Some of the most successful athletes in the history of Lincolnwood athletics have come from girls basketball, but with the exception of a short time in the late 1970s and early 1980s, these standouts have always had to take the floor somewhere else.
On Monday, Feb. 25, that came to an end as the Panhandle Board of Education approved the development of a girls basketball program at the junior high and high school levels at Lincolnwood.
The project was discussed at the January meeting, with Lincolnwood Principal Kendal Elvidge and Athletic Director Josh Stone meeting with potential parents and players in early February.
Elvidge said that approximately 15 players at each level attended the meeting, with another five or so turning in paper work but not attending. He spoke to the girls again a week later, seeking a solid commitment due to the upcoming expiration of the district's current co-op agreement with Pawnee. Elvidge told the board that more than 20 girls at each level said that they would be for playing for a team at Lincolnwood.
He added that while the program would not have much experience at the high school level, he believed that if the district could get the right people in place, the program would be a great opportunity for the female students in the district.
Elvidge acknowledged that the program would be costly financially, especially in the beginning, but interest would continue to grow in the younger grades as the program develops and that it would be worthwhile.
Stone provided information to the board regarding some of those potential costs, which include payment of ticket takers, book keepers and clock operators ($25 per night for an estimated eight home games), officials ($100 per night for high school and $60 for junior high) and coaches ($6,630 to $8,190 for high school and $4,680 to $6,630 for junior high). Other costs include transportation, bus drivers, uniforms and supplies.
Board member Bret Slightom asked about parental support at the meeting. Elvidge said it was very positive. A parent in attendance said that her daughter was in grade school would not be able to play for the Pawnee co-op team due to problems with transportation to practice, but would be able to play if the program was at Lincolnwood.
Board member Teri Payne expressed concern over conflicts with summer volleyball and the fact that many of the players will have very little basketball experience.
Elvidge said that the key will be to get a coach who knows the level of the players and understands that he or she will be starting the program from scratch.
Board member Shane Gilpin asked if removing girls basketball from the co-op with Pawnee will hurt the district's relationship with other co-op sports, namely football and soccer, with the Indians.
Elvidge said that he met with Pawnee's principal and that he understood the situation if Lincolnwood had the numbers to have their own program. He added that the Pawnee program is not dependent on the players from Lincolnwood and will continue regardless.
Board member Scott Cowdrey asked how much money would be wasted if only six players sign up to play next season. Payne also expressed concern over the future numbers, saying she was worried about year two and three.
Stone said he emphasized this to the potential players. He added that he believed that with the interest level of the current sixth graders, the program will be able to run at least six years, and hopefully longer as interest grows.
Elvidge said that while numbers have been low in co-ops with Pawnee, and Litchfield and Nokomis before them, he believed that the numbers will be better with their own program. He said the personalities of the girls who are interested makes him believe that they may be hesitant to play on an unfamiliar team, but could be a positive presence in more familiar surroundings.
Gilpin said that he was concerned that he was hearing some of the same arguments that were made during the decision to extend the baseball co-op with Morrisonville, but from the opposite side.
He said that previously the board had been in favor of co-ops and that this set a different precedent. Gilpin also expressed concern over the cost of the program to the district.
Ultimately, Gilpin would cast the lone dissenting vote in a 6-1 vote to approve developing the program.
While the history of girls basketball at Lincolnwood is minimal on their home court (it's been difficult to pinpoint the time frame in which the Lancers had a girls basketball team), it's had a great deal of success at its previous co-op stops.
Lincolnwood graduates hold the top spot in scoring at two of the three other Montgomery County high schools, with Abby Brockmeyer (2017) scoring 2,362 points for Litchfield and Va'Nicia Waterman (2001) scoring 2,384 points for Nokomis.
The two are also in a small group of Lincolnwood athletes who have gone on to play their sport at the NCAA Division I level, with Brockmeyer currently a sophomore at SIU-Carbondale and Waterman having played for Bradley University.
Waterman was also part of two IHSA state championship teams with Nokomis in 1998 and 1999 and was the leading scorer in Montgomery County basketball history until this year, when Hillsboro's Sammi Matoush eclipsed her point total.
In addition to Waterman and Brockmeyer, 1997 grad Sarah Hitchings and 2009 grad Anne Murphy also scored more than 1,000 points in their careers, both of which were played at Nokomis.
While it will most likely take some time for the Lincolnwood High School program to see much success, those who will make up these initial teams should be excited for the opportunity to do something that aforementioned greats never got to do - wear the orange and black uniform of the Lancers on their home court.