The Manual and Sacred Heart girls’ basketball teams have dominated the Seventh Region for the last 15 seasons.
During that time the Crimsons (six) and Valkyries (four) have combined for 10 titles, including the last four in a row. Those two will be among the favorites to win the region again this season; however, if someone is going to end the Manual-Sacred Heart reign, it just might be Male.
The Bulldogs return 14 of their top 15 players from a team that went 21-10 last season.
“We think we can be pretty good but we haven’t arrived yet, even though some of my players might think so,” second-year coach Champ Ligon Jr. said. “But we’ve definitely elevated from last year. We still have a ways to go; we’re a work in progress.”
Male, which hasn’t won a regional title since 1996, made plenty of progress last season. The Bulldogs posted four more victories — including a late-season triumph over the Crimsons and their first win in the Louisville Invitational Tournament in 13 years — than the previous season and claimed their first district title since 1996.
This season Male will be led by 6-foot-1 junior center I’Liyah Green (12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds per game last season) and 5-7 senior point guard Taylor Jackson (11.5 ppg, 2.9 steals per game). Jackson was a first team all-region selection while Green was a second-team pick last season. Green, according to Ligon, already has scholarship offers from Western Kentucky, IUPUI and UTEP.
Also returning for the Bulldogs are 5-11 sophomore forward Logan Calvert (7.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg), 5-5 freshman guard Ciaja Harbison (5.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg), 5-11 sophomore forward Kyra Hogan (2.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg), 5-4 freshman guard Emilia Sexton (5.1 ppg), 5-7 sophomore forward Jada Owens (4.1 ppg), 5-6 senior forward Denise Buckel (3.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg), 5-3 junior guard Taylor Kraft (3.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg) and 5-5 junior guard Sydney Vestal (2.2 ppg). Male also adds Green’s younger sister India, a 5-9 freshman forward, and 6-1 eighth-grade center Cameron Browning this season.
“The future is extremely bright,” Ligon said.
As for the present, Ligon believes the Crimsons are the best team in the region.
“I think Manual’s still the one to beat, they’re extremely talented,” he said.
But the Crimsons — who’ll be led by 6-4 junior center Kyrstaline McCune and seniors Teanna Curry and Aricka Prentice – aren’t the only talented team in a region dominated by quality “bigs,” in addition to Green and McCune. Assumption boasts 6-6 senior Nora Kiesler, a Purdue recruit and Miss Basketball candidate, while Waggener has 6-2 senior center Alex Peden and Presentation 5-10 senior Alex Hibbs. Reigning region champion Sacred Heart and last season’s runner-up Ballard, meanwhile, will be more perimeter-oriented this season after significant graduation losses.
The Bulldogs, though, will likely hang tough.
“We’re kind of the new kids on the block,” Ligon said. “We’re very athletic and we’ve got a lot of depth. We’ve progressed a long way over the past year. We’ve just got to keep working on the things we’re doing.”