A schedule front-loaded with larger schools did the Nokomis Lady Redskins no favors in 2018-19, but as the season progressed, things got better for the red and black.
The Lady Redskins were 7-24 on the season, ten wins off their mark from a year ago when they were led by a strong group of seniors - Taylor Lohman, Kerstyn Hughes, Alyssa Huber and McKenna Sanders - who scored 80 percent of Nokomis’ points in 2017-18.
But over Nokomis’ last 12 games, Coach Brandon Engelman’s club was 6-6, with a narrow four-point loss to East Alton-Wood River in the mix as well.
In the first 19 games, Nokomis averaged 31.4 points per game and had just one win, a 42-33 victory over Pawnee at the Carlinville Holiday Tournament. There were some close calls in that 1-18 span, like a back-to-back-to-back losses to North Mac, Metro-East Lutheran and Father McGivney by a total of 14 points and a seven point loss to a solid Auburn squad, but there were some not-so-close losses in that mix too.
The final 12 games went much better though, with Nokomis averaging 35.9 points per game and coming away with six wins. Of their six losses down the stretch, three were against teams who won regionals (Hillsboro, Lebanon and Central A&M), while a fourth, Marquette, made it to a regional title game as well.
Part of Nokomis’ slow start came from its youth. Only two of their three seniors had any varsity experience and sophomores made up four of the 11 roster spots. More playing time brought better numbers for guard Emily Cesaretti, one of the two seniors with varsity experience.
A three-point threat, Cesaretti was third in scoring with 5.6 points per game and led the team with 38 threes. She was also the team’s leader in assists with 45 and was third in rebounds with 80.
Vanessa Patkus, the other senior carryover, missed extended time due to an injury suffered in the Carlinville tournament, but was still tough enough under the basket to finish second in rebounds with 93 in 18 games. Patkus had seven games with seven or more rebounds, including a 13 point, ten rebound performance in Nokomis’ win over Cowden-Herrick/Beecher City on senior night.
Jorgia Crowe was on varsity for the first time in her senior year and provided energy off the bench. She’d finish the year with nine points, 38 rebounds, 17 steals and 22 assists.
Junior Macee Eisenbarth would lead Nokomis in scoring and rebounding this year with 7.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, despite being an undersized 5’6” post player. Eisenbarth would have nine games with double-digit rebounds, including three double-doubles. Against Gillespie, the junior forward would pull down 16 boards and put in 14 points, with three steals and two assists on the stat sheet for good measure.
Nokomis’ other juniors, Katie Janssen and Ellee Waterman, would both average just over two points per game. Janssen hit some big threes for the Lady Redskins late in the season, while Waterman contributed 61 rebounds for NHS.
Of the sophomore group, Kristen Stauder was second in scoring with 6.1 points per game, while also grabbing 70 rebounds and 58 steals. Mia Fesser averaged 4.5 points and 2.3 rebounds per game and led the team in steals with 73.
Delaney Keiser would add in 1.2 points per game with 68 rebounds, while Jamie Johnson played in 19 contests, scoring three points and grabbing ten boards.
Freshman Chloe Sims rounded out the roster with a solid varsity debut season. She’d average 1.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in her 27 games.
While the win total wasn’t in their favor this year, the future has potential for the Lady Redskins. Not only are they returning with much more scoring and experience than they did last year, but they are also getting an influx of talent from the eighth grade girls basketball team that finished fourth at the IESA Class 2A State Tournament.
Even if those players don’t see much varsity time, their numbers will hopefully boost the roster to the point where Nokomis can have full JV games, instead of the abbreviated games that were played this year due to low numbers.
A year more experienced doesn’t necessarily mean a year better, but if the Redskins can feed off the late surge, the 2019-20 campaign should be a more successful one.