On Monday, whistles will blow, sneakers will squeak, and another girls basketball season will start in the Sauk Valley.
With the frenetic pace of the preseason not allowing us to get a full season preview section out before the girls games start, coupled with the end of the fall season, it's tough to talk girls hoops much before it tips off.
So to whet you're appetites, I thought I'd look at five things to think about as the 2012-13 season gets under way.
1. Is this the year of the Prophet?
Prophetstown returns nearly everyone from a team that advanced to a sectional championship game. That includes SVM All-Area first team player Cassie Reiley, her talented younger sister Corrie Reiley and versatile post player Riley Walters.
The Prophets tied with Riverdale last season for the Three Rivers crown. They seem poised to fight with the Rams again at the top of the conference.
In the postseason, they'll likely have to run into Sophie Brunner and the defending 1A state champion Aquin Bulldogs at some point. It'll be interesting to see if they can close the gap from a 36-24 loss in the sectional final a year ago.
2. Do the Rockets have more magic up their sleeves?
The fall ended with Rock Falls making a surprise run to a Class 3A volleyball supersectional. Some people might forget the magic started last basketball season when the Rockets advanced to a 2A sectional championship game.
Morgan Mammosser, Jordan Giddings and company return to make it interesting again. This year, they'll have to try their hand at the 3A field.
Just like in volleyball, perhaps we'll be entertained by a Rock Falls-Sterling regional basketball final matchup.
3. Does Oregon turn the corner?
Since Sam Lambrigtsen burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2010-11 season, many have been waiting for the Hawks to make a deep run.
They have plenty of talent around her, most of which gained invaluable experience during a 20-11 campaign a year ago.
While the Big Northern is a rock-solid girls basketball conference, the Hawks can no longer fall back on being too young or a year away. This should be the year for Oregon to fight for the BNC West crown.
Last year, they finished 6-6 in conference, behind Lutheran, Stillman Valley and Rock Falls. All three should also be strong again.
4. Who will step up for Sterling?
The last 2 years, a Sterling player has walked away with SVM player of the year honors. Aleena Hammelman did it last season (even after missing about one-third of the season with an injury), and Lauren Hernandez pulled the feat a year before.
Hammelman and Hernandez are both gone, and coach Julie Schroeder is talking about swapping players out in a similar fashion to line changes in hockey.
We'll see if it works, and we'll see if a new Golden Warrior can take the leadership reins of arguably the most storied girls hoops program in the area.
5. Will Newman challenge in Three Rivers?
Much like Oregon, the Comets have spent the last 2 years growing up with a cast of underclass players. Now those underclass players are juniors and seniors, and it's time to reap the fruit of their labors.
Rachel Hageman and Mary Alice Oswalt form a nice 1-2 punch. They'll need contributions, however, from all over the lineup to match up with conference powers like Riverdale and Prophetstown.
Don't be surprised if Amboy, Erie and Fulton also take steps forward in 2013.