Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 22, 2014

Athletic Pekin girls looking to reload in 2013

By MICHAEL LEACH, Ledger sports editor | Nov 30, 2012
PHOTO SUBMITTED From left, front row: Monica Cooley, Cheyann Lankford, Maleaha Earnest, Leslie Stone; middle row: Madelyn Baker, Jacinta Cooley, Jessica Horras, Sam Wright, Tiana Slaney, McKenna Gambell, Bridget Fritchen, Danielle Cooley; back row: Shae Oostra, Nikole Arendt, Gwynne Wright, Cassidy Tolle, Devin Dailey, Payton Lock, Tessa Winn, Beth Atwood and Sloan Reighard.

Athleticism is one thing Pekin girls basketball coach Davis Eidahl doesn’t have to worry about in 2012-13.

After all, his team is primarily made up of multiple-sport athletes who don’t like to lose, whether on the dirt diamonds in the summer, grassy courses in the fall or the hardwood in the winter.

Even so, Eidahl sees one particular area that could use some work this winter.

“We have the athletes but we need to work on our shooting,” said Eidahl, who also coaches cross country and boys’ track. “I told the girls to be patient, and you will see good improvement. With all our young girls, we will start slow and develop as a team as the season goes on.”

The young team will be led by two returning starters in Leslie Stone and Cheyann Lankford, and they will look to replace all-conference guard Emily Ellis, who led the team with 11.7 points per game last season, as well as Brandy Millikin and Paige Jensen.

Both Stone, a 5-foot-10 post player, and 5-foot-7 guard Lankford will be leaned on heavily in the early going as the team works on coming together as one unit.

“Cheyann and Leslie are the heart and soul of the team. They’ll have to be on the floor at all times, especially early on,” Eidahl said.

Lankford, a second team All-SEISC selection last season, will man the point and has the shooting ability to make up for some of the offense lost. Lankford was third on the team in scoring last season with 8.5 points per game, and she knocked down the highest percentage of free throw attempts (72 percent).

“Our offense will also rely on Cheyann’s driving ability,” said Eidahl. “She’s a lot better and quicker than she was last year.”

While it’ll be up to Lankford to score from the outside, it’ll be Stone’s role to pick up many of the Panthers’ points in the paint. Stone was one of the Panthers’ top rebounders last season and pulled down a team-high 65 offensive boards. She also was the team’s fifth scoring option with five points per contest.

In addition to the two seniors, Eidahl expects a group of at least four girls to rotate in and out of the final three starting spots this winter, from juniors Sam Wright and Jessica Horras to sophomores McKenna Gambell and Madelyn Baker.

“We will play several girls in the rotation to see how we play with different combinations,” said Eidahl.

Eidahl also foresees several others receiving a good amount of playing time. Monica Cooley and Jacinta Cooley will find court time, as will Tiana Slaney, Beth Atwood and Bridget Fritchen. Freshmen newcomers Gwynne Wright and Sloan Reighard, two key members of Eidahl’s state runner-up cross country team, will also be in the mix for minutes.

“The freshman class is pretty good and they’ll get some minutes when they’re ready,” Eidahl said.

Pekin hasn’t finished lower than third in the conference in any of the past four years, but Eidahl sees more depth in the league than in years past. Last season’s Southeast Iowa Super Conference North champion Mediapolis again looks to be the frontrunner, while Lone Tree, Winfield-Mount Union, Highland, WACO and Columbus also look strong.

“Mepo is head and shoulders above the rest of us,” Eidahl said. “Beyond that, they are all pretty much in the same boat with us, and it might come down to whoever comes to play on any given night.”

The Panthers have already played four games this season. Their next game is Tuesday vs. Columbus.

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