Bedford North Lawrence (Class 4-A) and Paoli (Class 2-A) are expected to be serious contenders this winter in Southern Indiana girls’ high school basketball.
The Stars, 14-time champions of the Hoosier Hills Conference, return all but two players from last season’s sectional finalist team, which was ousted by eventual state runner-up Columbus North.
The preseason chatter and hoopla surrounding the program, Bedford coach Kurt Godlevske said, has added excitement to the season.
“We have something to prepare for, to work towards,” he said. “It gives us a reason to want to get better every single day.”
Paoli last season advanced to the regional championship, but was eliminated by Evansville Mater Dei, which went on to win the Class 2-A crown.
The Rams’ are counting on the inside-outside combination of guard Sophie Sears and center Kennedy Nelson, now seniors, to lead them to more postseason success.
“It’s a really fun time when you’ve got a chance for good things to happen,” first-year coach Frank Deckard said. “We hope to be playing at our best when tournament time rolls in.”
* Top players: G Jessie Davidson, F/C Brenna Oeffinger, G/F Kamry Howard, G Megan Smith.
* Outlook: “Last year was a rebuilding year,” coach Jared Petersen said. “The majority of our girls are back and we figure it should be a pretty good year.” The Eagles will again rely on Davidson, who averaged 19 points a game last season and is expected to be one of the top players in the Mid-Southern Conference. Petersen said he “feels confidence with this team going nine-deep on the bench.”
BEDFORD NORTH LAWRENCE (23-3)
* Top players: F Dominique McBryde, C Jenna Allen, G Brittani Rizzi, G Sammy Dillman, G Alexa Bailey.
* Outlook: The Stars return a “combination of size to go along with our shooters,” said coach Kurt Godlevske, whose team advanced to the regional final last year and lost just two players to graduation. “Those two combinations together will really be our strength. We think these younger kids have grown with maturity and in their understanding of the game. We think we can be better than we were last season.”
* Top players: F Kaylee Bennett, C Kaley Wilkerson, G Trinity Booher.
* Outlook: Coach Karla Rieckers believes the success of the Braves “depends on how our sophomores come along,” she said. “I think we have a group of sophomores that are talented but it’s how well they adjust to the varsity level.” Bennett, a four-year varsity player, will be looked upon for leadership and scoring. Wilkerson, a 6-foot-2 interior player, will miss the beginning of the season with a foot injury. “She’s our rebounder and we’re looking forward to her return.”
COLUMBUS EAST (17-7)
* Top players: F Mikala Lomax, G Courtney Hunter, G Molly Macy, F Audrey Wetzel.
* Outlook: Three players expected to be key contributors are out with injuries: Juniors Allyson Bunch and Katie Ritenour are sidelined until early January with knee injuries, and sophomore Megan Galle will miss the entire season with a torn ligament in her wrist. “Some of (the players) are getting a unique opportunity to play because of injuries,” coach Danny Brown said. “Hopefully by sectional time we can pull it all together.”
CRAWFORD COUNTY (7-15)
* Top players: F Mandi McLain, F Brooke Sauer, G Tylynn Allen, G Mikayla Bowman.
* Outlook: The Wolfpack have no seniors and return only four players with varsity experience. McLain and Sauer are the top returners with varsity experience for a team that is expected to start two juniors and three sophomores, assistant coach John Bowles said. “We’re very athletic; we just have to turn them into ballplayers. Lots of skill work that we can improve on.”
* Top players: F Ashley Isenhower, G Alexis Adair, F Abby Jewel.
* Outlook: Winless last season, coach Kevin Hensley believes the future is bright. “Youth is going to be our Achilles’ heel. Playing varsity ball with mostly freshmen can only mean the future looks bright.” Isenhower, a junior, is expected to lead the way. The Tigers will start four freshmen alongside Isenhower.
EASTERN PEKIN (21-3)
* Top players: F Krista Roberts, F Donnelle Rogers, G Katie Ernstberger, F Brooke Rodewig.
* Outlook: Roberts, who averaged 13.5 points and eight rebounds per game last year, will be the Musketeers’ key senior this season. “We return a pretty good nucleus,” said coach Mike McBride, whose team lost 6-foot-3 Jocelyn Mousty, now at Indiana, to graduation. “I think people are overlooking us a little bit. Defense and rebounding … if we can take care of those two things, I think we have a chance to do well.”
JENNINGS COUNTY (0-21)
* Top players: G Kirsten Biggs, F Emily Ertel, F Baylee Krueger, G Sydney Kirchner.
* Outlook: “We’ve played so many girls (on varsity) the last two years that weren’t really ready because of our (lack) of numbers,” coach Carrie Manowitz said. “We’re finally able to field three teams (freshman, junior varsity and varsity) without players splitting time.” Biggs, a senior, will play off-guard after two seasons at point guard. “She’s a little stronger there,” Manowitz said. “She’s the type of girl that works hard, is strong and can defend. We’ll really rely on her.”
* Top players: G Hannah Gain, C Olivia Crozier, G/F Whitney Wynn, F Catie Povaleri, F Macky Hecox.
* Outlook: The Cubs, which advanced to semistate last season, return nine players but must replace three lost to graduation. “It will sure be in our favor with the experience we return,” coach Willie Humes said. “We’ve just got a variation of kids that do different things, and if they accept their roles, we’ll be pretty good.”
* Top players: G/F Hannah Elkins, G Ashley Lambert, G Mariah Campbell, F Monika Bevers, C Montana Wheeler.
* Outlook: Elkins, a guard/forward combo, will “be the key as far as leadership and scoring,” coach Brad McCammon said. Mixing his key returners with a talented group of freshmen “to find the perfect blend” will be an early-season goal of McCammon. “I’m very pleased with our freshmen. They’ve been able to step in and bring us quality minutes and a little more depth on the bench.”
* Top players: G/F Mia Burton, G Courtney Perkins, F Alyssa Gardner.
* Outlook: “We’re still learning as we go,” first-year coach Matt Sowders said. “But we do expect to compete.” Burton is a dual threat with her outside shooting and ability to post up. “When (Burton) gets hot, she’s definitely a match-up problem for our opponents.”
* Top players: G Shelbi Samsil, F Lauren McCracken, G Hayley Deckard, G Layken Ray, F Kristan Johnson.
* Outlook: Samsil averaged 15 points last season and is a four-year starter for the Bulldogs. “She must lead us,” coach James Ellis said. Orleans’ five seniors will get help from two sophomores — Taylor Wheeler and Ashley Johnson — who Ellis expects to “play a lot of varsity minutes and contribute for us.”
* Top players: G Sophie Sears, C Kennedy Nelson, F Stephanie Moore, F Morgan Kingston, G/F Olivia Brewster.
* Outlook: Sears, who is regarded as one of the top guards in Southern Indiana, will be looked upon to lead the Rams deep into the tournament. “All the intangibles you can’t coach, (Sears) has,” first-year coach Frank Decker said. “Our expectations are high. It’s a good time to be involved in Paoli basketball … great community support and the kids are adding to that.” Nelson will provide Paoli, which lost to eventual Class 2-A state champion Evansville Mater Dei in the regional final, “a really nice inside-out game, maybe one of the better (ones) in this area,” Decker admitted.
* Top players: G Brittany Walker, G Krista Baker, G/F Alex Davidson, F Treasure Hurst.
* Outlook: “We’re still kind of young and a little inexperienced,” coach Laura Motsinger said. “I told the girls, ‘I don’t care the outcome or what the scoreboard says as long as you’re giving me 100 percent.’ ” Walker will be the team’s primary ball handler, and Baker, who led the team in steals last season, will be the Lions’ top defensive player. Davidson, only a sophomore, had 22 points in Salem’s opener and “has a promising future,” Motsinger said.
* Top players: F Katie Wampler, G Jillian Romero, G/F Ashley Elliott, G Kelsey Smith.
* Outlook: Wampler is “pretty much our leader and our mainstay inside” but legendary coach Donna Cheatham said any of the top four players “are capable of scoring 20 to 25 points on any given night. I just think this year’s team passes the ball and reads the court very well. All are involved in the offense, and that makes us more dangerous.” Cheatham is also expecting junior forward Cara Bulington to contribute. “If we keep our top five healthy and keep them in the game, we’ve the ability to make people sweat.
* Top players: G Brianna Gillaspy, F Sidney Carr, F Taylor Gossett, G/F Logan Personett, G Abby Thompson.
* Outlook: First-year coach Jason Longmeier will begin his tenure without Gillaspy, the Owls’ top returning player and an Indiana Junior All-Star, who will miss the first month of the season with an injury. “When we get (Gillaspy) back, we’ll have quite a different team,” he said. “I think it’s just going to take us time to get used to this offense and new defensive schemes.”
MADISON SHAWE MEMORIAL (3-19)
* Top players: G Taylor Grote, F Stephanie Snodgrass, G Sarelia Rios-Garcia.
* Outlook: First-year coach Camille Deuser, was wasn’t hired until late July, must guide a roster with no seniors and only one junior. “It’s going to be a difficult season,” she said. “They’ve been learning a whole new system with me, with lots of introducing and teaching. It’s making our progress a little slower.” Grote will wear many hats for the Hilltoppers. “She’s going to be our primary ball handler and main shooter. We’re going to rely on her for a lot.”
* Top players: G Sydnie McKinley, F Morgan Mahoney, F Austin Courtney, G Cass Lawson.
* Outlook: It may be the first year for coach Kenny Garrett, but he’s hopeful that Southwestern’s veterans — key seniors McKinley and Mahoney — will help the Rebels “get some momentum going in the right direction.” McKinley is the team’s top returning scorer and Mahoney will be the main interior threat. “I’ll be counting on them a lot, especially when we get into (the) conference schedule.”
SPRINGS VALLEY (6-17)
* Top players: G Lauren Goodman, F Destiny Mitchell.
* Outlook: Goodman (13 ppg, 8 rpg) and Mitchell (10 ppg, 10 rpg) are the Black Hawks’ top returners. “We’ve got the majority back from last season,” coach Kelly Schmitt said. “Coupled with a good freshman class, I’m really looking for good things this season.” Kayla DeWeese, a sophomore guard, and Storri Gadau, a junior guard, should provide help for Springs Valley.
WEST WASHINGTON (9-11)
* Top players: F Tori Packwood, G Shelby Springer, G Carrie Miller, C Kalen Nice.
* Outlook: “We’d like to get in the 70-point range ever game,” assistant coach Barry Clements said. “We’ve been in a rebuilding process, trying to turn it around gradually. We’re hoping for a good year.” Packwood, a senior, collected a 28 points in West Washington’s opener against Lanesville.