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Girls basketball preview: Change is in the air for West Chicago

Published: Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 11:25 a.m. CDT
West Chicago's Mae Elizabeth Gimre looks to inbound the ball during a game last season. Gimre and the Wildcats will make their debut in the Upstate Eight Conference this season. Matthew Piechalak file photo -

WEST CHICAGO – The 2013-14 season is one of new beginnings for the West Chicago girls basketball team, which joins the Upstate Eight Conference after leaving the DVC.

“I’m kind of excited about getting into a new conference,” West Chicago coach Kim Wallner said. “It’s something that is kind of exciting for me after coaching in the DVC for 30 years. It’s definitely a little bit of a change with all new teams. But it will be fun in that way and it’s a new challenge for us.”

On the court, the team’s biggest issue will be replacing Laura Panicali, who averaged 20.1 points and 5.7 rebounds per game last winter. The Wildcats do return an experienced core of players in Shelly Molskow, Natalie Warkins and Mae Elizabeth Gimre.

“We lost some seniors last year, including Laura, who averaged 20 points a game,” the coach said. “How we are going to replace that is kind of by committee. I would look for us to have balanced scoring from a lot of our kids.

“We do have three kids who played a significant amount last year. They will get a lot of playing time and after that, it might be who steps up. We have some seniors who have paid their dues and are eager to have their time. We will see what they can do.”

Without a lot of height on the roster, West Chicago expects to pick up its defensive intensity in order to level the playing field

“We will look to pressure,” Wallner said. “We have a little more quickness this year so we will look to push the ball. And we will try to go a little deeper, especially if I want to pressure.

“We will go after it pretty hard. We are certainly not a real big team but we are scrappy. We will try to mix things up defensively.”

West Chicago will play in the Riverside Brookfield Thanksgiving tournament for the first time before heading back to the Oswego East event over Christmas. Upstate Eight play begins on Dec. 6.

“It’s going to be really challenging,” Wallner said. “The Upstate Eight is a very physical conference and there are also a lot of athletic teams who like to pressure and run.”

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