Hawks’ eyes set on conference crown

Shawano returns three starters from last year
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Leader file photo Shawano Hailey Buschman goes up for a layup against New London. Buschman is one of three returning starters for the Hawks.

The temperature is starting to drop and the snow is starting to fly, meaning the high school winter sports season is right around the corner.

Girls basketball teams hit the practice courts for the first time on Monday, with the first games already being played as early as Nov. 13.

After finishing third in the Bay Conference and posting a 15-9 overall record last year, Shawano is prepping for a memorable winter season.

Coach Ryan Koenig believes the Hawks can contend for a conference title.

“Every day the team needs to be focused in practice and players need to understand their roles on the team and accept them,” said Koenig on what it will take for the team to reach its lofty goal. “We need to push each other to get better and expect more from each other, with that comes accountability and then something special can happen this season.”

Leading Shawano onto the court will be senior Tori DePerry, who made the all-conference first team as a junior. She led the Hawks in scoring and rebounding.

Seniors Kennedy Klemens and Hailey Buschman also return starting experience from last year’s squad.

Seniors Kayla Ward and Carrie Young, junior Gracyn Habeck and sophomore Rachel Reed also return valuable experience from last year’s squad.

With all the returning talent and a go-to scorer in DePerry, Shawano was picked to win the Bay. Knowing that, the Hawks know the correct mindset will be critical as the season gets underway.

“Going into the season we need to have a winning mentality but we also need to focus and work hard in practice so we can achieve the goals we set,” DePerry said. “Some goals are to win conference since we are picked to win it and, of course, beat the top teams like New London and West De Pere. Those two will be our hardest teams in the conference.

“Beside from conference we have to aim to beat the nonconference teams like Merrill and Lakeland so we can get a good seeding for regionals and go farther than last year,” DePerry added. “I hope to be regional champs this year. With hard work and dedication, I believe we’re going to be unstoppable this year.”

With an experienced group of players leading the charge, teaching some of the new varsity players the ropes could be the difference in how far of a postseason run the team could make.

“The past couple years we’ve learned a lot as underclassmen which means we need to keep the trend going and as a senior teach them (the underclassmen) everything we know for when they take over the team,” Buschman said.

The Hawks will play a scrimmage on Saturday before opening the regular season at Sturgeon Bay on Tuesday at approximately 7:30 p.m. Shawano plays its home opener on Friday, Nov. 16 against Lakeland Union at 7:15 p.m.

North Eastern Conference

Coming off a season full of tight losses, Clintonville is hoping to turn in a better finish within the tough North Eastern Conference.

After having a young team but not graduating many players from last year, the Truckers have a bevy of experienced players eager to get back on the court.

Elly Arndt, Lizzy Weatherwax, Abby King, Chelsey Birling and Lindsy Carpenter are the projected starters for coach Nick Yaeger, while Kaylie Branstrom and Erin Viergutz also have some varsity experience and will receive minutes.

“We just want to improve on last year and be more consistent,” Yaeger said of the team’s expectations this year. “We played some really great teams tough last year and then there were some games that we didn’t have our best stuff. We know we are capable of some good things and we just need to bring it every game.”

Like Shawano, Clintonville will play in a scrimmage on Saturday before opening the season on Tuesday. The Truckers will host Antigo on Tuesday and then Berlin on Thursday in the first week of the season.