Wilmot senior Julia Hickey dishes the basketball to a teammate during practice Monday in the school gym. Hickey will be one of the leading returners entering this season (Jason Arndt/The Report).

By Jason Arndt
Staff Writer

Can the Wilmot Union High School girls basketball team capture a Southern Lakes Conference title?

Head coach Jerod Boyd certainly believes it could happen because the Panthers have been one of the early favorites, according to some observers.

“I expect us to win the conference, I expect us to win most of the games we play,” said Boyd, whose team finished 15-7 overall and 12-2 last year in SLC action, losing 56-52 to Jefferson in a WIAA Division 2 regional.

The Panthers’ pursuit for a conference title starts Friday against visiting Westosha Central.

Standing in Wilmot’s way will be defending champion Waterford, which finished one game ahead of the Panthers and Union Grove.

Waterford boasts league Player of the Year Katie Rohner while the Broncos present a young but talented team, according to Boyd.

“Waterford is going to be tough; they return some kids that were hurt last year, and Katie Rohner is the Player of the Year, a good kid,” he said. “Grove will be tough, too. They are young but are really talented.”

To contend for a title, the Panthers will rely on their up- tempo offense and strong core of returning seniors, including first team All-Conference guard Julia Hickey.

Last season, Hickey established single-season and single-game 3-point records for the Panthers and finished with a team-leading 10.5 points per game.

“I expect Julia Hickey to be our scorer. When we need buckets, she will make them,” Boyd said.

The other three seniors are 6-2 post Karina Leber and guards Delaney Brown and Kenzi Ketterhagen.

Boyd said the three seniors bring different strengths.

Leber helped the Panthers open this season 2-0 with a game-winning bucket against Waukesha North and maintained a post presence.

“I think Karina Leber has definitely stepped up,” he said. “She had 18 boards the first game, 12 the second game, and is way more physical than she has ever been.”

Brown, the next best returning contributor at 8.3 points per game, will bring playmaking abilities, while Boyd expects Ketterhagen to lead the defense.

“Well, we run what we call our ‘jungle tiger defense’ and Kenzi is the epitome of the jungle tiger,” he said. “She is the head of our defense.”

Boyd said junior guard Sophia Parisi has been impressive in the team’s first two games and could become the fifth starter.

Other Panthers with experience from last year include seniors Shelly Edmonds (guard) and Paige Sala (post) along with junior Casey Christensen (post).

However, Wilmot will be without graduated seniors Riley Alexander, Haley Lamberson, Karoline Klahs, Kiya Thompson and Ariana Rita.

While Alexander averaged 8.9 points per game, propelled by 52 3-pointers, en route to second team All-Conference honors, Lamberson contributed 9.9 points per game, and Klahs added another 8.2.

“We will miss Kik (Karoline Klahs), Haley and Riley,” Boyd said. “Those were all of our shooters. They could space the floor really well.”

The Panthers will look to five newcomers to offset the senior losses, notably sophomore transfer Madelyn Johnson, who started as a freshman at Richmond-Burton Community High School in Illinois.

Johnson, a 5-4 guard, could shoulder some significant minutes, Boyd said.

“We have Maddie Johnson, a transfer coming in. She has played a lot of significant minutes for us and (we) expect her to contribute offensively,” he said.

Juniors Mira Kendall, Josephine Beinecke, Abby Horton and Kyleigh Pittman round out the newcomers for the Panthers.

“I do believe that we can win the conference championship,” Boyd re

 
 

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