NewsTribune girls basketball preview capsules for the 2023-24 season

Princeton, Fieldcrest look to reload under new coaches

Fieldcrest's Riley Burton dribbles in the lane to shoot a shot over Peotone's Jenna Hunter and teammate Ashley Renwick during the Class 2A Sectional final on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2023 at Coal City High School.

With the 2023-24 girls basketball season underway with tournaments this week, here’s a look at the Mendota, Princeton, Bureau Valley, Earlville, Fieldcrest and Henry-Senachwine/Lowpoint-Washburn teams.


Coach: John Hansen

Last season’s record: 5-25, 2-10 Three Rivers East

Top returning players: Grace Wasmer, sr, F, Bria Frey, sr., G; Ryleigh Sondgeroth, Sr., G

Top newcomers: Ava Eddy, jr., G; Laylie Denault, so., G; Crystal Garcia, jr., G; Ella Coss, jr, G; Ella Martin, jr., G

Worth noting: Wasmer is Mendota’s only returning player who got significant minutes last season as the Trojans were hit hard by graduation, including the early graduation of Reanna Brant, who was second-team NewsTribune All-Area as a junior last year. Wasmer was the team’s third-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder last year. “Waz is finally getting to play where she truly belongs in our offense because she has the guard support we’ve been lacking for a while,” Hansen said. “So I’m excited to get to see her flourish there.” Frey and Sondgeroth were first-year players last year, while Hansen said Laylie Denault, Crystal Garcia, Ella Coss, Ella Martin and Ava Eddy are all capable of leading the team in scoring on a given night. “Bria and Ry have been grinding and have been amazing vocal and passionate leaders,” Hansen said. “The juniors are incredibly hardworking and are crazy athletic and quick. They’ve really bought into the process, and I’m expecting them to really give us a major spark on both ends.” Hansen said the team’s strengths are speed, athleticism and depth. “My expectations are that we care about two things: each other and competing to our absolute best ability,” Hansen said. “We want to be passionate about those two things, and for the first time in a few years, I truly believe that our entire team is passionate about those exact same expectations.”


Coach: Tiffany Gonigam

Last season’s record: 27-5, 12-0 Three Rivers East

Top returning players: Miyah Fox, sr., G; Keighley Davis, so., F; Camryn Driscoll, so., G; Olivia Mattingly, jr., G

Top newcomers: Makayla Hecht, so., F; Paige Jesse, jr., G; Reese Reviglio, so., F; Jordan VanDeventer, jr., G

Worth noting: The Tigresses lost all five starters and coach Darcy Kepner from last season’s team that claimed the Three Rivers Conference East Division championship, but Princeton still returns plenty of talent and experience. Fox was named as team MVP by her teammates last year, while Davis and Driscoll were key contributors. The trio combined for 25.5 points, 8.7 steals and more than 12 rebounds a game last year with Davis chipping in 11.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.6 steals. Davis was a NewsTribune All-Area second-team pick last season. “We are a very young team, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have experience. That’s something that we bring back with two sophomores and a senior who made some noise in the conference last year,” said Gonigam, who returns to the bench after a two-year hiatus. Mattingly got some varsity experience last season, while classmates Jesse and VanDeventer will be looked upon as solid contributors along with sophomores Hecht and Reviglio. “We have kids with the right mindset. The kids like to compete. They want to win. They are very motivated players,” Gonigam said. “I’m trying to get them to just enjoy the process and what gets you to those points of just achieving those goals.”

Bureau Valley

Coach: Matt Wasilewski

Last season’s record: 15-16, 9-3 Three Rivers East

Top returning players: Kate Salisbury, sr., G; Kate Stoller, sr., G; Lynzie Cady, sr., F; Ryley Egan, sr., G; Taylor Neuhalfen, jr., G; Lesleigh Maynard, jr., G

Top newcomers: Libby Endress, fr., G

Worth noting: The Storm have a strong core coming back, led by Salisbury and Stoller. Salisbury was unanimous All-Three Rivers Conference East Division last season after averaging 13.8 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals and 1.2 assists per game, while Stoller, a TRC second-teamer, averaged 9.8 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.4 assists. Neuhalfen came on strong offensively toward the end of last season and Wasilewski looks for that to continue, while he expects Cady and Maynard to step up their scoring. Endress, who Wasilewski said has a “scorer’s mentality,” is expected to make an impact in her first varsity season. “The girls are setting some pretty big sights for themselves. They’d like to compete for the conference title and see where they are come regional time. Maybe even compete for a regional title,” Wasilewski said. “I think we’ll be able to score. Will we be able to stop teams? We won’t have a lot of size. So that’s going to have to be one of things we work on. How to defend the post. How to stop teams from scoring inside.”


Coach: Brandon Skolek

Last season’s record: 13-18, 5-4 Little Ten

Top returning players: Madyson Olson, sr.; Natalie Hall, jr.; Jessie Miller, so.

Top newcomers: Ryleigh Dixon, sr.; Bailey Miller, so.; Addie Scherer, fr.; Elizabeth Vazquez, fr.

Worth noting: Olson returns after a record-setting season as a junior when she scored 548 points. She averaged an area-best 18.3 points per game last year and sits at 800 career points. Olson also averaged 6.9 rebounds, 3.7 assists and an area-leading 5.5 steals per game last year. “She is our point guard and finds a lot of different ways to score,” Skolek said. Hall and Bailey Miller also are expected to “shoulder a good amount of the offensive load,” Skolek said. Miller did not play as a freshman but is expected to start in her first high school season, while Miller returns to the program after two years away and, Skolek said, will “play a very important role.” The Red Raiders will be quicker, which Skolek expects to help the defense. Earlville will be young with seven freshmen and three sophomores. It’s the first time in Skolek’s tenure Earlville will have a JV team. “We have set a team goal to win more games than we did last year,” Skolek said. “Our other goals include playing hard on both ends of the floor, developing our young players and finishing in the top half of our conference.”


Coach: Nathan Ehrhardt

Last season’s record: 32-4, 11-1 HOIC

Top returning players: Kaitlin White, sr., G; Aliah Celis, sr., F; Riley Burton, sr., F; Macy Gochanour, so., G

Top newcomers: Emily Tooley, jr., G

Worth noting: Ehrhardt has a solid returning nucleus for his first season leading the Knights as he replaces Mitch Neally, who went 183-55 with four regional titles, two sectional championships and a fourth-place finish in Class 2A in 2021-22. White led the team in scoring at 14.5 points per game last season, while also averaging 2.6 assists and 2.7 steals. Burton also started on last season’s sectional final team, while Gochanour and Celis got significant time off the bench last season and senior forward Vada Timmerman also was on the supersectional roster. “We have a strong returning core of players that have a depth of experience in both tournament and postseason play,” Ehrhardt said. “I believe their ability to tap into this experience will allow us to play with poise and determination.” Ehrhardt, who previously coached at El Paso-Gridley, hopes to continue Fieldcrest’s success. “Our program has been successful the past few seasons and into the postseason,” Ehrhardt said. “We are looking to carry that tradition forward while embracing a new coaching staff. Our expectation is that we will bring a high level of energy and intensity onto the floor each night while maintaining a strong focus on fundamental defensive pressure.”


Coach: Erik Greenwood

Last season’s record: 5-26, 1-11 Tri-County

Top returning players: Kaitlyn Anderson, jr., F; Lauren Harbison, jr., G; Rachel Eckert, so., G

Top newcomers: Brynna Anderson, fr., G

Worth noting: The Mallards have a young roster but do have some experience with Kaitlyn Anderson, Harbison and Eckert returning. Anderson was second-team All-Tri-County Conference last season after averaging nine points and 10 rebounds, while Harbison (7 ppg, 3 apg) is back at point guard and Eckert (5 ppg) also contributed last winter. Brynna Anderson is expected to make an immediate impact as a varsity starter as a freshman. “We are still a young team, however, we should be fast and fairly competitive and improve as the season goes along,” Greenwood said. “We hope to win double-digit games and continue our growth and communication as a team.”

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