Sports

SEC girls b-ball: Everyone chasing Keokuk

Washington’s Anna Nacos leaps inside for a layup during the Demons’ 46-23 home win over Washington last season. (File)
Washington’s Anna Nacos leaps inside for a layup during the Demons’ 46-23 home win over Washington last season. (File)
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In these uncertain times, it’s hard to know exactly what the 2020-21 Southeast Conference girls basketball season will look like. The COVID-19 outbreak hit the United States shortly after the 2019-20 girls basketball season wrapped up, and sports haven’t been the same since.

The six SEC girls’ basketball teams were all scheduled to be in action next week, but the pandemic had other plans. Currently Washington and Mt. Pleasant are the only two conference teams having regular practice, and Fairfield has been forced to cancel all games for the next two weeks after going to fully online learning.

When the new season picks up, there is an obvious favorite. After running through the conference in 2019-20, Keokuk returns most of its starting lineup, and that means everyone else will have to step it up to compete for the crown this season.

The Chiefs won their second-straight SEC title in 2019-20, going 10-0 in conference play. Keokuk and Fairfield split the SEC championship in 2018-19.

Keokuk won nine of its 10 SEC games by double-digits. The Chiefs’ closest game of league play game came at Fairfield in early January when Keokuk had to squeak out a 68-65 victory. The Trojans also played the Chiefs close in the postseason, dropping their Class 4A regional semifinal 51-41.

Keokuk was followed in 2019-20 by the three Union area big schools. Fairfield went 7-3. Mt. Pleasant finished 5-5, and Washington was 4-6. Fort Madison took fifth in the conference, at 3-7, and Burlington ended the year 1-9 to bring up the rear in its first season back in the SEC.

There were five double-digit scorers in the SEC last season, and three of them will return this season. Keokuk junior Abby Wolter scored 14 points per game last year. Washington senior Anna Nacos scored 11.8 points per game, and Fairfield sophomore Camille Kruse finished with 11.

Fairfield had two of the Top-6 scorers in the 2019-20 SEC campaign, but both were seniors. The Trojans will have to replace the conference’s leading scorer, Shaylin Drish (15 PPG) and the conference’s sixth-leading scorer, Destiny Gridley (9.7 PPG).

Although the Trojans lose two big pieces, Fairfield still has two of the conference’s Top-13 leading scorers coming back. Junior twins Danielle Breen (9 PPG) and Delaney Breen (7.7 PPG) will be two of the most dangerous scorers in the league.

Despite finishing in the top half of the conference, Mt. Pleasant didn’t have any players score over eight points per game last season. Mt. Pleasant’s two highest scorers were both seniors, but the Panthers will return two players who averaged exactly five points per game, senior Emma Huckabone and sophomore Andrea Lopreato.

Washington may be relying heavily on Nacos. The senior guard will be the second-highest scorer among returning SEC girls basketball players but she is the only Demon returning from the team’s Top-5 scorers in 2019-20. Senior Kellie Dallmeyer (1.5 PPG) is the only other Washington player above one point per game.

Including Kruse, Fort Madison brings back its Top-3 scorers from last year. Brandy Walker (8.5 PPG) and Nadia Boeding (4.6 PPG) will both enter their seniors years. Burlington brings just one of its top scorers back, junior Alexis Standard (6.2 PPG).