The journey to the Wisconsin state girls basketball tournament began in earnest with opening games scattered throughout the Stateline this past week.
Here is a roundup of area teams for the 2016-’17 season.
The Comets shared second place with Badger last year with a 9-5 conference mark, three games behind Union Grove and Wilmot. That was a tremendous jump after getting skunked in league play a year earlier.
Delavan-Darien must play without second teamer Jennah Speth, who registered a team-high 13.4 ppg. But it will soldier on in trying to improve on its 13-10 overall record with sophomore standout Katharina Lopez (12.8) and senior Kenna Timmerman (9.8).
Junior Jaida Speth (5.7) and senior Alex Gonzalez (3.1) must take on much bigger roles because Lopez will miss considerable time with an ACL injury.
The Badgers must make up for the loss of Samantha Tisa, who was third in the SLC in scoring at 13.7 and second in rebounds at 7.8, earning a spot on the league’s first team.
Senior Jenn Freeman (11.2) is back after making the second unit, while junior Courtney Oomens (8.1) garnered honorable mention status, and big things are expected from both as Badger tries to better its 12-11 finish.
Juniors Chloe Kleeman (6.2), Marissa Nurnberg (5.1) and Madison Smid (4.2) also possess plenty of experience and will be counted on heavily.
The once-proud program and perennial contender has fallen on hard times, winning fewer games each of the last four seasons since posting a 9-5 conference record in 2011-’12.
And the Elks likely will struggle again after going winless last winter (0-14, 0-23).
Elkhorn also faces life without top performer Megan Skoczylas, who earned honorable mention.
Top returnees include junior Olivia May (3.7) and sophomores Riley Rand (6.3) and Payton Christensen (5.3).
The Demons finished 8-6 in SLC competition and 12-12 overall and should contend for an upper-division spot behind junior star Jessa Burling, who topped the conference in scoring (15.0) and rebounding (8.4). Those efforts placed her on the league’s first team.
Also back is senior Megan Wallace, who averaged 11.2 ppg and earned honorable mention laurels.
This experienced bunch also returns seniors Ashlyn Barry, Mackenzie Zwiebel and Adeline Jachim, who all chipped in from 4.5 to 6 ppg.
Rock Valley North
The 2014-’15 Division 3 state champions fell in the regional finals last year, finishing 22-2 after dominating league action again with a 16-0 mark, six games ahead of McFarland.
Judy Harms’ Whippets should contend for the trophy again behind returning senior first-team choices Myriama Smith-Traore and Rebekah Schumacher. Smith-Traore, the All-Walworth County and conference Player of the Year, averaged 17.4 points, 15.1 rebounds and 5.5 blocked shots and will want to go out on a high note before taking her talents to Marquette University after being the only unanimous Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association D-3 All-State team selection.
Schumacher chipped in 13.6 ppg, led the conference in assists (4.7) and added 4.5 steals. She has committed to NCAA Division II program Quincy University.
And don’t forget honorable mention selections Allison Heckert (9.3) and Ali Ketterhagen, both juniors.
Whitewater is chasing its fourth consecutive North crown and has not lost a league contest since falling to McFarland on Dec. 10, 2013, a string of 40 straight wins.
The Trojans arguably have the league’s biggest hole to fill, losing scoring champion and first teamer Katrina Santos (17.8), who finished second in rebounding (12.6) to Smith-Traore.
Jeff Brown’s returning contingent will include honorable mention choices in senior Maddie Rosin (6.5) and sophomore Mackenzie Lindow (6.1), along with soph Erin Rice (6.9).
East Troy suffered its third consecutive losing campaign after making back-to-back D-2 state tournament appearances, finishing 5-11 in league contests and 9-14 overall.
Rock Valley South
Big Foot is gearing up to eliminate Brodhead’s six-year stranglehold of the league’s top spot, which the rivals shared last winter.
The Chiefs boast a strong lineup despite the loss of leading scorer Morgan Courier, who averaged 13.6 ppg while making the South first team.
That unit also included Courtney Schoenbeck, who scored at an 11.0 clip as a sophomore as Big Foot finished 14-2 in conference competition and 19-5 overall.
Payton Courier also is back for her junior campaign after averaging 10 ppg and making the league’s second team.
Rick Schoenbeck’s squad also features honorable mention seniors Brooke Wellhausen (5.6) and Olivia Briggs (8.8).
Dustin Burg takes over from B.J. Mertens, whose Panthers finished in the conference basement at 1-15 and 3-20.
The Panthers had not defeated a Rock Valley opponent since February 2013, also against Parkview, when they upended the Vikings late last season.
Palmyra-Eagle hopes to improve its perch in the standings behind senior Sarah Seiden and junior Lauren Stefanczyk, who both earned honorable mention laurels.
Seiden led the team at 10.4 ppg, while Stefanczyk was right there at 10.1.
The Bulldogs took their lumps during a 5-11 showing in the conference, but they finished 10-13 overall.
They could move up a notch or two behind the likes of senior Lauren Higgins and juniors Leslie Olson and Bella DeNotto, who all earned honorable mention accolades.
Olson led the offense with 8.3 ppg, while Higgins was second at 7.2 and DeNotto third with 6.1. Higgins topped the team in rebounding at seven per game.
Indian Trails Blue
The Eagles went unbeaten in league action and finished 11-12 overall.
Faith Christian returns a formidable lineup despite losing Sabrina Johnson. Sophomore Zoe Vyskocil joined Johnson on the league’s first team, while senior Moriah Skrede and junior Gretal Botsch earned spots on the second unit and senior Hailey Vyskocil was an honorable mention pick.
Jerod Boyd takes the coaching reins from Suzy Bittmann after Central failed to win a conference outing while compiling a 6-17 overall finish.
Not much is expected of the Hilltoppers this season, although they return senior and honorable mention selection Bridget Bittmann (8.4).
They must replace leading scorer Laura Klein, who pumped in 10.7 ppg.
Sophomores Elizabeth (5.6) and Emma Klein (6.2) will attempt to pick up the slack.
Kerry Storbakken’s Cougars fell one game short of a third consecutive 20-victory season, finishing 19-7, including a 14-4 mark and third-place showing in league play.
Craig must replace one of the program’s top players for a second straight year, losing conference scoring leader and first teamer Delaney Schoenenberger a season after Alison Hughes graduated.
Annie Schumacher (13.0) and Kamryn Brittingham (8.4) also are gone. However, the Cougars’ lineup still features Ali Carlson, who made the third team after averaging 8.8 ppg, and fellow senior Sam Pierson (5.1).
The Vikings’ 9-9 record placed them fifth in the always-tough league race. That helped them finish 14-10 overall, losing four contests by four or less points during Jennah Hartwig’s first year after replacing Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Famer Tom Klawitter.
Parker also must replace its best player in league first team choice Bree Porter, who topped the team at 15.4 ppg, reaching double digits in 22 of 24 outings.
While Porter has taken her skills to NCAA Division II school Hillsdale (Mich.), the Vikings’ fortunes will hinge a lot on senior Julia Hartwig. She led the Big Eight in rebounding (11.0) and averaged 15.3 ppg.
Also back are senior Kameron Blaser (5.6), sophomore Brooke Graesslin (4.0), junior Jacy Benway (3.7) and senior Sydni Brewster (3.1).
The Purple Knights have not won a league game since December 2013, a string of 49 straight losses against rivals.
Teshonna Bennett’s first Memorial squad never tasted victory last year, something the program hasn’t done since the season opener in 2014-’15.
This year’s chances for improvement will depend on players such as senior Sydnee Marshall (4.4) and juniors Aniah Williams (11.1) and Nadiya Connor (5.8).