Friday night will be something of a homecoming for Stacy Clark.
The head coach of the Clinton girls basketball team will make her return to Pleasant Valley this week as Mississippi Athletic Conference action resumes after the holiday break.
Clark graduated from PV in 2011, helping lead the Spartans to a state tournament berth as a junior and averaging 15.1 points and 9.1 rebounds in her senior season.
"It will definitely be weird being on the visitor's bench this time," Clark said. "It will be a good reminder of just how fortunate I am to be back in the action here."
Of all the memories formed over the years, helping lead the Spartans to an overtime win over Iowa City West to earn that state berth in 2010 stands out.
"I actually just hung out with some of my teammates (Monday)," Clark said, "We were talking about that game."
In the years since, there have been changes at Pleasant Valley, including the construction of a new practice gym and classrooms near the current gym.
Clark has been back since as a visitor but the changes add another level of newness for the first-year head coach.
"It's not the same gym anymore," Clark said. "It's neat how far they've come along and I haven't been out that long but it makes it feel like a lot longer when it's changed that much."
Though there's excitement for the reunion, Clark is focused on the continued growth of the River Queens, who enter Friday's game 4-5 overall and 3-5 in the MAC.
"The girls have been working super hard and I came into a great group of girls, which has been awesome," Clark said. "I think they're getting it figured out that once we see PV Friday we'll have seen everyone once and we've been contenders in almost all those games for at least the first part of them.
"They're fighters. It's fun."
Clark said knowing the conference layout before she took the job last spring has helped ease the transition into the head coaching role. It's also helped her relate to her team, helping in its growth from game to game.
"Part of it is it gives me some credibility with the girls, knowing I've been the underdog in this locker room before," Clark said. "Knowing that in the MAC anything can happen some night so it's just who's out there and ready to play."
Megan Gandrup has emerged as the top scoring threat for Clinton, scoring at least 20 points in four straight games and is averaging 16.6 points per game.
"I think she finally just got in a groove and I changed up the offense quite a bit from what they're used to and as a team we finally got that rolling," Clark said. "That just gives her more opportunities and gives the other girls better opportunities to shoot in general and get good shots."
Tournament triumphs: There were plenty of milestones achieved over the holidays for athletes in Illinois.
Brea Beal became the all-time leading scorer in Western Big Six girls basketball with 19 points against Union Ryle in the State Farm large school championship game. Beal passed Quincy's Ruth Kipping and now has 2,298 points in her career.
In addition, Wethersfield's Brittney Litton surpassed the 2,000-point mark with a 30-point performance against Morrison, one day after becoming the program's all-time leading scorer.
Also, Orion's Danielle Taets and Mercer County's Dani Hagens both surpassed 1,000 points in their career.