Girls basketball: Panthers hoping experience translates to success

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Gillett eyeing repeat success with revamped roster
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Suring’s Kylee Stelzer drives to the basket against Gresham last year. Stelzer made the Marinette & Oconto Conference second team last season. (Times Herald file photo)

Having an experienced team at any level of play can be recipe for success. The Oconto Falls High School girls basketball team is hoping their immense amount of varsity experience can propel them to a strong season in the North Eastern Conference.

A year after finishing 7-16 overall and 5-13 in conference play, the Panthers will return nine players who gained varsity experience last season.

Seniors Emma Huberty and Sammie Shallow will fill out the guard positions in the starting lineup, while juniors Kari Albrecht, Morgan Helmle and Natalie Brauer are the starting forwards.

While the lineup will be experienced, without much height, it could have trouble defending other teams’ bigs.

“We are an experienced team but have to overcome our lack of size and quickness with effort,” coach Mike Kaczmarek said.

Seniors Katelyn Albrecht and Kaelyn Albrecht and sophomores Mikaela Goebl and Amelia Rice all have experience off the bench for Oconto Falls.

While the team does not return any all-conference selections from a year ago, its experience gives the team confidence heading into the year.

“We need strong defense,” Huberty said. “We have a lot of girls this year, and we are all of similar ability. This means we can go hard in the time we have. We need to stay together and be aggressive.”

“I’m very confident that our team will do well as the season starts and better as the season continues,” Shallow said. “We’ve all played together for a number of years, and I believe that we know how to work as a team. One of the things we need to do is feed off of each other’s strengths to achieve the successes that I know we are capable of.”

Marinette & Oconto Conference

In a fairly balanced Marinette & Oconto Conference, Gillett turned in a third-place finish with a 12-4 mark a season ago.

Unlike Oconto Falls, Gillett will have to replace four starters and look to newcomers to fill the voids.

Coach Justin Daul believes the players’ playoff experience last year could help the team as it looks to find a rotation.

Junior Sydney Young is the only returning starter. Juniors Camryn Long and Grace Wickman each give the Tigers some height in the post. Sophomores Aubrey DeBauch, Karissa Schaal, Brianna DeBauch and Abby Peterson also got varsity experience a season ago.

While the team loses the services of Taylor Yonker, a first team all-conference selection last year, the talented player will join the team’s coaching staff.

Aubrey DeBauch was the only other Gillett player named to an all-conference team — an honorable mention pick last year.

“Yes, we did lose five valuable seniors to graduation, but we still have a strong group of players returning,” she said. “We will be young this year, as we have no seniors on the team, but our ultimate goal is to make it to state. This won’t be easy, but if we gain confidence and grow together as a team, I believe we can accomplish this goal.”

Both Suring and Lena finished with 4-12 conference marks a season ago. Suring returns several players from last year, while Lena will need to fill in some holes.

Wylee Van Bellinger is the only senior with significant varsity experience on this year’s roster for Suring, which will return Kylee Stelzer and Paige Krueger, both of whom made all-conference teams as freshmen. Stelzer was a second-teamer, while Krueger made the honorable mention squad.

Senior Linzy Runge, juniors Stephanie Huth and Jaden Bubolz along with sophomore Kelsey Smith will help fill out the rotation.

Suring coach Shaun Wagner believes his team should be competitive against a M&O conference that returns lots of talent from a season ago.

Of the six seniors who made an all-conference team a season ago, Lena rostered two of them.

Seniors Alayna Peterson and Meckenna Portier are the only two returning starters for the Wildcats. Seniors Maddy Herald and Jordyn Dolata and juniors Lillian Sellen and Lilia Shallow also have varsity experience.

Like coach Wagner, Lena coach Tim Goldschmidt raved about the skill in the conference and the challenges conference teams will bring. He also noted that some of his team’s young players may need to step up, while the play on the defensive side of the ball needs to improve also.

The area’s four local teams could have opened their seasons Tuesday.