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Girls basketball preview: Madison Memorial appears to have the pieces in place for a big year in the Big Eight
GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW | BIG EIGHT CONFERENCE

Girls basketball preview: Madison Memorial appears to have the pieces in place for a big year in the Big Eight

From the Prep girls basketball preview: Capsule preview of area conferences and teams series
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BIG EIGHT CONFERENCE

2018-2019 STANDINGS

Team: Conference W-L, Overall W-L

Middleton: 16-2, 22-6

Sun Prairie: 15-3, 20-6

Madison Memorial: 14-4, 19-6

Madison La Follette: 12-6, 16-7

Verona: 11-7, 14-9

Madison East: 9-9, 15-10

Janesville Craig: 6-12, 11-13

Janesville Parker: 4-14, 5-19

Madison West: 2-16, 3-20

Beloit Memorial: 1-17, 1-22

Top WIAA tournament performances: Middleton was state runner-up in Division 1, lost 50-49 to Bay Port; Sun Prairie lost to Middleton in D1 sectional final, 60-45; Madison Memorial lost to Middleton in D1 sectional semifinal, 41-39; Madison East lost to Sun Prairie in D1 sectional semifinal, 51-44.

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS

First team: Emmoni Rankins, sr., Madison Memorial; Sitori Tanin, sr., Middleton.

Second team: Rayna Briggs, sr., Verona; Claudia Fieiras, jr., Janesville Craig.

Third team: Jazzanay Seymore, jr., Sun Prairie; Maya White Eagle, jr., Madison Memorial.

Honorable mention: Daiysha Brown, sr., Madison Memorial; Evie Coleman, sr., Middleton; Ryann Porter, sr., Janesville Parker; Ashley Rae, jr., Sun Prairie; Nyenhial Riak, sr., Madison La Follette.

COACHES’ FAVORITES

1, Madison Memorial; 2, Middleton; 3, Sun Prairie


TEAM CAPSULES

Beloit Memorial Purple Knights

Coach: Joel Beard, first year.

Returnees: Meghan Drucker, 5-10, sr., F; Cameron Thomas, 5-4, so., G; Tajah Randall, 5-7, so., G; Mizhana Burner, 5-8, so., G/F; Mandy Franks, 5-5, so. G; Bre’nezjah Davis, 6-0, so., F; Adi Renteria, 5-7, sr., G; De’Janae Polk, 5-3, sr., G; Jackie Pabst, 6-0, so., F; Audrianna Morga-Thomas, 6-0, jr., F.

Key fact: Beard, the school’s athletic director, has taken over as coach, replacing Larry Blake, who left the program in October after one season as coach. That late switch means it will take time for the players and coaches to get on the same page, Beard said.

The lowdown: The Purple Knights will be young, featuring a half-dozen sophomores, and so they’ll count on senior forward Megan Drucker to provide leadership. Drucker returns for her fourth year on the varsity. Sophomore point guard Cameron Thomas will direct the offense, and Beard is counting on her to develop in that role.

Quotable: “We want to be competitive every night and improve every time we step on the floor,” Beard said. “We are in a tough conference with great basketball programs. Each game will be an opportunity for us to see where we measure up.”


Janesville Craig Cougars

Coach: Kerry Storbakken, ninth year (139-79).

Returning starters (4): Claudia Fieiras, 5-9, jr., F (14.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.7 spg); Rileigh Elgas, 5-8, sr., G (7.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.0 spg); Hannah Dunlavy, 5-8, sr., G (6.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.1 spg); Cassie Goswick, 5-8, sr., G (out last season with ACL injury).

Other returning letterwinners (3): Sarah Gregg, 5-5, sr., G (5.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.7 spg); Abbey Schrader, 5-8, sr., F (out last season with ACL injury); Jessa Alderman, 5-9, so., F (out last season with ACL injury).

Key fact: The Cougars return three players from ACL injuries, most notably senior guard Cassie Goswick, after a solid sophomore season in which she led the team in scoring with 14.3 points per game and was second-team All-Big Eight. Senior forward Abbey Schrader and sophomore forward Jessa Alderman also return in the post.

The lowdown: Storbakken lists four returning starters this season, including key returnee Cassie Goswick to the lineup. Goswick’s replacement, senior Brooke Parkhurst, who led the team with 7.1 rebounds per game, is not out for the team this year. Junior forward Claudia Fieiras, a second-team all-conference pick, led the team in scoring last season with 14.8 points per game. Senior guards Rileigh Elgas and Hannah Dunlavy also round out a strong, senior-driven lineup. Goswick and Fieiras have already demonstrated they are capable of scoring, but Elgas could be the next weapon for the Cougars, who can challenge any team in the Big Eight any given night.

Quotable: “We had three players out with ACLs last year, and I think we wore down a little bit,” Storbakken said, “so hopefully our depth and experience will help us. We’ve got a lot of kids that have logged a lot of varsity minutes, and you hope that pays dividends.”


Janesville Parker Vikings

Coach: Jennah Hartwig, fifth year (39-57).

Returning starters (4): Ryann Porter, 6-2, sr., F (7.2 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, 2.3 bpg); Jasmyn Demrow, 5-10, jr., F (8.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg); Alexys Luek, 5-6, jr., G (3.6 ppg, 2.0 rpg); Jena Forrestal, 5-3, sr., PG (7.9 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.5 spg).

Other returning letterwinners (3): Alli Rosga, 5-5, jr., G (1.7 ppg, 1.0 rpg); Tina Shelton, 5-7, sr., G (8.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.2 spg — in five games played); Abby Blum, 5-3, so., G (3.2 ppg, 1.6 rpg — in 10 games played).

Key fact: Senior guard Tina Shelton, who sat out the majority of last season with a leg injury, is healthy and ready to contribute. Sophomore guard Abby Blum is also back after playing only 10 games due to a back injury.

The lowdown: Honorable mention All-Big Eight 6-2 senior forward, Ryann Porter, will anchor this athletic unit with 5-10 junior forward Jasmyn Demrow. Both players averaged at least seven points and five boards a game last year. After an injury riddled season, Tina Shelton looks to make an impact — averaging 8.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in five games — with her dynamic playmaking abilities and athleticism. Senior Jena Forrestal will run the point and look to shoot, while Alexys Luek, Alli Rosga and Abby Blum aid in guard duties. “With a very senior dominated conference, we are looking to move up and finish in the middle. We have players returning who contributed last season, so I expect them to be stronger,” Hartwig said.

Quotable: “We are an athletic group who’s put time in the offseason to become better shooters,” Hartwig said.


Madison East Purgolders

Coach: Ronda McLin, first year.

Returning starters (3): Kalena Bentley, 5-7, sr., G (8.7 ppg); Alonna Harvey-Williams, 5-6, sr., G (8.9 ppg); Zoe Meyer, 5-7, sr., G/W (5.1 ppg).

Other returning letterwinners (6): Kira Gottschalk, 5-9, jr., F/W (3.8 ppg); Natalia Hilliard, 5-7, sr., G/W (6.1 ppg); Aliyana Alston, 5-4, sr., G (3.0 ppg); Dasia Banks, 5-10, jr., F (4.8 ppg); Deniye Mitchell, 5-8, sr., F (4.5 ppg); Mary Fadele, 5-11, sr., F/C (4.6 ppg).

Key fact: The Purgolders have a new coach in McLin, who takes over the varsity program after building a 51-12 record as the coach of the East junior varsity from 2015-2018. East also welcomes back Nasia Hicks, who transferred from Racine in 2017 and started the season with the Purgolders before leaving the program; and Kylah McCullers, a freshman transfer from Sun Prairie. On the other hand, third-team All-Big Eight player Nevaehia Boston (9.8 ppg last year) has decided not to come out.

The lowdown: The Purgolders graduated Ashayla Moseberry, the 2018-19 Big Eight player of the year and first-team all state selection who averaged 18.1 points per game. McLin will rely heavily on senior guards Kalena Bentley, Alonna Harvey-Williams and Zoe Meyer. Senior guard Nasia Hicks, who played a few games in the 2017-18 season, “will see heavy minutes and is expected to be one of the primary scorers this season,” McLin said. Bentley, in her third varsity season, will be the on-court leader charged with getting the offense flowing. The explosive guard also can provide a quick attack to the rim as she averaged 8.7 points per game last season. Harvey-Williams and Meyer are also quick guards with great defensive skills. Freshman transfer Kylah McCullers will be the backup point guard and see significant minutes. “I expect us to place between fourth and sixth place in the conference this season,” McLin said.

Quotable: “We will have to be quick and scrappy on the defensive end. Because we will be small, we will need to protect the rim,” McLin said.


Madison La Follette Lancers

Coach: Will Green, fourth year (36-23).

Returning starters (3): Nyenhial Riak, 6-0, sr., F (9.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 2.9 bpg); Malia Green, 5-7, so., G (8.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 1.9 spg); Evelyn Walker, 5-10, jr., G (3.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.4 spg, 1.3 bpg).

Other returning letterwinners (3): Bryan Driver, 5-6, sr., G (4.4 ppg, 1.3 rpg); Zoe Bauer, 5-6, so., G (0.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg); Shabriana Murphy, 5-9, sr., G (0.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg, 1.0 spg)

Key fact: The Lancers’ leading scorer and first-team All-Big Eight sophomore point guard, Demetria Prewitt, will miss the entire season due to a knee injury. Senior forward Nyenhial Riak, an honorable mention pick, will return late December to early January from a knee injury sustained last January that limited her to just 11 games. Imani Simmons, a sophomore transfer from Sun Prairie, will get ample opportunity to see minutes. Senior Megan Lowrey, who could have been a starter, transferred to East.

The lowdown: The return of Nyenhial Riak, who averaged 9.2 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game — including a single-game school record of 11 blocks — provides a huge positive after the loss of sophomore point guard Demetria Prewitt to a knee injury. To replace Prewitt’s 14.3 points and a Big Eight-leading 3.9 assists per game, sophomore Malia Green and junior Evelyn Walker will be thrusted into larger roles. Green is an outside shooting threat and one of the most improved players on the team. Walker, who coach Green expects to have a breakout season, is capable of producing a double-double in points and boards every night. “We are guard heavy and should be a bit better defensively man to man,” Green said. Seniors Bryan Driver and Shabriana Murphy, along with sophomores Zoe Bauer and Sun Prairie transfer Imani Simmons will round out the rotation with some incoming JV players. Sophomore guard Alisha Ghelfi also will miss the entire season due to a knee injury. The Lancers will contend in a tough Big Eight and look to improve upon a regional final loss last season to Madison East.

Quotable: “We expect to be one of the top four teams in the Big Eight conference this year. Where we end up will depend on the leadership of our senior players and returning starters to improve on last year's numbers,” Green said.


Madison Memorial Spartans

Coach: Marques Flowers, ninth year (63-79).

Returning starters (6): Leilani Kapinus, 5-11, sr., G (17.2 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 4.8 spg, 2.8 bpg in five games last year); Emmoni Rankins, 5-7, sr., G (14.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 3.9 spg); Maya White Eagle, 5-7, jr., G (9.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.7 apg, 1.9 spg); Daiysha Brown 5-8, sr., G (5.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.8 apg, 2.5 spg); Liliana Garcia, 5-4, sr., G (7.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.2 spg); Reette Thorns, 6-1, sr. C (3.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg).

Other returning letterwinners (3): Brooke Peters, 5-8, sr., G (4.5 ppg, 1.7 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.5 spg); Charlotte Sweet, 5-10, jr., G (5.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.2 apg, 1.5 spg); Micah Ward, 5-4, sr., G (1.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg).

Key fact: Kapinus, Rankins and Marshall transfer Mia Morel, a junior, each are in a position to reach 1,000 career points this season. No Memorial girls player has ever achieved that in the past.

The lowdown: The Spartans are loaded this season, with heavily recruited Kapinus at the helm, and are a preseason pick to contend for the Division 1 state tournament. Senior guard and 2017-18 Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year Kapinus returns in full force from an anterior cruciate ligament injury in her knee. The Spartans have added point guard Mia Morel, a transfer from Marshall who helped lead the Cardinals to the past two WIAA Division 3 state titles. Rankins is the program’s all-time leader in steals, while Garcia is the all-time leader in assists. Brown has committed to Grayson College for women’s basketball. Senior Cynthia Rosales, a forward who has committed to UW-Milwaukee for track and field, didn’t come out for basketball because she is concentrating on the shot put and discus.

Quotable: “In 2018-19 we proved how resilient, skilled and deep this group of young women are,” Flowers said after the Spartans lost Kapinus after five games to injury but regrouped and reached the WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal round.


Madison West Regents

Coach: Chaz Jones, fourth year (15-76).

Returning starters: None.

Other returning letterwinners (5): Sawyer Sullivan, so. (4.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 2.2 spg, 0.8 bpg in six games last year); Dana Zidani, jr., (1.3 ppg, 1.7 rpg); Ella Mueller, jr. (1.4 ppg, 1.6 rpg); Mirra Blehert, jr., G (2.1 ppg, 1.0 rpg); Ellie Culver, jr. (1.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg).

Key fact: After losing all five starters to graduation, the Regents also lose guard Aspen Fleming (3.9 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.2 spg) for the season due to an injury sustained during soccer.

The lowdown: The Regents lost all five starters to graduation, namely Eniya Driscoll — who led West in scoring at 5.8 points per game, and will rely heavily on junior returnees. Sophomore Sawyer Sullivan, who shot 41 percent from the field, and juniors: Dana Zidani, Ella Mueller, Mirra Blehert, and Ellie Culver “will have to mature and be ready to handle the toughness and physical play of the Big Eight” said Jones. “Playing together and unselfishly will be a big part of our success,” added Jones.

Quotable: “This year we expect to be in the middle of the pack,” Jones said. “We are extremely young and inexperienced, and in order for us to reach our goals we will need to mature fast and play very scrappy on defense.”


Middleton Cardinals

Coach: Jeff Kind, 27th year (446-184).

Returning starters (3): Sitori Tanin, 6-2, sr., F (12.9 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.2 apg, 1.1 spg, 0.9 bpg); Karina Bursac, 5-11, sr., F (8.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.2 spg); Evie Coleman, 5-9, sr., G (9.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.2 apg, 0.9 spg).

Other returning letterwinners (10): Josie Lemirande, 5-9, sr. G (4.3 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.0 spg); Kendall Roquet, 5-10, sr., G/F (3.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.7 spg); Melanie Accola, 6-1, jr. F (2.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg); Megan Schwartz, 5-5, sr., G (1.4 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.0 apg, 0.5 spg); Makenzie Hodson, 5-8, sr., G (1.6 ppg, 0.7 rpg, 0.4 apg, 0.7 spg); Brianna Acker, 5-6, jr., G (0.8 ppg, 1.0 rpg); Berkley Smith, 5-10, sr., F (1.2 ppg, 1.2 rpg); Lauryn Abozeid, 5-10, jr., F (3.0 ppg); Andrea Young, 5-11, jr., F (1.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg); Molly Gaab, 5-5, jr., G (1.0 rpg).

Key fact: First-team All Big-Eight forward Sitori Tanin, a Loyola (Illinois) commit who led the team in scoring and rebounding, is primed to lead the Division 1 state runner-up Cardinals once again. McKenna Monogue, a 6-0 sophomore transfer from Mukwonago, also will be given significant minutes in the rotation.

The lowdown: The 6-2 Tanin led the Big Eight in rebounds last year, grabbing 11.3 per game, and is a crucial returning piece to the roster. But, the Cardinals have to replace two starters from last year’s team in Charlotte Dunn — 5.1 points, 4.3 boards, 2.9 assists per game — and Hannah Flottmeyer — 10.6 points and 6.8 boards per game. Still, Kind believes his girls will be in the mix for the conference because “we have a lot of experience and size.” Seniors Evie Coleman and Karina Bursac return to the starting lineup, with Josie Lemirande and Kendall Roquet logging significant playing time again. Coleman was the Cardinals’ leading three-point scorer, shooting 37% from behind the arc. Monogue, the transfer from Mukwonago, should also be in the mix and helps bolster the length on the roster, with nine players 5-10 or taller and three of those 6-0 or taller.

Quotable: “The conference will be very strong again and we will have to be more consistent offensively and use our size to our advantage defensively,” Kind said.


Sun Prairie Cardinals

Coach: John Olson, ninth year (127-96).

Returning starters (3): Grace Radlund, 5-8, jr., G (2.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg); Jazzanay Seymore, 5-11, jr., F (10.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg); Ashley Rae, 5-10, jr., F (10.2 ppg, 4.7 rpg).

Other returning letterwinners (1): Maddie Strey, 5-10, jr., Wing (3.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg).

Key fact: The Cardinals lost a key starter, senior point guard Bailey Lutes, due to a family move to Cuba City.

The lowdown: Sun Prairie, which finished as conference runner-up and advanced to the sectional final against eventual state runner-up Middleton last year, will build around Jazzanay Seymore, Ashley Rae and Grace Radlund after losing Lutes to transfer and key starters Grace Hilber and Alexis Baker to graduation. Seymore, a third-team All-Big Eight performer last season, is expected to provide an inside presence, with Rae a factor on the wing and Radlund in the back court. A few freshmen should make an immediate contribution — notably Marie Outlay, Avree Antony and Antionique Auston. Antony already has an offer from Illinois State. Strey, sophomore guard Rachel Rademacher, junior wing Nahriah Alexander and junior guard Olivia Kostelnik are among those who also could contribute. Olson describes the Cardinals as very young, but with potential.

Quotable: “Combining players from several levels will be a challenge, but (we’re) looking for improvement as the season progresses,” Olson said.


Verona Wildcats

Coach: Angie Murphy, 16th year (257-102).

Returning starters (3): Rayna Briggs, 5-6, sr., G (15.3 ppg); Rachel Parman, 5-7, sr., G (7.5 ppg); Katie Pederson, 5-8, jr., G (5.5 ppg).

Other returning letterwinners (1): Rachel Witthuhn, 6-0, sr., F (2.8 ppg); Morgan Grignon, 5-4, jr., G (4.7 ppg).

Key fact: Sophomore guard Aailyah Smith, who averaged 20.1 points in 20 games last season and is ranked No. 11 in the class of 2022 in ESPN.com’s Hoopgurlz rankings, isn’t on the Wildcats’ roster due to an undisclosed reason.

The lowdown: Murphy has a very young roster. Of 11 players on varsity, six have never played at the varsity level. Three freshmen and two sophomores are on the roster. Rayna Briggs, Rachel Parman and Katie Pederson provide the most experience of the returners. Briggs, a second-team All-Big Eight player last year who averaged 15.3 points per game, figures to lead the way. Seniors Rachel Witthuhn, who’s 6-foot, and Maddy Kelley also should contribute. The 6-2 Kelley will help inside after two years away from basketball while she concentrated on volleyball. The freshmen on the roster include Abbi Rupnow, Paige Lambe and Megan Murphy, the coach's daughter.

Quotable: “Our team will have to learn how to play together with so many new faces and grow as a team to compete in this conference,” Murphy said.

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