Each day in November brings us closer and closer to the beginning of high school girls basketball season, and with jamborees beginning today (Tuesday) and regular season games tipping off later this week, it’s time to look at the conference race that awaits the area’s big schools this winter.
The Union area teams, Fairfield, Mt. Pleasant and Washington, will make up one half of the Southeast Conference in 2019. Burlington’s addition shakes up the schedule for all five teams, bringing the number of SEC games each team plays up from eight to 10.
The Union area’s best shot at a conference title seems to be Fairfield. The Trojans are coming off a 14-7 season last year and a split of the SEC crown with Keokuk. The Trojans went 7-1 in the SEC, falling at home to the Chiefs by the score of 60-47 in December but getting revenge 42-36 in early February.
The Trojans lost three of their five starters from last year, but bring back their two top scorers. Shaylin Drish scored 15.2 points per game last season, thanks in part to a red-hot year from three-point land, shooting 43 percent from behind the arc. Destiny Gridley scored 9.5 points per game last season for second best on the team. Both Drish and Gridley will be entering their senior seasons.
The Trojans will have to play sharp as a tack to outlast Keokuk. The Chiefs lost MacKenzie Northup, the leading scorer in the SEC last season, but bring back their next four scorers. That includes Michenna Davis, who scored 9.9 points per game and also led the team in rebounds and steals.
Mt. Pleasant is coming off a 6-15 overall record last year, but four of those wins were in conference play. The Panthers went 4-4 in the SEC, sweeping Washington and Ft. Madison and losing each game against Keokuk and Fairfield.
The Panthers lost two starters, leading scorer Maddie Williamson (11.6 PPG) and leading rebounder Sadie Carrasco (6.1 PPG, 157 rebounds). Those were the only two seniors on the 2018-19 squad, meaning MP will have three starters back and their entire bench. Lydia Stewart enters her senior year as the leading returner, scoring 6.3 points per game in 2018-19.
Washington finished behind Mt. Pleasant in the standings last season, going 8-14 overall but just 2-6 in conference play, blowing out Ft. Madison twice.
The Demons will take a sizable hit after losing three starters, including two of their top three leading scorers, Isabel Bailey (8.0 PPG) and Kira Ropp (5.4 PPG). Washington does return a good front court, which includes Addison Six (5.7 PPG, 102 rebounds) and Olivia Pacha (5.1 PPG, 114 rebounds).
Ft. Madison won just two games overall last season and went 0-8 in SEC play, although they did take down Burlington 46-44 in the regional tournament. The Bloodhounds may take a step forward this year after bringing back four starters, including their top three scorers. Maddie Rashid enters her junior year after scoring 7.1 points per game to lead the Hounds last year.
That leaves the newbies. Burlington went just 4-16 last season, but two of their four wins were against SEC teams. The Grayhounds defeated Washington 41-37 in their third game of the year and beat Ft. Madison 46-40 before losing to them in the tournament. Fairfield and Mt. Pleasant both beat Burlington last year, and the Grayhounds didn’t play Keokuk.
Burlington returns three starters, including second-leading scorer and leading rebounder Angel Baylark (5.9 PPG, 83 rebounds). Keokuk’s two graduates were Kayla Glasgow (6.8 PPG) and Karli Glasgow (4.1 PPG).
The first day of SEC action will be Friday, Dec. 6. The Washington girls will host Fairfield. Keokuk will host Burlington and Mt. Pleasant will host Ft. Madison. The boys’ teams will also open up conference play that day with Fairfield hosting Washington, Burlington hosting Keokuk and Ft. Madison hosting Mt. Pleasant.