ARCOLA — Only two players are gone from last year's Arcola girls basketball team that finished 13-15. However, one of them was first-team All-Little Okaw Valley Conference Northwest Division player Olivia Key, who averaged 7 points.
Arcola coach and graduate Kevin Hohlbauch said Key and Gaby Beccera (4.4 points per game) will be missed, but he's excited to have six returning letter winners back.
"Experience is a strength," said Hohlbauch. "The six returning letter winners, Rocio Gomez, Taylor Spelman, Lindsey Helmuth, KayLee Hohlbauch, Arianna Warren and Ella Hopkins along with Kyla Hutton, Avery Kessler, and Meloee Gobert, all saw varsity time last year."
KayLee Hohlbauch, the coach's daughter, was a unanimous first team-all-LOVC NW selection averaging a team-leading 11.9 points. Hohlbauch is a 5-10 junior forward. Hopkins averaged 5.2, while Spelman averaged 4.3. Warren was a second team all-LOVC NW player, who averaged eight points per game.
A total of 16 are on the roster, including two seniors, five juniors, three sophomores, and four freshmen.
Two players are injured currently in sophomore Melodee Gobert and Gauna, who is out with a dislocated pinky until December.
"We have been working on getting into basketball shape," said Hohlbauch, whose team averaged 44.2 points per game and allowed 43.5. "There are always things to learn and improve on, but we have a great junior high program and coach Chris Kessler gets them prepared for our system."
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This is the inaugural year of the Lincoln Prairie Conference and Arcola opens play Dec. 5 with a home game against Okaw Valley.
"We will play multiple defenses," said Hohlbauch. "You can’t let good teams get comfortable so mixing up defenses I feel is a key."
"We are a physical and hungry group," said Hohlbauch. "This group has competed and been more focused than I have seen them before."
The Lady Riders open the season Monday with a home game against Judah Christian.
Arcola reached the Class 1A regional championship game last year when they lost to the eventual fourth-place team, Tri-County, 70-31.
"They have a small taste of what the atmosphere is and it brought back what they were able to accomplish in junior high," said Hohlbauch who added, "We have some goals. We will keep those to ourselves until we achieve them."