Nov. 17—PEKIN — There could be a large presence looming over the Southeast Iowa Superconference's north division during the upcoming girls basketball season.
Just ask Albia sophomore Lillian DeMoss, who literally ran into that presence on Tuesday at the preseason Pekin Jamboree. After grabbing a defensive rebound, DeMoss turned to head up the court only to run right into Pekin sophomore Anna Hadley.
The reigning state discus throw champion simply stood her ground. As a result, DeMoss bounced backwards leaving the ball in the paint.
Before the play was over, Hadley had collected a steal, four rebounds and two points. Before the night was over, Hadley had scored 10 of Pekin's 19 points over 16 minutes against the Lady Dees while grabbing 10 rebounds for a preseason double-double, clinching a 19-15 win for the Panthers in the two-quarter scrimmage by sinking a free throw with 2.4 seconds left.
"We're still working on getting her a little refined," Pekin head girls basketball coach Davis Eidahl said. "She's a force in there. She's big and she's strong. Her conditioning is also good. Hopefully, that will help us have a better season."
As a freshman, Hadley started just once while appearing in 20 games for the Panthers averaging just 1.9 points and 2.9 rebounds a game during the team's 4-18 season. If Tuesday's jamboree was any indication, Hadley should see both of those averages increase dramatically with eight of her 10 points against Albia coming in the second quarter alone including a pair of lay-ups set up by stealing the ball away from a Lady Dee off a defensive rebound.
"We definitely have a good guard-post combo. Even in practice, we can a huge improvement from what we were last year," Pekin sophomore guard Chloe Glosser said. "We only have two upperclassmen this year. The rest are underclassmen, but that's not going to stop us. We just work really good together."
Juliana Brown led Albia in the jamboree with five points, going inside for the first points of the scrimmage before sinking a 3-pointer from the top of the key at end of the first eight-minute period giving the Lady Dees a 9-8 lead. Brown and Makenna Cronin, two of Albia's three returning seniors, combined to score seven of Albia's 15 points as the Lady Dees turned up the pressure late cutting a nine-point deficit down to three in the final minute before a tying attempt from the corner came up short.
"We played pretty well. We only have 15 kids, so we wanted to see what we have and what's available to us," Albia head girls basketball coach Katy Dykes said. "We used this as an opportunity to get on the court and see how different rotations would flow.
"I'm pleased with the effort our kids give. They give us that every night in practice. We have good quickness. What height we have will suit us well with our quickness. It's just a matter now of figuring out how to rebound and box out against kids that are a little stronger and bigger."
Albia, 9-13 a season ago, will be put to the test again inside during their regular-season opener on Tuesday against Sigourney. The Savages won their portion of the Pekin Jamboree with a second-quarter surge past Van Buren County winning 22-12 led by a nine-point effort from junior Josephine Moore.
"We just had to know that we had to come out and bring the fire and the energy. I think that's what worked well for us," Moore said. "We've just got play our defense this year and do what we do."
What proved to be successful for Moore and the Savages early in the second period was putting pressure on the Warriors, who managed to take a 5-4 lead after one quarter despite being limited to one field goal. Moore scored three consecutive field goals in the opening two minutes of the second period as Sigourney scored 10 unanswered points to build a 16-7 lead.
"I think one of big emphasis this year is pressing. We could tell early on that was frustrating (Van Buren County)," Sigourney senior Carly Goodwin said. "When we were able to find their weaknesses on the press, we turned that into out good stuff. When we got into the half-court defense, I feel like we were communicating well and were still able to get them flustered."
Ivy Davidson, coming off an all-conference volleyball season for Van Buren County, led the Warriors with five points in the scrimmage. Davidson averaged 13.9 points and 8.2 rebounds a game for Van Buren County last season during a 6-16 campaign.
Sigourney, meanwhile, return seven players that saw time in at least 18 games. The Savages went 18-6, including an eight-game winning streak that carried Sigourney into the Class 1A regional quarterfinals last season.
"We're a pretty athletic team and we definitely want to use that to our advantage," Sigourney head girls basketball coach Schay Moore said. "I felt like we got off to a slow start last year. That's one thing I've been preaching the most this season. Hopefully, we can turn the corner before Christmas. It kind of took until after the holidays to accomplish what we wanted to last year. I'm hoping we click a little sooner this season."
The jamboree began with an exciting 16-minute exhibition between Cardinal and Mid-Prairie, two teams that were coming off much different seasons as the young Comets finished 5-17 while Mid-Prairie posted a 16-7 record last year. Paced by Emma Becker, who missed her junior season of basketball recovering from a torn ACL, the Comets battled back and forth with the Hawks exchanging seven ties and seven lead changes.
"I don't know what Mid-Prairie will go on to do this season, but they've traditionally been pretty good. They've also got good size, which is something we needed to see considering the (South Central) conference we play in this year," Cardinal head girls basketball coach Chris Becker said. "We wanted to play fast. I feel like the girls did that. We're going to have a lot of heart this season on defense and we're going to have to do some work boxing out, but it was good to get out here and work on that pace of play you just can't emulate during practice."
Chris's daughter, Emma, led Cardinal in her official return to the hardwood for the Comets with eight points in the scrimmage. Alexis Bissell and Ashlynn Patrick added five point apiece for the Comets, who led 25-24 with less than three minutes left before a 3-pointer by Morgyn Becker sparked a closing seven-point run for the Golden Hawks to clinch a 32-26 win.
"I knew that, once I started to playing, it would start to feel normal," Emma Becker said. "I love pushing the ball for my teammates and getting my teammates in position to score. I love to score the ball myself, but I love being out there with my teammates.
"I missed them. I'm sure they missed me too."
— Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.