Girls Basketball Preview: Top-ranked Holmes has talent returning to repeat as 9th Region champion
Nov 26th, 2016 · 0 Comment
By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter
Tony Perkins considered retiring from coaching after his Holmes girls’ basketball team won the 9th Region championship and made it to the quarterfinals of the state tournament last March. He certainly wasn’t disappointed with the season, and he knew there would be a lot of talent returning for the Bulldogs. The veteran coach just wanted to make sure he could keep the program going in a positive direction before he signed up for another season.
Point guard Jaynice Stovall is one of three returning starters for Holmes.
“We’ve got a good bunch of kids and they do what I ask them to do so that did have a lot to do with my decision,” Perkins said. “It’s not just about winning. It’s them doing what I expect them to do and continuing the strides they’ve made with my assistant coaches and me.”
Northern Kentucky coaches expect Holmes team to have another successful season. The Bulldogs were voted No. 1 in a preseason coaches poll conducted by the NKyTribune because they have most of the players back from last year’s 29-5 team that didn’t lose a game to any local opponents.
The returning starters are senior point guard Janice Stovall, junior forward Tyrah Englemon and junior guard Laila Johnson, who all averaged between nine and 12 points per game. Sophomore guard Kamari Graham was also within that scoring range.
Part of the reason for the balanced scoring is the team’s up-tempo style of play that creates opportunities for everyone to put the ball in the basket. The Bulldogs also take pride in their pressure defense that limited opponents to 41.5 points per game last season when they claimed the team’s first regional title since 2002.
“We haven’t even talked about repeating (as regional champs) or anything like that,” coach Perkins said. “We just want to come out and play as well as we can play every game. We know there’s a lot of good teams out there. We’ve just got to go out and play and get better as the year goes on.”
Here’s a look at the other Northern Kentucky girls’ basketball teams that were ranked among the top 12 in the preseason coaches poll.
2. SIMON KENTON
Junior guard Ally Niece was named first-team all-state after leading Simon Kenton to a 24-6 record last season, but the team lost in the 10th Region championship game and didn’t make it to the state tournament.
With Niece and four other starters returning, the Pioneers should make another strong bid for the regional title. Coach Jeff Stowers said the keys will be avoiding injuries, developing a solid player rotation and playing good defense.
“It will be very competitive with any number of teams standing in the end,” Stowers said of the 10th Region race. “It all depends on staying injury free and coming together at season’s end.”
Niece averaged 20.8 points and 5.8 rebounds last season. The team’s other returning double-figure scorers are junior guard Shelby Harmeyer (12.8) and senior center Madi Meier (11.4).
Senior point guard Kendyl Gilliam and junior forward Megan Buckner are also back in the lineup. Buckner is a good defender who was the team’s leading rebounder last season with 6.9 per game.
Highlands point guard Zoie Barth
The Bluebirds will have a highly talented backcourt combination once again this season with senior transfer Jenna Martin joining sophomore Zoie Barth, one of two starters returning from last year’s 9th Region semifinal team.
Martin was a two-year starter for Notre Dame who averaged 14.8 points per game and made 69 3-point shots last season. Barth averaged 12.4 points, three rebounds and three assists playing point guard for the Bluebirds.
“Zoie has a very high basketball IQ she uses to put herself in good situations and makes the players around her better,” said Highlands coach Jaime Richey. “Jenna is an outstanding basketball player, one of the quickest guards I’ve ever coached.”
With new players in most positions, Richey knows there will likely be an adjustment period for everyone to learn how to play together. Her biggest concern is the lack of height on the roster.
“It’s one of the smallest teams I have coached, but one of the more physical teams I have coached,” Richey said. “We will have to rebound and limit teams to one shot.”
Coach Aaron Stamm expects the Cougars to have another highly successful season even though he has to replace two of the top players on last year’s 22-12 team that made it to the 9th Region semifinals.
Stamm said the team has good depth with seven players who could start at any time. “Our length and athleticism is much improved from a year ago,” he added. “Our full-court press will be something we count on as well.”
Conner’s returning starters are sophomore guards Courtney Hurst and Savannah Jordan and senior center Caylee Duncan. The coach lists senior Lauryn Watts, junior Maddie McLemore and sophomores Maddie Burcham and Joy Strange as the other players who impressed him in preseason practice.
“Right now, our overall team defense is not where it needs to be,” Stamm notes. “Takes constant coaching to get our kids playing at a high level all the time.”
Ryle freshman guard Maddie Scherr
Four starters on last year’s 9th Region runner-up graduated, leaving freshman point guard Maddie Scherr as the centerpiece in the Raiders’ new lineup. She’s a talented young player who needs to take on a bigger role than last season when he averaged 6.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and two assists per game.
Scherr and sophomore guard Lauren Schwartz are already drawing attention from college recruiters, according to head coach Katie Haitz. The rest of the Ryle players will be works in progress since they didn’t get a lot of playing time on last year’s predominantly senior team.
“We’re guard heavy this year and changing a lot of our philosophy on offense and defense for this team,” coach Haitz said. “We’re playing a tough schedule in the hope of preparing the girls for the end of the year competition.”
Four of the Raiders’ first six games will be against teams that played in regional finals last season – Simon Kenton, Scott, Holmes and Campbell County.
6. HOLY CROSS
The graduation of playmaking point guard Dajah McClendon will have an impact on the Indians, but many of the returning players gained valuable experience last season to offset her loss.
“We’re a young yet talented team,” said coach Kes Murphy. “We have solid depth, which has enhanced our practices so our kids are improving tremendously day to day. The most noticeable trait about this team is our unselfishness. Our kids just want to win.”
Alehia Tucker, a starter on the 2015 state championship team, is the Indians’ most experienced player. She averaged 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds last year. Sophomore guard Olivia Crigler will be joining her in the backcourt once again.
Senior forward Courtney Turner is the team’s other returning starter and 6-foot-1 sophomore Maylaisa Chames made an impressive varsity debut last season when she averaged four points and four rebounds as low-post player.
7. CAMPBELL COUNTY
The defending 10th Region champions have junior guard Taylor Clos and junior forward Mackenzie Schwarber returning from last year’s 25-10 team that lost in the second round of the state tournament.
Clos, a capable floor leader and scorer, averaged 15 points, four assists and four rebounds per game. Schwarber is an top-notch defensive player who contributed nine points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Coach Beau Menefee expects junior guard Chloe Seckman, sophomore center Tamama Wells and freshman guards Lalyn Jackson and Mallory Holbrook to be part of his lineup rotation.
Even though he has no seniors on the roster and two potential starters have been lost for the season through injuries, Menefee said his goal is to repeat as regional champion.
The Eagles will have one of the best backcourt combinations in the 10th Region once again with junior guards Anna Clephane and Lexie Stapleton returning. They both had a double-figure scoring average last season when Clephane averaged 19.2 points and Stapleton averaged 16.9 on the regional runner-up team.
Morgan Wagner and Summer Secrist are the other veteran guards on coach Rhonda Klette’s roster. Secrist averaged 7.2 points and shot 53 percent from the field last season.
“Anna, Lexie and Summer are three great athletes that give us the ability to push the ball in transition and play a very up-tempo game,” Klette said. “All three can get to the rim and hit threes, making them very difficult to defend.”
Scott also has senior Kimberly Davis and sophomore Emma Profit returning to provide inside scoring, rebounding and post defense.
9. NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC
Ansley Davenport was the only senior on NewCath’s roster last season, but replacing the team’s leading scorer and playmaker won’t be easy for the Thoroughbreds.
Coach George Stoll will be counting on senior center Ajia Rice, senior guard Olivia Schalk and junior guard Lexy Breen to share the offensive load. They all averaged around seven points per game last season.
Sophomore forward Kara Zimmerman is another player with varsity experience on the NewCath roster. If she improves on her 4.3 points-per-game average, it will help the defending 9th Region All “A” Classic champs achieve the balance scoring it needs to be successful.
The Jaguars have a good guard combination in senior Hailey Anderson and junior Lexi Held. They both had double-figure scoring averages and shot 45 percent or better from the field last season.
Held, who was voted among the top 25 players in Kentucky, had a team-high 17.7 scoring average. Anderson averaged 13.1 points and snagged a team-high 6.8 rebounds per game.
With junior guard Emily Bleska and several other experienced varsity players on the roster, coach Nicole Levandusky expects the upcoming season “to be the best in school history.”
The Jaguars’ best records up to this point were 14-13 and 15-15. None of their teams have made it to the 9th Region tournament.
11. NOTRE DAME
The Pandas got most of their points last season from five underclassmen on the roster, but their scoring leader, Jenna Martin, transferred to Highlands instead of returning to the team.
New head coach Mia Cooper is counting on seniors Kennedy Baugh and Allison Gribben and junior Sophie Hagen to take on bigger roles in the Notre Dame offense this season. They’re also good defensive players who helped last year’s team limit opponents to 42.1 points per game.
Junior guard Abbey Tierney is another player who saw action in every game last season and sophomore Danielle Rennekamp is a promising newcomer for the Pandas.
12. DIXIE HEIGHTS
With the top three scorers back from last year’s 34th District championship team, new head coach Joel Steczynski expects the Colonels to be 9th Region tournament contenders once again.
One of the senior veterans is forward Brooke Davis, who had team-high averages of 13 points and five rebounds per game. Two of her senior teammates are point guard Riley East and shooting guard Kiley Brock, who averaged 9.3 points.
Perry Grace is a sophomore guard who averaged 7.4 points in her first season as a varsity starter and played solid defense. Most of the other players on the roster are sophomores or younger, but Steczynski said depth should be a “strong suit” for the Colonels.