The balance of power in the Mississippi Athletic Conference is shifting.
The league held its girls basketball coaches' luncheon hosted by the Davenport Optimist Club on Friday afternoon at the Adler Theatre in Davenport, and the message that came out of it was clear — there's no such thing as a night off.
"As far as the conference race goes, I think there's a lot of parity," Davenport West coach Steve Saladino said. "There's a lot of great coaches ... but also there's a lot of competitiveness in the conference, amongst the teams and the players."
Longtime power Davenport Assumption saw its run of 10 straight years of finishing with at least a share of the conference title end last year. And Muscatine, after winning its first outright conference title in 11 years, is expected to face some adversity after losing four of its five leading scorers, including all-state point guard Emily Clemens, now enrolled at Western Illinois.
"We’re not invincible, clearly," Assumption coach Rachael Milliman said. "But that’s OK. You learn a lot in those kinds of situations."
All of this opens up the door to much deeper, more competitive conference play as North Scott was tabbed the preseason favorite by coaches. Davenport North — which broke a 42-game conference losing streak last year — tied with Assumption for second while Pleasant Valley, Bettendorf and Muscatine were the three other teams to receive votes.
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That competitive atmosphere should hopefully prepare all of the teams for the postseason.
"You constantly hear about the Iowa City area and the Des Moines area, and rightfully so, they have great basketball teams," Pleasant Valley coach Jennifer Goetz said. "But eventually, we've got to bring that talk to the Quad-Cities ... the way you're going to do that is, you've got to get better and it can't be one or two teams, it's got to be a 10-team responsibility. We've got to make this job better and I think we're on the right path with that."
For North Scott, which flew under the radar for much of last year under first-year head coach T.J. Case, being in the spotlight is something new.
But with five starters returning, including all-state post player Evan Hundley and leading scorer Rachel Edmundson, the Lancers — who fell on a last-second shot in the quarterfinals to eventual Class 4A champion Harlan last season — are primed to make another deep run.
"Don't think for one minute that I'm pushing, 'We're just going to show up and win,' because it's not going to happen," Case said. "We're going to outwork people and we're hoping that we're going to be on the right side of the scoreboard at the end."