For most high school basketball teams, losing a Division I signee to graduation leaves a pretty big hole to fill. For a squad as loaded as Blackman, however, it shouldn’t present much of a problem.
Micah Norris, who signed with Southern Illinois University, is no longer with the defending Class AAA champion Lady Blaze, but head coach Chad Hibdon’s squad still has more than enough talent to make another run at this year’s title.
“We’re obviously blessed to have such a talented roster,” Hibdon said.
Returning to this year’s team are five Division I commitments, including seniors MeMe Jackson (Tennessee), K.K. Williams (Georgia State), Angel Allen (Western Carolina) and Alex Johnson (Middle Tennessee State), along with junior Crystal Dangerfield, who committed to Connecticut last month. Fellow junior Jazz Bond, a 6-foot-3 post who saw considerable action as a sophomore, will be another key contributor this season for Blackman.
“We’ve got some great kids and some really good basketball players,” Hibdon said. “That’s what makes it great for us. They work hard, they love basketball and they’re extremely talented.”
As talented as they are, though, the Lady Blaze will face plenty of competition this season, especially from within District 7-AAA.
“The traditional powers are there,” Hibdon said of district foes Riverdale and Oakland. “They’re going to be formidable opponents for us, as well as Stewarts Creek and Smyrna. Stewarts Creek could be the surprise team in the league I think.”
Mt. Juliet: The Lady Bears return three starters from last season’s Class AAA semifinalist squad, but the biggest issue will be replacing Belmont signee Sally McCabe, who led the team in scoring, rebounding, blocks and assists a season ago.
Overton: The Lady Bobcats were hit hard by the graduation of Chelsea Nelson and Ant’treasia Patton, but the defending Region 6-AAA champs still have plenty of talent returning, like seniors Torry Patton and Lashae Brown. Jada Stewart, MeMe Graham and Jessica Hill should round out the starting five, but lack of depth could be a problem.
Martin Luther King: The Lady Royals return all five starters from last year’s 29-3 Class AA quarterfinal team, including senior Jordan Majors, Brianna Smith, Molly Kafader and Lawrencia Harrison. Majors, an MTSU commitment, averaged 16.4 points and 12 rebounds as a junior.
Livingston Academy: The Lady Wildcats return just one starter from last season’s state tournament team, but the senior-laden squad has plenty of experience. Seniors Kailey Winningham, Taylor Witt, Tatum Dillon, Jameson Daily, Addy Stover and Alexis Savage all return after seeing substantial time a season ago.
Creek Wood: The Lady Red Hawks lost three starters from last year’s team — which finished 34-4 and reached the Class AA semifinal — including Vanderbilt signee Rachel Bell. Post players McKenzie Haislip and McKenzie Broadway will lead the front court, and senior Brianna Spicer returns at point guard.
Jackson County: Starters Lindsey Phillips, Kassidy Allen and Cameron Sherrell all return from last year’s Class A runner-up squad. Allen, who averaged 12 points, will be joined in the backcourt by junior McKenzie Flynn, who returns after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.
Middle Tennessee Christian: The Lady Cougars bring back all five starters , including top two scorers Ashlynd Wilkerson and Abby Buckner. Sophomore Camden Adams also returns after missing most of last year with an injury.
Nashville Christian: After reaching the district 10-A tournament final a season ago, coach Brandon Woods’ Lady Eagles are essentially starting over. Nashville Christian lost five seniors from last year’s 24-9 team, and several unproven players, such as Morgan Forte, Mia Curtis and Kendall Sullivan will have to step up. Sophomore Sonja Shelton is the only returning starter.
University School of Nashville: After advancing to the final four each of the past two seasons, Lady Tigers coach Dee Davis believes her team in ready to take the next step. Memphis commitment Brianna Porter leads the charge, along with guards Katie Roth, Kaitlyn Rabb and Alex Miller.
Ezell-Harding: The Lady Eagles welcome back two starters from last year’s final four team, including Marci Sneed and Shannon Beaty. Promising freshman Britany Miller will carry the load in the post, while several other fresh faces will contribute in the backcourt for the up-tempo team.
Brentwood Academy: Senior India Hall, junior Breuna Jackson, sophomore Bria Dial and freshman Sydni Harvey lead the defending DII-AA champs. Talent won’t be issue for the Lady Eagles, but unlike last season, they won’t be sneaking up on anyone.
Harpeth Hall: Juniors Shelby Nutter and Raleigh Potts lead a Bears team that lost three starters from last year’s DII-AA semifinalist squad. Junior Lee Lee Johnson and sophomores Lauren Bars, Mary Triplett and Anna Owens should also be solid contributors.