Out goes one Division I basketball player.
But one prospect remains.
Lincoln junior Kloe Froebe has been ranked as a top prospect in the state of Illinois for the class of 2024. While her college status remains up in the air, she already has numerous Division I offers.
Mattoon’s Mallory Ramage, playing at Loyola Chicago, is done terrorizing the Apollo Conference after leading the Green Wave to a title last season, but Froebe’s talent has the rest of the league on notice.
With three teams playing in the Sectional Championship last year, the Apollo Conference appears to be ready for another competitive season.
Mattoon will return as the defending champions but lost significant firepower from last year’s 28-3 squad team. That included an 11-1 mark in the conference and an appearance in the Sweet 16.
Gone is Ramage, who finished her career as the all-time leading scorer. Ramage was also a First-Team All-Apollo selection, while Faith Niebrugge and Chloe Pruitt were both named to the Second Team. Amanda Aydt also stepped down as the team’s head coach and was replaced by longtime assistant coach Troy Haacke.
“I am very excited about how the team is looking and progressing to start the season,” said Haacke. “The girls are working hard on Offense, defense, and overall individual skills. Our top returning players are Lily Ghere, a starter from last year’s team, and Emily Maple who got some significant minutes in some varsity games. We have a group of girls that could all make significant contributions to this year’s team. We have several girls that are very good shooters and can get hot at any time.”
Mattoon took third in the recent Pana Thanksgiving girls basketball tournament, losing 76-47 in the opening game to Lincoln, which eventually won the championship.
Around the conference, multiple coaches pinpointed Lincoln as the heavy favorite to win the conference. With Froebe returning as a First-Team selection, those around the league believe the junior core that also features Becca Heitzig, Tori Gerlets, and Taryn Stolzenburg could be tough to beat.
“Lincoln would be my pick to win the conference this season,” said Mount Zion coach Steve Marvel. “Lincoln returns most, if not all, of their key rotation players plus they have arguably the best player in the conference in Kloe Froebe.”
The coaches of Effingham, Taylorville, and Charleston also pinned Lincoln as the favorite for similar reasons. The team was 24-9 and 8-4 in the conference, which was good enough for third in the conference, while the team made an appearance in the Sweet 16 as well.
“I think the favorite going into this year will be Lincoln, led by Kloe Froebe,” said Taylorville coach Hayden Eldred. “The Lincoln team will return a lot of solid players that will make them tough to beat.
Mahomet-Seymour should be in the mix for the top of the conference as well. The Bulldogs defeated Lincoln in the Sectional Championship to qualify for the Elite 8. The team lost First-Team selection Cayla Koerner and Ivie Juarez, but returns three starters in Savannah Orgeron, Abigal Bunting, and Durbin Thomas.
“The Apollo is pretty well stacked with talent this year across the board and the top few teams should have some postseason success as well,” said Mahomet-Seymour coach Garrett Risley. “With so many good inner-conference matchups to look forward to, it’s going to be a fun race. The team as a whole (players 1-12) looks forward to fulfilling larger roles this year.”
Effingham was fourth last season with a 6-6 conference record. The Hearts were one of four teams in the conference with at least 20 wins in the season by finishing 21-11. Meredith Schaefer was a First-Team selection, while Sayer Althoff was a Second-Team selection. Both players have graduated.
Ella Niebrugge returns as the team’s leading scorer at 8.6 points per game, while senior teammate Madison Mapes averaged 5.2 points per game. The longtime Hearts coach believes that his team could slide into the top three spots in teh conference behind Lincoln and Mahomet-Seymour.
“We have other kids who saw significant time last year,” said Schafer. “Senior Marissa Aliie and sophomores Saige Althoff, Sidney Donaldson and Bria Beals. I’m looking forward to watching this team. They should be a lot of fun.”
Taylorville made a huge jump from a losing season in Eldred’s first year coaching. The Tornadoes finished 6-6 in the Apollo to go with a 14-12 overall record. Addison Tarr was a Second-Team Conference selection as a freshman and will look for a big sophomore season. She will be joined by sophomore teammate Mazie Fleming as the top two returning players.
“Both are tall and athletic players with great potential,” said Eldred. “Both had solid years as freshmen last season, and look to progress throughout their years here. I will also have three other solid players in sophomore Kyleigh Heimsness, and juniors Aubrey Keitzman and Olivia Woodward. All three are great athletes with potential to have big scoring games, and be very impactful in our season.”
Denver Anderson is one of two returning First-Team All-Apollo members and will look to lead the Mount Zion Braves out of the cellar of the standings. Mount Zion was 2-10 in the conference and 10-22 for the season. The team also gained a 6-foot-3 sophomore in Jocelyn Turner via transfer, who Marvel also believes is an All-Apollo caliber player.
“Denver should be among the top players in the conference again this season,” said Marvel. “Jocelyn should also be one of the top players in the conference and is a complete player and difference maker on both ends of the court. Senior Kalliana Becker and Sophomore Maddie Kendall will also be key returning starters for us. Both players have improved significantly over the summer and since last season.”
Rounding out the back of the conference is Charleston, who was 0-12 in conference play and 1-23 for the season. The Trojans lost their leading scorer and might not have any seniors take the court this season.
“We are really young this year,” said Charleston coach Shani Imerg. “My one senior won’t be able to play this year as she is battling concussion protocol. I have one junior, Ally Logsdon, who has played significant minutes at the varsity level and brings a ton of skill to the table. Her sister, Annie, will be a big contribution for us this year as well.”
Top Returning Players
Khloe Froebe – Lincoln
Denver Anderson – Mount Zion
Addison Tarr – Taylorville
Predicted Apollo Standings
3. Mount Zion