With a team full of quick wing players, the Oregon girls basketball team is eager to take care of unfinished business.
Oregon, which split two games against Division 2 state runner-up Monroe last season, envisioned a long postseason run and a possible rubber match against the Cheesemakers. Instead, DeForest upset Oregon 48-46 on a shot in the final seconds in the D2 regional semifinal, and the Panthers roll into this season using the game as fuel for 2019-20.
“The seniors mentioned that after we lost that game to DeForest that is when they started getting ready for next season,” Oregon coach Adam Wamsley said. “Hopefully, we use that hunger as motivation.”
The Panthers finished 14-9 and fourth in the Badger South with an 8-6 mark last year. They return three starters and nine players from last season.
Oregon is led by two first-team all-Badger South players in seniors Liz Uhl and Kaitlyn Schrimpf. Uhl, a University of Illinois-Springfield commit, is the top returning scorer after averaging 14.1 points per game last year. She made 33 three-pointers, led the team with a 78.8 free-throw percentage (82-for-104), and excelled in the Panthers’ press defense with 3.1 steals per game.
Schrimpf averaged 10.8 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 steals per game last season, and shot 31.5 percent (31-for-73) from 3-point range.
The other returning starter is senior point guard Izzie Peterson, who averaged 6.6 points per game last season.
Wamsley said the trio of returning starters display the type of leadership and teamwork to be successful.
“They are a very committed and focused group,” he said. “I’m excited for the whole group to see where they can go. I expect us to compete for a conference championship.”
Wamsley noted experience, athletic ability and depth as strengths of this year’s team.
“We should have the depth and ability with our guard play to be aggressive on defense, create turnovers and score in transition,” he said. “We have the ability to get to the basket and score.”
One area Wamsley wants to see improvement is outside shooting.
“Our outside game has been inconsistent,” he said. “Being unable to hit shots has cost us games in the past. We just have to prove it by being better this season.”
Another area of concern is the frontcourt, according to Wamsley. The Panthers used a full-court press last season to generate turnovers and score in transition to combat the size difference.
“Our smaller lineups will have a tougher time matching up with bigger opponents,” he said. “We are going to have to be flexible and creative with our lineups and matchups.”
Six other players returning for the Panthers are Megan Bloyer, Jaelyn Nedelcoff, Michaela Rosga, Carliegh Roberts, Emily Statz and Kaitlyn Schwass.
Roberts (3.4 points per game last season), Nedelcoff and Statz will be relied upon as guards.
Wamsley said Roberts has the vision and creativity on the court to create more opportunities for herself and teammates.
Schwass is recovering from an ACL injury. Bloyer, Rosga and Statz will also be leaned upon to defend in the post.
“She will have a lot on her plate, guarding post and wing players at times,” Wamsley said of Statz. “She can play both positions, and has the ability to score inside and out.”
Wamsley said Bloyer is a “true post presence and strong rebounder.”
Nedelcoff could play a prominent defensive role. Wamsley lauds Nedelcoff for her defensive ability.
“She’s one of our top passers and defenders,” he said. “She will be asked to defend our opponent’s top wing/guard.”
Monona Grove won the Badger South Conference title last year, snapping Monroe’s two-year reign atop the league. However, the Silver Eagles have to replace standout McKenna Warnock (29.7 points and 12.5 rebounds per game), who is now playing basketball at the University of Iowa. The Cheesemakers have three starters back, but graduated two college players — University of Wisconsin-Madison point guard Sydney Hilliard and Lindenwood University’s Emily Benzschawel.
Wamsley expects a balanced race for the conference title with Oregon, Monroe, Stoughton, Watertown, Edgewood and Monona Grove in the mix.
The Crusaders figure to benefit from the return of Ella Foti, a 6-foot junior who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Foti will be paired with 6-foot-1 Baluck Deang and 6-foot-3 Sarah Lazar in the frontcourt.
“Edgewood will be there with their tall lineup,” Wamsley said. “Watertown will be a difficult matchup because of their zone play and the ability of (Teya) Maas. MG will surprise. Monroe and Stoughton will be there as well.”