The 2018-19 season was the most successful in years for the Necedah girls’ basketball program. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, the tail end of it was tinged with a couple “what could have been” scenarios.
By any metric, last year was highly successful for Necedah. The Cardinals finished 17-5 overall and tied for second in the Scenic Bluffs standings with an 11-3 mark. It was the program’s most successful campaign in over a decade, but a few agonizing losses late in the year thwarted their pursuit of a conference crown.
Necedah started 8-0 in Scenic Bluffs play, but three losses in its last six conference games resulted in the Cardinals finishing a game back of Scenic Bluffs champion Bangor in the final standings. Most excruciatingly for Necedah was that fact that its last two losses in conference play to Cashton and Royall came by a combined three points.
For Necedah head coach Pete Lowery and his team, some missed free throws down the stretch of those game in particular are haunting. So improvement at the charity stripe was an emphasis heading into this year.
“They were great games, exciting games with Royall and Cashton both times we played them,” Lowery said. “That’s what you want. You want competitive basketball in conference.
“We shot under 50 percent (from the line) in both games. You make two more free throws and you’re a conference champion. That’s something we worked on over the summer.”
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The Cardinals do lose a couple of senior guards from last season’s roster in all-conference second-team pick Emily Herried and all-conference honorable mention Braedynn Jones. Outside of that, everyone is back and raring to go in what figures to be a highly competitive race for the Scenic Bluffs title.
Necedah’s roster is anchored by a stellar group of seven seniors: forward/guard Miah Hansen, forward Gabby Wilhorn, center Kylee Moore and guards Kyra Saylor, Hannah Horak, Danielle Becker and Elizabeth Corcoran.
Becker and Hansen were each all-conference second-team selections while Saylor was an all-conference honorable mention last season.
In addition to the senior class, the Cardinals’ roster also features sophomore guards Paige Uksas and Taylor Anderson, freshman centers Kaleah Pfaff and Maddie Blum and freshman guards Marysta Saylor and Paige Lowery.
The return of Kylee Moore, in particular, is a boon for Necedah. Moore suffered an ACL injury last December that sidelined her for the season.
The departures of Jones and Herried can’t simply be dismissed. But with so much returning talent on such a senior-laden squad, the Cardinals are well aware of the golden opportunity that lies ahead for them in the 2019-20 battle for the Scenic Bluffs supremacy.
“Expectations are high. We’ve got a nice group of seniors. They’ve played a long time for me. They’ve played a long time together,” Lowery said. “We’ve set the bar high. We want to be one of the top teams just like we were last year. We need to play consistent basketball game after game after game because people are going to come after us. They know what we’ve got.”
Follow Zach Rastall on Twitter @zrastall17 or contact him at 608-697-7943.