Experience and talent. Eaton has both.
The Eagles return all their critical parts from a record-setting team that won 20 games, advanced to a sectional final and contended for the top spot in the SWBL Southwestern Division.
“I think I have nine or 10 girls who can start for me at any given time,” said second-year Eaton head coach Gary Peffly. “You might not see the same starting lineup two games in a row. I think it’s going to be determined by who we are playing and how we have to match up with them.”
The Eagles matched up well against the opposition in 2012-13. They set a single-season record for wins by finishing 20-5, took second place in the conference behind powerhouse Bellbrook and had Kenton Ridge on the ropes before falling 63-58 in a Division II sectional final.
Eaton won its first playoff game since 2001 to get there, too.
“I was really pleased with how we played last year at the end of the season,” Peffly said. “We hit a good streak there.”
Autumn Whirley led the Eagles with 15.2 points per game last season to go with 4.7 assists. Fellow junior and 6-foot-2 post player Danielle Karns averaged 12.9 points and 7.3 rebounds.
Seniors and returning starters Kasey Titkemeyer, Michelle McKinney and Katie Yoder are back, with juniors Libby Springmier, Hannah Paulus, Kristi Floyd and Elizabeth Tolliver and sophomore Julia Titus also expected to contribute.
Eaton has been hit by injury and illness in the preseason. Peffly said Yoder is recovering from an ACL injury and may return in December.
The Eagles will have options, though.
“We play very good team basketball,” Peffly said. “Last year, a lot of people concentrated on Whirley and Karns. We have a lot of girls who have really improved their shooting. We have a lot more balance. That’s the main thing I’ve been pleased with.”
Eaton opens Friday against Greenville as part of the Annie Oakley Tournament that also features Versailles and Graham.
The Eagles also face Lakota East on Nov. 30 in their home opener.
“It gets us started off with great competition,” Peffly said. “We’ll have three quality games right away before we open up league play.”
The Eagles were 10-2 in league play in 2012-13, and handed Bellbrook its first conference defeat in five years.
Bellbrook went on to win the league, and Peffly said the defending champion remains the team to beat. The Eagles open league play Dec. 5 at Oakwood. The first of two matchups with Bellbrook is Dec. 12 in Eaton.
“Until somebody dethrones them, they have to be the favorite,” he said. “We have to play one game at a time. I just think we’re going to have to battle, night in and night out. To be successful, you have to do that.”