Greg Williams said it might be the most anticipated season of his 20-year coaching career. The Warrenton girls basketball team returns its top six scorers from a team that finished 21-6 and won its …
Greg Williams said it might be the most anticipated season of his 20-year coaching career.
The Warrenton girls basketball team returns its top six scorers from a team that finished 21-6 and won its second straight district championship.
The Warriors are favored to win the Gateway Athletic Conference North and advance to sectionals for the third consecutive season.
But that’s where things get tricky.
Due to changes in district alignments, Warrenton will likely face Incarnate Word in the first round of sectionals, rather than the Elite 8.
A lot can happen between now and then, but most signs point to the programs clashing in early March.
That is where Warrenton junior forward Kayla Nelson comes in.
Incarnate is loaded at the guard position, and Williams hopes Nelson can give Warrenton an advantage in the post.
“People will be shocked at how much she has improved,” Williams said. “She will play college basketball, and the level she plays at will be predicated on her consistency and her tenacity and her overall commitment to getting better.”
Last season Nelson averaged 6.7 points and 5.8 rebounds.
She worked on her left hand over the summer, and Williams expects a big season from the junior.
“It’s been a joy to see,” he said. “She will graduate from here being a complete, solid player, and next year expect her to even shoot the three.”
The emergence of Nelson couldn’t have come at a better time for Warrenton, which will likely need a legitimate post presence to counteract Incarnate’s guards.
“You have to look at where you have the opportunities to have success,” Williams said. “Obviously, they (Incarnate Word) have the potential to have six girls that will play Division-I basketball and a couple others that could play D-II, so they’ve done a good job of recruiting. So we have to be prepared and be ready for that. But first things first, we have to stay healthy and have a good season.”
Senior forward Jenny Jansen led Warrenton in scoring (17 points), blocks (0.58) and rebounds (8.1) last season, and expects to improve across the board this winter.
“Practice has been going good,” she said. “I had to get a little bit of the rust off, but it’s been going well since last week. We don’t really have to replace anyone but Amanda, which is great because we’ve been playing together for a while now.”
Juniors Rylie Cox (7.2 points, team-high 67 steals) and Ashtyn Dixon (6.3 points) and senior Kaylee Anderson (team-high 45 three-pointers) return in the backcourt.
“We’re putting together two good classes,” Williams said. “We had a good class of seniors and a good class of juniors, and by doing that there is a nice mix of players now. They’re good teammates and we’re having good practices. There isn’t any drama or that nonsense, we just come in and go to work and have a good time.”
Sophomore guard Allison Tonioli averaged 2.9 points as a freshman while shooting 58.3 percent from the floor, and expects to be a regular in the Warrenton rotation.
The Warriors tipped of their season Wednesday night in Clopton and head to Quincy Notre Dame Nov. 26.
They will compete in the Sullivan Tournament in mid-December, host the Warrenton Winter Shootout in January and play in the Washington Tournament later that month.
And after winning 21 games and knocking on the door of a berth in the Elite 8, Williams is hoping for bigger things in 2017, no matter which team is waiting for him in the postseason.
“If I don’t have high expectations every year, I need to quit and find something else to do,” he said. “We put a lot of emphasis on these girls having success. We’ve been to the sectional twice, and now we need to get through the sectional. Now we need to get through Incarnate to do that. If both teams get there, I think it would be an exciting game.”
While Williams has built a program for the present and future, his senior forward isn’t looking too far ahead.
“This is the year,” Jansen said, “that if we’re going to do anything, we need to do it now.”.OFF THE BOUNCE — Allison Tonioli drives down the baseline in the sectional loss to St. Charles last season. Kory Carpenter photo.