State team will look to 3 veterans

Eight seniors and letter-winners are returning for the 2014-15 Centre High School girls? basketball team. Pictured are: front row (from left) Nellie Kassebaum, Kailyn Riffel, Cassidy Hill, Shelby Makovec, Callie Riffel, Brenna Shields; back row, Cassy Thompson, Michelle Van Leeuwen, Ally Basore, Shelby Pankratz.  Patty Decker / Free Press
Eight seniors and letter-winners are returning for the 2014-15 Centre High School girls? basketball team. Pictured are: front row (from left) Nellie Kassebaum, Kailyn Riffel, Cassidy Hill, Shelby Makovec, Callie Riffel, Brenna Shields; back row, Cassy Thompson, Michelle Van Leeuwen, Ally Basore, Shelby Pankratz. Patty Decker / Free Press
Having lost four seniors to graduation, the Centre girls? basketball team returns only one starter, but sixth-year coach Alan Stahlecker is confident his team can be competitive this season.

Last season, the Cougars finished with a 19-4 record, including a 6-1 mark in the Wheat State League, and advanced to the Class 1A-Division I state quarterfinals.

Senior Shelby Makovec returns as the Cougars? sole returning starter from last year?s state-qualifying team. The 5-foot, 6-inch point guard is a three-year, all-league first-team recipient, and twice has received third-team all-state recognition from the KBCA.

Last season, Makovec averaged 15.8 points, while contributing 3.4 assists and 2.8 steals per game.

Two additional athletes who saw significant playing time last season are senior guard/forward Brenna Shields (5-6) and junior post Ally Basore (5-10).

Joining them as returning letter-winners are: seniors Nellie Kassebaum (5-4, guard), Cassidy Hill (5-6, forward), Callie Riffel (5-5, guard/forward) and Kailyn Riffel (5-5, guard/forward); and sophomore Shelby Pan?kratz (5-9, guard).

Newcomers to watch include junior post Carlotta Benning (6-2) and sophomore post/forward Summer Espinoza (5-8).

?With only one returning starter, we will lack experience at the beginning of the season,? Stahlecker said. ?We have a good balance of athletic ability and team chemistry that I believe will keep us very competitive in the Wheat State League, with teams in our area, and in (Class) IA-Division I.

?With Shelby Makovec running our offense and leading our defense, and with post players that can rebound, we should continue the trend of solid basketball at Centre.?

Stahlecker listed Goessel and Rural Vista as strong contenders in the WSL, but acknowledged the league race will be competitive.

?I believe Centre, Little River and Elyria Christian should be in the thick of the battle for the league title,? he said. ?In this league, any team can win on any given night.?

Centre will tip off the season at home Friday against Central Christian.