21st Century Cougars

Coach: LaTysha Sanders, first season at school.

Last season: 1-17.

2019 postseason: Lost 76-3 to Marquette in the Class 1A sectional quarterfinals.

What you should know

Sanders takes over a program that hasn’t had a five-win season since a 5-17 campaign in 2014-15.

Bowman Eagles

Coach: Thomas Smith, second season at school.

Last season: 8-15.

2019 postseason: Lost 72-34 to Bishop Noll in Class 2A sectional semifinals.

Top returning players: Christian Haggard, Sr., G, (15.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 6.6 spg); Micale Dixon, Jr., G, (2.8 ppg, 2 rpg); Derriuana Woodson, So., C, (3 ppg, 3.1 rpg).

What you should know

Christian Haggard is one of the best all-around players in the state and she looks to have a breakout season at Bowman.

“Everything is going to go through Christian. The team is going to go as far as Christian takes the team,” Smith said.

Haggard led the state in steals last season, Smith said. She’ll be a key cog for a team that endured a midseason coaching change last year as O’Keisha Howard resigned. She ended up at Clark this year.

That allowed Smith to have a full summer to install his principles.

“What I’m expecting this year is to put a lot of pressure on teams, get a lot of turnovers and we’re going to be fast,” he said.

It created some challenges last season that Smith expects to turn around as team chemistry is improved and expectations are set.

“The one motivation is that we lost to some teams last year that we should have beat,” he said. “We lost to some teams last year that ended up having a worse record than we did.”

Covenant Christian Knights

Coach: Tim Zylstra, first season.

Last season: 8-16.

2019 postseason: Lost 61-24 to North White in the Class 1A sectional quarterfinals.

Top returning players: Leanna Buiter, Sr., G, (6.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.7 apg, 2 spg); Hope Zylstra, Sr., F, (6.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.7 spg); Sydnie Bakker, Jr., F, (3.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg).

What you should know

Covenant Christian returns a strong core and plans to improve under first-year coach Tim Zylstra, who has spent 14 years coaching basketball at the youth and junior high levels.

“This will be a turnaround season for the Knights,” he said. “This team will be known for composure, a strong transition game and tenacious defense.”

Skylar Bos helped lead the Knights soccer team to a sectional championship in the fall and will make an impact as a newcomer to the basketball team. She adds to the depth of players earning varsity minutes last season.

Senior Dom Bennett is a spot-up shooter from the perimeter. Juniors Des Holmes and Carly James factor at guard and Morgan Schaafsma is a junior who will play in the front court.

Illiana Christian Vikings

Coach: Lisa Blocker, first season at school.

Last season: 3-19.

2019 postseason: Was not eligible for the IHSAA tournament.

Top returning players: Lizzie Knot, Sr., PG; Kaylee Evers, Sr., G; Kennedy Gaddis, Sr., G; Caylynn Townes, Sr., F.

What you should know

Illiana Christian, which will have IHSAA tournament eligibility in the 2022-23 season, returns four seniors including Lizzie Knot, who Lisa Blocker described as “our force to be reckoned with.” Her ability to create shots for herself and others will be key offensively. She’s joined in the back court by Kaylee Evers, who will slash to the basket and be the defensive stopper, and Kennedy Gaddis, who can be lights out when her shot is streaking the right way.

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The Vikings will look to turn their height deficit into a positive by using their quickness. Blocker wants her team to run in her first season as coach.

“We may seem small in size this year, but we'll be running a quick game, she said. “Looking forward to running the ball and with speed and quickness on our side it will be fun to watch our girls run the floor.”

Newcomers Olivia Wegner and Natalie Scott will be called upon to provide depth and to build a foundation for the futures as sophomores. Younger players may be called up as the season progresses.

Lighthouse Lions

Coach: Tim Mays, second season at school.

Last season: 8-11.

2019 postseason: Lost 69-49 to West Side in the Class 3A sectional quarterfinals.

Top returning players: Prentciss Gates, Jr., G, (14.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 3.9 spg); Iatia Poston, So., G, (12.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.3 spg); Marianna Coleman, So.; Dreme Brown Jr.; Jasmine Young, Sr.

What you should know

Lighthouse added some firepower with Trinity Barnes transferring from West Side. She averaged 13.9 points per game last season and could provide a boost.

“Not so much that we didn’t have it before, but I think she has a certain level of leadership that will be very crucial to our success,” Mays said.

The Lions expect to be improved with their top two returning scorers returning in Prentciss Gates and Iatia Poston — both underclassmen. Gates brings a strong motor and Poston’s potential is untapped.

“(Iatia’s) hasn’t tapped into her full potential because it seems as if every time she does something new, she’s always exceeding expectations to be so young,” Mays said. “She always keeps her composure during everything.”

As those two mature, the team will follow with a needed consistency and sense of ball security.

“One of the things we need to do is we need to be more consistent in our effort,” Mays said. “Last year, a lot of our girls didn’t have a lot of varsity experience. I had girls coming through middle school jumping straight to varsity.”

Marquette Blazers

Coach: Katie Collignon, fourth season at school.

Last season: 27-2.

2019 postseason: Won 57-36 against Vincennes Rivet in Class A state championship.

Top returning players: Ally McConnell, Sr., G (4.1 ppg and 2.5 rpg); Ryleigh Grott, Jr., F, (1.4 ppg and 1.6 rpg).

What you should know

Marquette graduated 13 seniors off of last season’s team, including Emma and Sophia Nolan, which led the program to back-to-back Class A state championships. This year’s team will learn a lot about themselves early on, but Collignan hopes to see competitiveness.

“I hope we’re gritty. I hope we bring a hard work ethic, which is what I like to strike into my teams — that we're going to work harder than the other team is going to,” she said. “I'd like to better hang our hat on defense again, even though we have not as much depth as maybe we had last year.”

Ally McConnell is the lone returner who played key minutes on the back-to-back state championship teams. Joining her is Ryleigh Grott, who split time between the junior varsity and varsity squads last season. Riley Grace pairs well in the post and is “one of our best form shooters,” according to Collignon. Izabel Galindo moves up from the JV squad as a 5-9 “utility player.” Ana Blakely, a 5-4 sophomore, transferred from Westville and will be a change-of-pace point guard with her speed. Mary Kate Bobillo is a southpaw shooter that Collignon said has a high basketball IQ.

Roosevelt Panthers

Coach: Kia Matthews, first season at school.

Last season: 1-16.

2019 postseason: Lost 52-20 to River Forest in a Class 2A sectional quarterfinal.

Top returning players: Tayeal Malone, So., G, (9 ppg, 9 rpg, 3.5 apg); Nia Scott, Jr., F.

What you should know

Matthews returns to Roosevelt, where she played on the first girls basketball team in school history 41 years ago. It’s a “dream come true” as she returns as athletic director, too.

“I have a very young team this season with a lot of potential and heart,” Matthews said. “We are going to keep working hard and developing these young Panthers one practice and game at a time.”

Tayeal Malone leads the team after a strong freshman season. She will be the leader for a young Panthers team as she and Nia Scott are the only returning players from last season. Their leadership will be paramount.

Scott is a 5-foot-8 forward who can play on the perimeter and inside.

Roosevelt also adds 5-5 point guard Elizabeth Burch, who transfers from Baker College Prep (Illinois).

“She brings a lot of energy and leadership to the team,” Matthews said. “I love how she has stepped up, exhibiting good work ethic on and off the court.”