Top teams have chance to repeat in NEKL basketball
Northeast Kansas League basketball competition is set to pick up again this Friday, as the nine NEKL squads open the 2015-2016 campaign.
On the girls side, the league teams will be chasing Valley Falls for the NEKL title once again as the defending champion returns four All-League players (Ali Brown, Callie Watson, Jenna Kramer and Rachel Frakes).
Of that group, Frakes is the only non-senior on a very experienced team that will be looking to repeat as champions and make it back to the Class 2A state tournament.
Jackson Heights looks to get back to the top of the standings as well, while the Dragons will also have to fend off Maur Hill again this season.
Three starters return for the Ravens and chief among them is All-League guard Avery Lewman, a strong all-around athlete who will run the point for Maur Hill this season.
With starter Amber Weber returning in the post as well, Maur Hill could have some balance to help follow up on its success last winter and challenge Valley Falls once again.
Outside of Valley Falls, JCN is the only team with multiple All-League players returning in 2015-2016, as the Chargers get both Jentry Seichepine and Annabelle Vaught back this winter.
Julie Schrick, along with Seichepine, provides some experience in the backcourt, while sophomore Ravyn Jobbins returns in the post along with Vaught (a fellow sophomore) to give JCN a more veteran look as they try to retake the NEKL throne the team was sitting on just a couple of seasons ago.
Horton, Immaculata, Pleasant Ridge, Oskaloosa and McLouth will all look to be competitive in the NEKL as well this season. Oskaloosa is the only other team with a returning All-League player, though, as Maddie Miller returns for the Bears.
1. Valley Falls: 16-0, 22-4
2. Maur Hill: 13-3, 16-5
3. Pleasant Ridge: 11-5, 16-6
4. Jackson Heights: 9-7, 12-10
t5. JCN: 7-9, 8-13
t5. Horton: 7-9, 8-13
t5. Immaculata: 7-9, 10-11
t8. McLouth: 1-15, 2-19
t8. Oskaloosa: 1-15, 1-20
*League record listed first.
Jackson Heights looks to be the favorite in boys competition this season after sharing the league title last winter and returning two All-League players from that championship squad.
Zane Richter, who scored 20 points in all but one game last season, and Wyatt Olberding look to put the Cobras in a similar situation, but the team will also see some familiar challengers trying to trip it up as Heights goes for the repeat.
Probably one of the biggest threats to JHHS is a JCN team that features its own prominent scorer in senior and All-League player Bryce Noll, who averaged 20 points a game last season.
Noll will run the team, but another key factor for the Chargers will be an experienced group at forward as starter Elijah Meyer returns along with every significant post contributor from the 2014-2015 campaign, meaning JCN is set for a run at the NEKL crown.
Two other top challengers will have to deal with some injuries as Valley Falls was set to see All-League player Marty Gatzmeyer spearhead its charge towards the top of the league standings, but how he comes back from a football injury will be a key factor in the Dragons’ success.
Forwards Zac Allen and Ty Gatzemeyer also return, along with a healthy Jarrett Wildeman, so the Dragons certainly have options to help carry the load and put the team in prime position as a title contender.
Meanwhile, Maur Hill returns no starters in 2015-2016, as a knee injury to Nick Caudle during the football season took away the Ravens’ one experienced player.
Given the tradition of the Ravens and their strong team defense, they still can’t be counted out and Horton, Pleasant Ridge, Oskaloosa, Immaculata and McLouth will all try to throw their hats in the ring as well. Both Horton (Alec Cowley) and Immaculata (Justin Varney) have one All-League player returning this season.
t1. Jackson Heights: 15-1, 21-3
t1. Maur Hill: 15-1, 18-4
3. JCN: 11-5, 14-8
4. Valley Falls: 10-6, 13-8
5. Horton: 6-10, 7-14
6. McLouth: 5-11, 7-15
7. Oskaloosa: 4-12, 5-16
t8. Immaculata: 3-13, 4-17
t8. Pleasant Ridge: 3-13, 4-17
*League record listed first.