By Al Zipsie

Boys basketball.

Hopefully, this high school basketball season will be able to make it through the season despite Covid-19. Games were scheduled to begin on November 30th. The high school districts are caught between the State of Illinois health guidelines and the IHSA. Each school will make their own choice. In any event, masks will be required by players, coaches, and officials.
And only 50 people will be allowed in a gym which does not leave room for fans.
In the NUIC last year Dakota had its most wins in school history as they finished 29-5. They lost in the Sectional championship to Shabbona Indian Creek. The tournament was then canceled of the pandemic after the Super-Sectional and no state tournament was held.
East Dubuque has had a 118-15 record over the last four years under coach Mike Miller. They will be the NUIC West favorites again coming off a 27-6 season returning all-conference first team Declen Schemmel and Ben Tressel along with Dawson Foyer.
Also in the NUIC West contenders will be Scales Mound and Galena. The Pirates may be ready to have their best season in school history. Junior all-conference first team Ethan Hefel and Sam Hesselbacher.  Scales Mound with an enrollment of 61 return Benjamin Vandigo who scored 16.7 ppg and Ben Werner. They will have a trio of a 6 foot 4 frontcourt in Vandigo, Werner, and Trent Allen. The guards are Jacob Duerr and Zayden Ellsworth.
Warren also should be solid led by Matthew Riedl and Brayden Bohnsack along with Hunter Kopp and Skyler and Mason Neff.
River Ridge returns Bryton Engle and Caden Albrecht. Stockton has Robbie Reifstock and Garrett Burke. West Carroll is led by Jacob McLuckie.
In the NUIC North, Pecatonica and Aquin will be the front runners. Pec had one of the best seasons in school history at 24-10. And they return Isaac Sawyer, Hunter Hoffman, and Bo Seaton. Aquin will be strong with Ben Hunziker, Brennan Carlson, and Will Gustafson and also Hayden Neunendorf, Evan Broge, and Ty Stykel.
Dakota loses four starters including Evan Flynn now at Highland. The only returning starter is 6 foot 4 senior Caden Moyer and Jacob Kleckner. Lena-Winslow was 27-8 and was hit by graduation but return Luke Benson.
Orangeville looks to contend with returning all-conference 6 foot 4 senior Zach Baker along with Brayden Cahoon and Jake Doyle.
Durand returns Alex Montalvan. For Pearl City, it's only one way but up after its first winless season in school history.
In the South, Eastland is coming off a 26-7 season. They have to replace some talented players but return all-conference junior Kellen Henze along with Drew Burkholder as they hope for the title. Milledgeville and Polo will also be contenders. Milledgeville has Treyton Selman who was All-Conference first team scoring 17.4 ppg. They also have Keiron Harris and Ryan Kendall. Polo returns Colton Gunder, Bennett Soltow, and Parker Wolber.
Forreston returns all-conference Ethan Greenfield. Ashton/Franklin Center has Brett Gittelson and 6 foot 7 Troy Mairs. Amboy is led by Preston Henkel.
Girls basketball.
The NUIC has become a state power player in basketball. Last year Eastland went 34-3 and won the state championship. Gone to graduation are Erin Henze and Lydia Coatney. But the Cougars do return senior Karlie Krogman who was all-conference.
In the NUIC South Amboy actually went 10-0 beating Eastland twice for the Conference championship. Amboy who was 31-2 lost to Eastland the eventual state champs by one point in the Sectional finals. Amboy will be the favorites to win the South again and will be a strong contender for a state championship. The Lady Clippers return the first team all-Conference duo of Mallory Powers and Abi Payne along with Gabby Jones who was second team.
Also in the South is Polo who returns the trio of Mallory Patterson, Alex Dusing, and Becca Wagner. Forreston led by Paityn Broshous, Milledgeville with Adriana Misler
along with Ashton/Franklin Center.
In the NUIC North Aquin loses talented Abby Barr to graduation but return enough to be the favorites. They return all-conference first-team senior Abby DeMichele along with Maddie Hildebrand and Alyssa London.
Dakota who was 22-9 returns senior Tabytha Toelke  who scored 15.3 ppg. Toelke is a three-sport standout in basketball, softball, and volleyball where she will play in college at Division 1 Memphis. The Indians also have Mary Zettle, Faith Weber, and Alexis Brashaw.
Lena-Winslow may challenge for the North title returning starters Sadie Mowery, Kalli Humphrey, and Cheyenne and Cierra Mapes. Durand returns Sara Steder who was first-team All-Conference. Pecatonica returns Emma White, Pearl City's Cheyenne Handsaker and the North also has Orangeville.
The NUIC West title will be a battle between Stockton and Galena. Both were 25-7 Last year and return lots of talent. Stockton has Tiana Timpe who averaged 17 points a game along with Kenze Haas who was also all Conference. Galena has Corinna Noble and Maggie Furlong who were both second-team all-conference. West Carroll with Kylie Hill, Madison Haynes, and Natalie Hughes. East Dubuque with Anna Berryman. Warren led by Sydni Sigafus and Elaina Martin. And Sara Pratt of River Ridge/Scales Mound.
The NUIC has four possible all-state players in seniors Timpe of Stockton, Toelke of Dakota, and Amboy's Payne and Powers.