High School girls basketball

Staff reports
basketball ball on a court - wooden floor you can see the reflection of the ball on the wood - high resolution photo not a 3d render

At about 9:30 p.m. on a Monday night in late June, Eureka High School girls basketball coach Jerry Prina huddled his players together in the hallway after a summer league game and said, “Be there at 7:40 tomorrow morning. Be ready to play hard.”

Hey, wait a minute. Isn’t this summer? Don’t the players get a break?

Actually, they do.

July is off limits (per IHSA rules), so the players are free to take their vacations and relax after spending much of June sweating it out in all-day tournaments, late-night summer league games, and countless open gym sessions.

Prina and first-year Metamora coach Riley Gardner both said they were pleased with what they saw during the summer league games in June.

“The main things you look for are effort and improvement,” Prina said. “Our girls gave a great effort all summer, and we improved on some things. Obviously, it’s early. It’s still only the summer. But, there are things you want to get done, too. We saw a lot of encouraging signs.”

It’s way too early to get into who’s going to start or who’s going to play so many minutes at a certain position, etc., but, Prina said he learned what type of team he might have this winter.

He lost a ton of scoring, rebounding, defense and leadership when his five seniors (Kalla Gold, Kayla Bryant, Shelby Kupferschmid, Lexi Bauman and Kelsey Young) graduated, but he’s not thinking about that.

Senior Michaela Balducci and sophomore Serena Meiss, both starters last year, are having strong summers, he said.

“Michaela is going to take on more of a leadership role. We’ve already seen her do that this summer,” he said. “And, Serena has been the best player in the floor all summer no matter who we’ve played. There’s just nobody like her. You don’t see many players her size (5’9”) who can also run the floor and shoot and play defense like she does.”

Gardner, who was named Metamora’s head coach this spring after Steve Gorrell resigned, said her players made a great first impression when she first met them earlier this summer.

“It’s a great group,” she said. “They are all very coachable. Everybody is working hard ... We have high expectations, and all the girls are on board. You can tell they want to win.”

Gardner, who will have a solid group of seniors returning next season, said she did not want to single out any players because everybody has put in a lot of work this summer.

“We’ve thrown a lot at them, and a lot of it is new stuff they haven’t seen before, but they’ve been very receptive,” she said. “We’ve made a lot of progress in a short time.”

Gardner said, before she drew up any X’s and O’s her first priority was to instill a sense of ownership and accountability into the program.

“This is their program,” she said. “We wanted to know their expectations before we pushed our expectations on them. Now, we’ll hold them (the players) accountable.”

Both coaches said they are looking forward to late October, when the “real” practices start, so they can go full-speed-ahead and work on more specific aspects of their game plans.

“You don’t want to throw too much at them over the summer,” Prina said. “You just want to get everybody together and get them to work hard and get a feel for what we are trying to do as a team. I want them to enjoy their summer, too. They deserve a summer break just like everybody else.”