WINTER SPORTS PREVIEW: Pekin girls seek SEISC North conference titleWright sisters to play huge role
Head Coach: Davis Eidahl, 10th year
Key Returnees: Samantha Wright (Sr.), Jessica Horras (Sr.) Gwynne Wright (So.), Beth Atwood (So.)
Outlook: The Panthers have a strong sophomore class to match up with their upperclassmen. Pekin could do some damage in the SEISC North this season.
The Pekin girls’ basketball team has all five of last year’s starters returning to action this season.
After seniors left the team midseason, underclassman had to fill their spots. Now a sophomore, Gwynne Wright separated herself from the pack with excellent guard play. Gwynne distributes the basketball and backs that up with lethal three-point shooting. She made 24 from behind the arc last season, and she was on fire as she led the team to victory over Fairfield at the Pride Scrimmage Nov. 23.
Her sister Samantha Wright, now a senior, also will be in the starting lineup. Samantha led the Panthers in assists with 33, which was the most on the team by a wide margin.
Sophomore Beth Atwood will most likely join the starting lineup after coming off of the bench to lead the Panthers in scoring over the last six games of 2013. Atwood put in eight points in the 35-34 district loss to Van Buren that brought the season to a screeching halt. Rebounding stud Jessica Horras and junior Madelyn Baker will likely round out the starting five.
“This year we have the opportunity to become a very good team,” coach Davis Eidahl said. “We have good jumpers from volleyball, quickness and speed from cross-country, and a group of girls that work and like to play together.”
Eidahl plans to play nine to 10 players per game. Tiana Slaney, Bridget Fritchen, Nikole Arendt, and Cassidy Tolle will all see significant time coming off of the bench. The bench player that may mean the most to Pekin, however, is McKenna Gambell. Gambell was leading the team in scoring last December before an ACL injury brought her season to an end.
Seven sophomores make up a strong up-and-coming core of players. These sophomores have the same issues that the upperclassmen have, however. Pekin lacks a post presence that can contend with tall players. Baker and Kaysha Dodson are both 5-feet-11 and are the tallest players on the team.
Four out of the first five games on the schedule for the Panthers are on the road. Luckily, all four of the road trips are against teams that finished in the lower portion of the conference last season.
Pekin traveled to WACO on Tuesday to begin the season, and will face off with Lone Tree on Dec. 3.
SEISC North Division: 2012-13 Standings
Team, Conference Record, Overall Record
Mediapolis 18-0 21-2
Winfield-Mt. Union 15-3 18-6
Columbus 11-7 14-9
Highland 8-10 13-11
Wapello 8-10 11-12
Pekin 9-9 10-12
Lone Tree 8-10 9-13
IMS 6-12 8-14
WACO 6-12 7-14
Louisa-Muscatine 2-16 2-19
Pekin 2013-14 Schedule: Varsity Basketball
11/26 @ WACO
12/3 @ Lone Tree
12/5 @ Wapello
12/10 vs. Columbus
12/13 @ Louisa-Muscatine
12/17 vs. Mediapolis
12/19 vs. Cardinal
12/20 @ IMS
1/7 @ Winfield-Mt. Union
1/10 vs. WACO
1/14 vs. Lone Tree
1/17 vs. Wapello
1/21 @ Columbus
1/24 vs. Louisa-Muscatine
1/28 @ Mediapolis
1/31 vs. IMS
2/4 @ Highland
2/7 vs. Winfield-Mt. Union
2/8 SEISC Shootout
2/8 @ Sigourney