The long awaited Litchfield High School girls and boys basketball seasons will open on Feb. 19 when the Lady Panthers go toe-to-toe with the Lady Bulldogs of Staunton in a South Central match-up at Staunton and the boys hosting the Bulldogs in Simmons Gymnasium at 5:30 p.m.
It has been a roller coaster ride for both high school girls and boys basketball head coaches, Rob Corso and Drew Logan, as the post pandemic season for each was scheduled to kickoff against Lincolnwood on Feb. 13, only to be put on hold as the entire girls and boys basketball teams were quarantined after several team members tested positive for the virus within the first week of practice.
With the latest hurdle in the rear view mirror, both players and coaches are eager to return to the hardwoods despite the many COVID related changes that have been implemented to help ensure the safety of both players and spectators.
The abbreviated girls basketball season contains ten games, five played at home and five on the road. The majority of the schedule is against South Central Conference teams with the exception of a home non-conference match-up against the Lady Tigers from Greenfield on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 11 a.m.
A recent add-on to the schedule is a makeup game with Greenville that was originally scheduled for Feb. 15, but was canceled due to the quarantine period. The two teams will meet on Saturday, March 6, at Litchfield at 1 p.m.
All games, with the exception of the Feb. 27 game with Greenfield and the March 6 game with Greenville, begin with the junior varsity game at 5:30 p.m. followed by the varsity.
Beginning his ninth year as head coach of the Lady Panthers, Coach Rob Corso welcomes back five returning varsity letter winners from last year, seniors Becky Painter and Cara Pence, juniors Lily Braasch and Carly Guinn and sophomore Laura Boston.
When asked, Coach Corso had high praise for his two seniors.
“Becky and Cara have done a phenomenal job as leaders,” Coach Corso said. “I am especially proud of these two ladies because they didn’t have the summer experience to help grow into the leadership role. I can recall that as freshmen, they were being asked to play a lot of varsity minutes when they were really not ready. Now as seniors, they really shine.”
“Every time this team practices I am impressed with the attitudes of all of the girls. After all they have had to deal with since March, they come into the gym ready to play hard and get better,” he added. “This team has wonderful chemistry and Coach Bergschneider and I really enjoy our time with them.”
The 2019-20 LHS girls’ basketball team finished the year with 15 wins and 15 losses. They were 3-6 in the South Central Conference. They averaged 37.9 points per game but yielded 38.3 points per game to their opponents.
Their season ended with an early loss to Pittsfield in the Carlinville Class 2A Regional Tournament.
Pittsfield would advance to the championship game before giving way to the tournament’s hosts, the Lady Cavaliers, who went on a 13-0 third quarter run to preserve a 52-46 title win, their first since 2010. The Ladies Cavies advanced to the Greenville Sectional before falling to the powerful Breese Mater Dei Knights.
Senior Becky Painter enters this year’s season as the team’s leading three-point shooter with 38 treys in 29 games during the 2019-20 campaign. She was second in overall scoring behind Carly Boden with 200 points and averaged 6.9 points per game. She shot 46 percent from the free-throw line and was second behind Cara Pence in rebounding with 157 caroms. She was also second behind Pence in assists and steals with 74 and 64 respectively.
Senior Cara Pence was last year’s team leader in rebounding, assists, steals and blocks. Pence snagged 258 rebounds in 30 games for an average of 8.6 per contest. She recorded 95 assists, 75 steals and 14 blocks. Lack of endurance was not an issue for the 5’11” center as she appeared in all 30 games and scored 172 points for a 5.7 average. She shot 48 percent from the charity stripe.
An intimidator within the paint, her comfort level extended far beyond the inner square as she canned 19 three-point baskets, which was third behind Painter (38) and Carson Jackson (32).
Juniors Lily Braasch and Carly Guinn should be key contributors to the Lady Panther lineup. Braasch appeared in 17 varsity games last year and pulled down 21 rebounds, dished five assists and scored six points. Guinn appeared in nine varsity contests and recorded two rebounds, three assists, two steals and bagged a three pointer.
Rounding out the returning letter winners is sophomore Laura Boston who will give the Panthers a 1-2 punch in the paint. As a freshman, Boston gained valuable varsity experience with 22 game appearances. She ended the season with 25 points, 29 rebounds, nine assists and six defensive takeaways.
Other members of the Lady Panthers are senior Sara Yakana, sophomores Olivia Fleming, Lauren Monke, Hailey Rentz and Emma Walch, freshmen Madisyn Bremerkamp, Emma Diveley and Annika Rhodes. Libby Lamb and Ali Fenton will serve as team managers and statisticians.