Girls basketball: Streator will rely on returners, newcomers, enthusiasm

Bulldogs open season at Princeton Tigresses Holiday Tournament

Streator's Jade Williams (center) grabs a rebound over Henry-Senachwine's Harper Schrock (right) on Wednesday, Jan,. 4, 2023 at Streator High School.

A few returning leaders, some new faces and a whole lot of enthusiasm for the season all are key reasons second-year Streator girls basketball coach Jacob Durdan believes his Bulldogs can improve on last season’s 4-28 record.

“We’ve got a handful [of returners], and we’ve got some new faces, too, but the ones who are coming back, we’ve been telling them that we’re going to compete this season,” Durdan said. “Coach [Eric] Gwaltney and I have some goals for the team, and we think with the girls that we have coming back we could be competing for the middle of the pack in the Illinois Central Eight Conference.

“This year we’ve really taken a step up. I’m really excited for the season.”

“This year we’ve really taken a step up. I’m really excited for the season.”

—  Jacob Durdan, Streator girls basketball coach

Gone to graduation are offensive centerpiece Marisa Vickers and the 2022-23 Bulldogs’ lone Times All-Area Girls Basketball Team representative, Ellie Isermann. Four talented, proven players return, however, who are expected to lead this year’s team, starting with a pair of seniors – 5-7 guard Kora Lane and 5-8 post Jade Williams.

“Kora does a lot of the little things well defensively, and she’s worked on her offensive game this year,” Durdan said. “I’m going to look for her as a leader on the floor, both on the offensive and defensive end.

“Jade Williams has taken big strides. I told her I wanted her to be a mobile post, and so she’s worked on her ball-handling. Again, she’s someone on the offensive end who can take the lead there, and defensively she’s really stepped it up with her communication.”

The other two expected to come out of the gate strong are a pair of players called up midseason from Streator’s sophomore team last year. Sophomore Ava Gwaltney showed flashes as an explosive scorer as a freshman, and junior Joey Puetz brought athleticism and speed to the varsity roster as a sophomore.

Junior post Leah Krohe is another player who figures to factor heavily into Streator’s success, although Durdan is quick to point out he could see anyone on his 13-player varsity roster – which also includes seniors Shantell Morton, Mina James and Alyssa Arambula; juniors Maddiie Wahl, Maddy Martin and Alexia Arellano; and promising sophomore guard Maiya Lansford – being a key component in the Bulldogs’ game plan on any given night.

“Overall, I’d love to see well-balanced scoring,” Durdan said. “We do have some quick guards in Joey, Ava and Kora, and I’d love to see them doing a lot of the damage within our offense and with their speed off steals, with some transition layups from those three. And from the post, Jade has really worked on her mid-range shot, along with Leah Krohe.

“My expectation is to be a defensive-minded team. On average, we were looking at scoring about 30 points [per game] last year and scoring 45. I’d like to flip those averages. On the defensive end, we’ve got some strong post players and quick guards. We’re going to go at teams on the defensive end, win the rebound battle, and then hopefully go down and really execute to have a higher shot percentage.

“We’ve really shown great strides in both of those areas – defense and defensive rebounding as well as cutting down on the offensive mistakes.”

Streator is scheduled to open the season next week at the Princeton Tigresses Holiday Tournament, beginning against the host Tigresses on Tuesday. The Bulldogs’ home opener at Pops Dale Gymnasium is scheduled for Nov. 20 against former conference rival Morris.

Streator's Joey Puetz runs into the lane to score a basket over Ottawa's Morgan Stone and Michaela Froisland on Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023 at Ottawa High School.