By Al Zipsie

Boys basketball

East Dubuque, finished 31-3 last year and did not lose in the tournament until the Super-Sectional.

They return the top six players and a trio of first team all-conference players in Hunter Sherman, Payton Heller and Layne Boyer. They not only to defend the NUIC West title but make that run to the 1A State tournament.

Also in the West are Pearl City who return guards Seth Palmer, Brock Smargiasi and Lucas Petersen and 6 foot 8 football star lineman  Peyton Asche. Lena-Winslow hopes to get it's basketball legs after a late start from winning the 1A football state title. They will be led by several players from football in Parker Magee, a 6 foot 2 junior who averaged 12.2 points a game last year, along with Ty Chrisman, Eli Lingle, Kenny Broge and sophomores 6 foot 3 Isaiah Bruce and 6'2 Sean Ormiston.

Eastland returns Ethan Christians (14.4 ppg) and other starters DJ Heeren, Brett Swelve and Katen Henze from a 22-7 season. West Carroll returns starters the Plattenberger twins, Kody and Kaleb along with Dawson Wooster and Jacob Dunk. Stockton has Luke Huschitt, Wyatt Hill, and Alex Staver.

River Ridge has returning all-conference senior Trey Thomas. Galena will key on Even Kruse, Micky Lorento, and CJ Bauer. Warren has starters Kolton Kaiser and Carter Kubat back. Scales Mound hopes to improve on a one-win season with four starters back including 6 foot 6 Tyler Allen.

Aquin once again is the favorite in the NUIC East, they are going for their seventh straight title. They have won the regional in six of the last seven years. They may get off to a slow start with football injuries to four-year varsity player Noah Diemer as well as senior Cole Stykel. 6 foot 4 Zac Cummings will be one of the best in the league. The senior dominant team also has Cooper Arndt and Bryce Carlson.

Chasing Aquin will be a few teams who could provide a strong challenge in Polo, Milledgeville and Orangeville. Polo is led by junior center Justin Young a first team all-conference player who scored 17.9 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. They will be an up tempo high scoring team. They also have Brady Webb, Reid Taylor, Braiden Soltow and Trevor Woodin. Milledgeville has a solid one-two duo of Kyle Otten and Cade Schave. Orangeville won 17 games last year, the most in 22 years and won their first Regional title in 26 years. And they return ALl State Austin Guy, who led the NUIC in scoriung last year at 22.8 ppg. Also back are Caden Getz, Noah Parriott, Troy Sullivan and Carter Kleckler.

Dakota has Carter Drake, Brock Duncan, and Hayden Rankin. Forreston returns 6'3 senior Brandon Schneiderman, 13.3 a game and Brandon Fyock. Amboy will be led by Justin Hart. Ashton/Franklin Center has Caleb Drew and Adam Hart, but lack size with no player over 6 foot. Pecatonica has inside players Adam Green and Griffin Mulcahy. Durand did not win a conference game but do have 6 foot 5 senior Hunter Broge.

Girls Basketball

Teams that went unbeaten in Conference play in the East (Ashton/Franklin Center) and West (in Galena) are back hoping to defend their championships. But conferences in both divisions seem more wide open this season..

In the East A/FC has the Prestegaard's in junior Jaynee and senior Madeline who will play hoops at Vermont. They will miss the person who got the ball to them in guard Emily Shrimplin who suffered an ACL injury in volleyball.  They won the Regional last year and hope to make another run behind the sister act.

Dakota. They hope to get over .500 this year and could do so with a mix of young players and senior Ellie Packer, who has been All-Conference the past two seasons. The Indians have a floor general in 5 foot 11 freshman guard Tabytha Toelke and sophomore Laura Rankin. Dakota beat A/FC in the season opener. Forreston, has Allison Bundale, 6'2 Danielle Hagemann, Courtney Timm and Sierra Reining. Milledgeville will be led by returning first team all-conference guard Mady Frederick and 6'3 three-sport standout Rebecca Waite.

Aquin is led by Abby Barr who as a freshman averaged 13 points and eight rebounds a game. Orangeville hopes to improve on a six-win season with returning starters Makenzie Riemer, Emma Baker, Megan Davis and Crystal Anderson. Pecatonica returns first-team guard Alyse Southard. Durand after a third-place state in volleyball. Kaite Asche is back after scoring 12 points a game. They also have returning starters Mckenzie Damon and Alyssa Brauer. Polo went winless in the East and hopes to improve. Amboy lost all five starters and will be rebuilding.

Galena went unbeaten to win the West. They have lost All-Stater Katie Furlong to graduation after losing in the Super Sectionals the past two seasons. They still have some talent returning at guard in Sydney Schuler and Anna Hulscher.

Eastland, Stockton and East Dubuque all hope to make a run at Galena and the title. Eastland who lost to Galena in the Sectional final return sophomores Lydia Coatney first team All-Conference and Erin Henze, honorable mention.

Senior Tyra and junior Tia Clark hope to lead Pearl City to get over the hump and win the Conference and win their first Regional since 1995.

East Dubuque point guard Skylar Culbertson will lead the way, she has signed with Clarke University, She scoring at 13.9 points a game and is joined by Madison Foyen, who was second-team all conference at guard also is back with an unbeaten JV team. Stockton has the inside-outside duo of 6 foot 2 senior Emily Offenhesier and guard Aspyn Stewart.

West Carroll has nowhere to go but up. After a winless Conference season they do return all five starters.

Lena-Winslow returns all five starters including Madilyn Schultz. Warren has Brynn Bohnsack back. River Ridge/Scales Mound will be paced by junior Tarbvia Thomas. West Carroll, has nowhere to go but up. After a winless Conference season they do return all five starters.

Wrestling.

The NUIC is known as a football power winning many state championships. But, NUIC wrestling has also been a state power. The NUIC will be looking to make the 1A State final team dual Championship for the seventh straight year.

Lena-Winslow was the state runner-up in 2012. Then Dakota won four straight from 2013 through 2016. Last year it was Lena-Winslow/Stockton Coop who won the State championship, the fifth straight year for the NUIC.

This season Dakota wants their State title back and Lena-Winslow/Stockton want to defend it. Lena-Winslow won the football state championship this fall and would like to follow up with the state title again in wrestling.

Lena-Winslow/Stockton will get a late start because of the extended football season just ending the day after Thanksgiving. But, they have plenty of time before an anticipated dual with Dakota January 10th and then the and then the Regional when the champions advance.

Lena-Winslow/Stockton returns a trio of grapplers who finished third at last years state. It includes seniors Rahveon Valentine and Hunter Luke and junior Ian Kuehl. They also have state placing caliber wrestlers in seniors Elijah Rowe at 182 and Jeremiah Hermann at 138. Sophomore Winston McPeek at 126.

Dakota returns senior Maverick McPeek who was third at 220. Dakota opened November 25th in a tri-team dual at New Trier. Facing the larger schools and Holiday tournament the Dvorak, makes them a better team in the long run. They were 2-1, beating New Trier 37-33, Schaumburg 40-33, and lost to 3A power OPRF 58-9. Junior Caleb Alber got off to a 5-0 start on the season. Returning state qualifiers are sophomore Evan Riggle and junior Garrett Schlueter (126). Cade Slayton at 152 is back after a torn labrum ended his season short last year. Incoming freshman from a strong youth club in Ethan Rood (106), Lucas Sutherland (113), Quinton Heilemeier (138), Andrew Wenzel (160) and Aidin Nardin (171).

Ashton/Franklin Center has senior Sam Hahn who was 21-11 at 138. Amboy is also now in NUIC for the second year.

West Carroll has Trapper Hartman a sophomore at 106 and Kaleb Hartman a senior at 160 and Eli Dertz (Eastland) a sophomore at 195.

Durand has junior Grant McCorkle at 152 and senior Alex Hoffman 138.