Metamora basketball previews

Tom Batters

Metamora boys basketball coach Jim Youngman will have a depleted roster for the early part of the season, but, by the time January rolls around, he should have plenty of depth and versatility to work with.

Brett McKinney and Ben Friday, members of the Metamora football team, have missed practice time, so they will be out for the first few games.

Colter Schneider (stress fracture in his back), Chris Donner (sprained ankle), Chris Heinle (sprained ankle), and Mitchell Billimack (six stitches in his elbow) are all battling injuries.

“Everybody that is left will get a chance to play, which will allow us to build some depth early in the season,” Youngman said. “If we can gut it out for the first quarter of the season, we’ll be in good shape the rest of the way.”

Seniors Kyle Sasso, Alex Nelson and Kyle Heck will lead the back court, but Youngman said he expects his players to be able to play all over the court.

“We want all the players to be able to handle the ball and move around the floor,” he said.

Schneider (6’9”) and Friday (6’6”) are the only players taller than 6’4”.

Schneider’s injury is the most serious, so he could be gone for a longer stretch.

That puts pressure in Donner and Heinle to play in the post, even though they will be under-sized.

“They give everything they’ve got,” Youngman said. “We’re not going to be the biggest team, but I like what we can do inside with those guys.”

McKinney’s eventual return to the starting lineup will help.

“He’s a really good player,” Youngman said. “He will make us better.”

Senior Spencer Gaa will play at guard and forward.

“He can play all over the floor. I like his versatility,” Youngman said.

This year’s schedule features a few added perks.

Metamora will play Dunlap at the United Center in Chicago on Jan. 1.

The Redbirds will also host their own tournament Jan. 14-15.

“That’s a big thing, for us to host our own tournament. It’s going to be a dynamite tournament. We’re bringing in some really good teams,” Youngman said.

The Redbirds open their Mid-Illini Conference schedule Dec. 10 at home against East Peoria.

METAMORA GIRLS BASKETBALL

Several familiar faces, including longtime coach Kathy Wainman and four starters from last year’s Regional championship team, are not on the Metamora sidelines this season.

Steve Gorrell, a former assistant coach under Wainman, takes over as head coach for the Metamora girls’ basketball team. He made his varsity coaching debut (he previously served as sophomore girls coach) Nov. 16 in a 53-48 win over LeRoy at home.

Four days earlier, Gorrell delivered a mostly sunny, but possibly stormy, forecast for his team.

“We don’t have a lot of experience, so we might have some good days and bad days, but our main goal is to play harder and smarter today than we did yesterday. If we do that, then I believe we can reach our goals at the end of the season.”

The Redbirds, who won the Mid-Illini Conference and came within a point of upsetting Richwoods for a Sectional title last year, are not expected to go that far again (Morton and Limestone are favored in the conference), but don’t mention that to Gorrell.

“I don’t believe in saying, ‘we hope to finish third in the conference.’ Why even bother playing, if you’re striving for third place?” I want to give those teams a run. I want to work hard everyday and give it our best shot,” he said. “If we do that, who knows? Maybe we can surprise some people.”

Senior Kelsey Nafziger is the only returning starter. She just joined the team after competing in swimming through early November.

“We won’t have her at full strength for a while since she has missed some time due to swimming,” Gorrell said. “She’s going to be our big post player. She’s our muscle inside. We’re anxious to get her out on the floor.”

Nafziger only played a couple minutes in the season opener.

Senior Cori Maloney, one of the projected starters, did not play at all in the opener for undisclosed reasons.

“I’ll just say she’s not allowed to play in the first couple games and leave it at that,” Gorrell said.

Senior Ally Friday, who scored 12 points in the opener, will join Nafziger in the post, but she can shoot from the outside, too.

“She’s a good all-around player,” Gorrell said. “She can make a move down low, or free herself for a god shot outside.”

Gorrell called senior point guard Ali Helton the team’s “engine.”

She gets us going,” he said. “Her effort is exceptional. She’ll dive on the floor and give all she’s got.”

Helton made two three pointers and scored 12 points against LeRoy.

Sophomore guard Erica Phillips will start at the other guard spot.

Phillips made six free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the win over LeRoy.

Paige Garber, Shelby Sutherland, Anna Gualandri, Cassidy Ioeger, Jolie Zwick, Kyler Samp and Abby Nauman are expected to contribute as well.

“We’ll need to get contributions from a lot of different players,” Gorrell said.

Metamora, which beat Rock Island Alleman, 58-47, Friday, opens its Mid-Illini Conference schedule at Canton Dec. 3.