebanon (16-1) its first setback of the season last Thursday, downing the Greyhounds 52-41 at Okawville High School.
The Rockets (12-7) jumped out to a 27-17 halftime lead behind high scoring Madison Hackstadt (22 points), then used a stingy defensive effort to keep the quick Greyhounds in check for the rest of the night. Sisters Kendra and Krista Bass led Lebanon with 10 points each. The two teams coould be the top two seeds for the upcoming Class 1A Regional which begins in three weeks.
CENTRAL BOUNCES BACK
After suffering its second loss of the season to Class 3A power Highland last week, the state’s top-ranked Class 2A team Central bounced back in a big way last Saturday with a 47-45 win at Teutopolis. The Shoes were ranked in the top five in the Class 2A state poll. Senior guard Faye Meissner hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer to lift Central (16-3) to the win. All-state senior Kendra Wilken led Central with 22 points.
Belleville News-Democrat Basketball Polls
Rankings for metro-east area teams; voting is done by area coaches and News-Democrat staff mmebers. First place votes are in parentheses. Records are of game played through Tuesday.
LARGE SCHOOL RANKINGS (CLASS 3A-4A)
Rank Team Record
1. Edwardsville (5) 15-1
2. Highland 15-3
3. Triad 13-2
4. Belleville East 12-6
5. (Tie) O’Fallon 10-6
5. Belleville West 11-6
Others receiving votes: Collinsville (8-8), Civic Memorial (11-6), East St. Louis (6-6), Mascoutah (10-7), Jerseyville (9-7), Waterloo (7-8), Columbia (11-7).
SMALL SCHOOL RANKINGS (CLASS 1A-2A)
Rank Team Record
1. Central (5) 16-3
2. Lebanon 16-1
3. Nashville 12-5
4. New Athens 15-3
5. (Tie) Okawville 12-7
5. Mater Dei 10-7
Others receiving votes: Dupo (12-5), Metro East Lutheran (7-6), Wesclin (8-10), Roxana (9-10), Red Bud (7-11).