Creston head girls basketball coach Larry McNutt knows how important it is to have experienced players on a roster.
And that’s exactly what he has on his roster this year, as the Panthers return three starters from last year’s 6-17 team, along with a host of other players who suited for the varsity team last year.
Senior Chelcee Downing and juniors Natalie Mostek and Brenna Baker all started for the Panthers last season. Senior Olivia Nielsen and sophomores Jenna Taylor and Camryn Somers all played quality minutes off the bench a year ago.
“It helps experience wise,” McNutt said about returning three starters. “They’ve been through it as starters. They know the other teams a little bit and what we need to do. And hopefully it provides a little bit of leadership. They’ve been through it and know how it works. Any time you have experience, it’s a good thing.”
Mostek led the team last year with 9.2 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game and 46 assists. Downing chipped in 6.3 points per game and Baker averaged 4.2 points per game.
Even with all the experience the Panthers return this year, there are still two very important roles that need to be filled.
Both starting post players from last season — Brianna Maitlen and Zaidy Frank — were lost to graduation. Frank, who would have been a senior this year, graduated early.
McNutt said a committee of four players will probably work to fill those two post positions.
“Jenna Taylor and Natalie will play inside some, then Camryn Somers and Olivia Nielsen,” he said. “We have four girls to fill that spot. i don’t know if any one will fill that spot, but I think as a committee we’ll fill it.”
With versatile players in Mostek and Somers, the Panthers can change their offensive looks based on what the defense gives them.
“They can play inside and outside depending on how the defense wants to play us,” McNutt said. “We have some options there. Olivia and Jenna, they both can step out and shoot a little bit. It will make us a little more versatile in what we want to do on offense.”
McNutt will have the luxury of an experienced bench to substitute with, as well.
Losing only three seniors from last year’s team, nearly everyone who suited varsity a year ago is suiting again this year.
Maria Mostek and Sadie Jones both suited last year and return to help fill out the bench this year.
Taylor Briley, Gracie Russell and Caitlin McIlravy will also suit varsity.
“Sadie Jones, she didn’t get to play a whole lot as a junior, but she was on the varsity,” McNutt said. “Again, we have a lot of girls who maybe didn’t get to play a lot, but they were with the varsity and know what it takes. That’ll definitely help for our bench players.”
Another player added into the mix is junior Hannah Hagle, who is out for the first time.
“Hannah Hagle came out this year, which was good to help out on our numbers,” McNutt said. “She hasn’t been out since eighth grade.”
The Hawkeye 10 Conference won’t be any easier this year.
Three teams from the conference made it to the state tournament last year, as Harlan reached the state championship game.
“It’ll be just as good, if not better,” McNutt said about the conference. “Kuemper will be good. Obviously, Harlan will be the team to beat. Lewis Central will be good. Red Oak will be good. I hear Shenandoah, they’ve got their two all-conference players back, and they have a 6-0 freshman who has been playing well in practice, I guess.”
The Panthers finished eighth in the 10-team league last year, finishing with a 3-10 record.
Council Bluffs St. Albert gets added to the league this year after the Saintes finished 11-9 last year.
“The conference is really good,” McNutt said. “It will be a tough go again. We’ll just have to be ready to go.”
The non-conference slate will look slightly different this year than in past years for Creston, but it will still be tough.
The Panthers open play Monday at the Raiderette Tipoff Tournament in Mount Ayr against Orient-Macksburg. Creston would play either Mount Ayr or Lamoni on Tuesday.
Also on the non-conference slate is a state qualifier from last year in Winterset. Other games include Chariton and Interstate 35 in home games and a road trip to Clarke of Osceola.
“It’s a little bit of a different nonconference schedule compared to past years,” McNutt said. “But, it will be good to get a change in there and see some different teams, and see what we can do.”
The SWCC Jamboree scheduled for Thursday night was cancelled because of weather. Creston will host Nodaway Valley in a jamboree game (two eight-minute quarters) at 5:45 tonight at Creston High School. There is no admission fee and the public is invited to attend.
Seniors — Chelcee Downing, Sadie Jones, Olivia Nielsen.
Juniors — Hannah Hagle, Maria Mostek, Brenna Baker, Natalie Mostek.
Sophomores — Camryn Somers, Taylor Briley, Jenna Taylor, Caitlin McIlravy, Jessica Beatty, Caitlin McIlravy, Becca Ross.
Freshmen — Lexie Little, Cydney Seley, Logan Pettit, Rachel Shepherd, Cammy Rutherford, Madison Callahan.
Nov. 25 — at Raiderette Tipoff Tournament, 6 p.m.
Nov. 26 — at Raiderette Tipoff Tournament, TBD
Dec. 2 — at Winterset, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 6 — at Glenwood, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 10 — vs. Shenandoah, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 13 — vs. Atlantic, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 17 — at Harlan, 6 p.m.
Dec. 20 — at Carroll Kuemper, 6 p.m.
Jan. 3 — at Denison-Schleswig, 6 p.m.
Jan. 6 — vs. Interstate 35, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 7 — vs. Lewis Central, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 14 — at Red Oak, 6 p.m.
Jan. 17 — vs. Denison-Schleswig, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20 — at Clarke, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 21 — at Clarinda, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 24 — at Council Bluffs St. Albert, 6 p.m.
Jan. 28 — vs. Chariton, 6 p.m.
Jan. 31 — at Shenandoah, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 4 — vs. Glenwood, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 7 — vs. Red Oak, 6 p.m.
Feb. 8 — at Atlantic, 5 p.m.
Feb. 13 — vs. Clarinda, 7:30 p.m.