TIFFIN, Ohio - Tiffin women's basketball is ready to get the 2019-20 season underway as they travel to the GMAC-GLVC Crossover in Springfield, Ill. for a pair of games against host Illinois-Springfield and McKendree.
The prospects for the new season are bright for Tiffin, as second-year head coach Jessie Ivey has brought in numerous new faces that will look to improve upon a 2018-19 campaign that saw the Dragons finish 11-17 overall and 8-14 in GMAC action.
The Dragons were selected ninth out of 13 teams in the GMAC Preseason Coaches Poll.
Tiffin looked very impressive in an exhibition contest at Toledo on Oct. 27, staying within two points of the Rockets with four minutes left before falling 70-61. Freshman Payton Vogel led the Dragons with 16 points including 5-7 shooting from deep, while fellow first-year player Savanah Richards was also in double figures with 13 points.
Tiffin's top returning scorer from last season is sophomore guard Aarion Nichols, who averaged 9.2 points per game, 6.0 rebounds per game, 2.0 assists per game, and 1.5 steals per game during her freshman campaign. Fellow sophomore center Jasmine Watts is also back after setting a new Tiffin single-season record with a 68.1% field goal percentage and leading the conference with 41 blocks while averaging 8.7 ppg and 6.5 rpg. Junior Jensen Hiegel also returns after putting up 8.0 ppg and 4.4 rpg in 2018-19.
Scouting the Prairie Stars:
Illinois-Springfield is coming off a down year that saw the Prairie Stars finish 13th in the GLVC with a 5-13 conference record and 8-18 overall mark. UIS also played an exhibition game earlier this month at Bradley on Nov. 3, falling 74-62. Malea Jackson led the Prairie Stars with 16 points, while Jasmine Sangster tallied 13 points and six rebounds.
Lauren Ladowski is UIS's leading returning scorer with 12.6 ppg, 3.4 apg, 3.3 rpg, and 1.6 spg. Sangster also averaged double figures last season with 11.2 ppg, followed by Tehya Fortune with 10.4 ppg.
The Prairie Stars and Dragons also met to open the season a year ago on the campus of Purdue Northwest, where UIS came away with a 77-65 win. Aarion Nichols had a great debut for the Dragons in the game with 18 points and nine rebounds. Ladowski (18 pts, 7 reb) and Sangster (17 pts, 12 reb) had big games for UIS.
Scouting the Bearcats:
McKendree finished the 2018-19 season in the eighth and final playoff spot in the GLVC with a 7-11 conference record and 13-15 overall mark before falling to top-seed Drury in the quarterfinals. The Bearcats played a pair of DI exhibitions prior to this season starting, falling by wide margins to both Saint Louis University and Indiana University.
Junior guard Sydney Diekhoff is the leading returner for the Bearcats, averaging 15.8 points per game last season. Jordan Heberg also returns as a double figure scorer with 10.8 ppg, while Madison Hart is the top returning rebounder with 5.1 boards per game.
McKendree and Tiffin also met a year ago at the season opening Purdue Northwest tournament, with the Dragons taking a thrilling 76-74 victory after scoring five unanswered points in the final 15 seconds. Nichols tallied 13 points and Hiegel 12 in the game for Tiffin, while Heberg led the Bearcats with 17 points in the contest.