It was a comeback season for the Carthage College men’s basketball team last year.
As for the Carthage women, this could be the start of quite a run.
Under the guidance of veteran coach Bosko Djurickovic, the Carthage men broke through with an 18-8 record and a share of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin championship with an 11-5 mark. Prior to last year, the Red Men had losing records in four of the previous five seasons.
Three of the five starters return in addition to Kienan Baltimore, who was Carthage’s second-leading scorer at 11.7 points per game as its sixth man. One of those returning starters is 6-foot-11 sophomore center Brad Perry, who was the CCIW Freshman of the Year and earned second-team All-Conference honors.
“I’m excited about the season,” Djurickovic said. “The only negative — and it’s not really a negative — is our conference is so darn good. We think we’re really good and there are about four other teams that think they’re equally as good.”
It’s at least as encouraging for the Carthage women considering they return 14 letterwinners, including all five starters from last year’s 14-11 team (8-8 CCIW). Leading the way is first-team All-CCIW guard Morgan Harris and second-team selection Madie Kaelber (13.0 points), a Kenosha Indian Trail High School graduate.
This could be a breakthrough year for Sammie Woodward, the 2016 All-Racine County Player of the Year from Prairie. After starting out at New Mexico and transferring to Western Illinois, Woodward transferred to Carthage at the semester break last season so she could play closer to home.
She was just 7 for 35 from the floor in her limited minutes, but should be much more comfortable in the Lady Reds’ system as a sophomore.
Below are capsule previews on each team:
COACH: Bosko Djurickovic, 22nd season.
LAST SEASON: 18-8 overall, 11-5 CCIW (tied for first place with Augustana and North Park). Lost to North Central 87-85 in a first-round CCIW Tournament game.
ROSTER (x-returning letterwinner): Seniors — x-Derek Mason, 5-10 guard; x-Kamal Shasi, 6-2 guard; x-Steve Leazer, 6-4 forward; x-Brad Kruse, 6-4 forward. Juniors — x-Jordan Thomas, 5-11 guard; x-Mike Canady, 5-9 guard; x-Dan Messina, 6-3 guard; x-Dimitrije Kastratovic, 6-6 forward; Tyler Johnson, 6-1 guard. Sophomores — x-Adam Radcliffe, 5-9 guard; x-Jacob Polglase, 6-3 guard; x-Kienen Baltimore, 6-5 forward; Eric Braum, 6-3 guard; Jordan Vedder, 6-7 forward; x-Brad Perry, 6-11 center. Freshmen — Marko Drazic, 6-3 guard; T.J. Best, 5-11 guard; Leo Stern, 5-11 guard; Brett Czerak, 6-2 guard; Kyle Peirce, 6-4 forward; Sean Johnson, 6-10 freshman.
OUTLOOK: While leading scorer Mike Stevenson (16.2 points) has graduated, Baltimore steps in as his replacement. Brad Kruse earned first-team All-CCIW honors last season after averaging 9.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists. “He’s the blood and guts,” Djurickovic said. “He does a lot of everything for us.”
Jordan Thomas, a transfer from Northern Illinois last season, averaged 10.7 points per game. And then there’s Perry, who contributed 11 points and eight rebounds in his first career start and maintained that consistency all season. He averaged 9.8 points and a team-high 6.4 rebounds per game.
COACH: Tim Bernero, 15th season.
LAST SEASON: 14-11 overall, 8-8 CCIW (tied for fifth place with North Central).
ROSTER (x-returning letterwinner): Seniors — x-Morgan Harris, 5-5 guard; x-Morgan Vukovich, 6-1 center; x-Amber Roberts, 5-11 center. Juniors — x-Rachel Szydlowski, 5-10 forward; x-Micala Giammarino, 5-6 guard; Kelly Klendworth, 5-8 guard; x-Bailey Gilbert, 5-8 guard; x-Monica Masini, 6-1 center-forward. Sophomores — x-Sammie Woodward, 5-7 guard; x-Madie Kaelber, 5-7 guard; x-Ellie Haviland, 5-7 guard; x-Autumn Kalis, 5-8 guard; x-Maggie Berigan, 6-0 forward; x-Gabby Butkute, 6-1 center; x-Synclaire Lunardi, 5-9 forward-center. Freshmen — Kendall Prochaska, 5-8 guard; Amanda Larson, 5-9 guard; Taylor Jozefowicz, 5-6 guard; Danielle Quigley, 5-5 guard.
OUTLOOK: After a three-year run of 73-17, Carthage slumped to records of 15-11 in 2014-15 and 9-16 in 2015-16. But a revival started last year with a young roster that features plenty of talent.
Bernero’s team is at a point where he feels comfortable with just about anyone he puts on the floor. The tentative starters are Harris (10.4 points, 7.3 rebounds), Kaelber (13.0) points, Bailey Gilbert (8.7 points, 2.3 assists), Rachel Szydlowski (9.9 points, 5.6 rebounds) and Maggie Berigan (4.5 points, 4.0 rebounds). But expect a lot of mixing and matching.
“There’s probably 10 or 12 kids I could put in the game and it wouldn’t be a situation where it’s, ‘I wonder what this kid is going to do?,’ “ Bernero said.
Woodward should be a prominent member of that rotation after a difficult freshman season.
“She can certainly shoot,” Bernero said. “She just got off to a rough start last year. But she’s shot the ball well in practice.”