2002-2003 Kentucky High School Girls’ Basketball Preview

2002 Ron Harrison

This should be another interesting year for girls’ high school basketball in the state of Kentucky.  There are several teams capable of capturing the top prize and several other teams just a notch below waiting to pounce if the top echelon stumbles along the way.  I have ranked the top five in order but any of the top five are capable of capturing the championship.  Many of the other teams I have listed and some I didn’t have time to list could have a huge impact on the season.  I have based my observations on past performance, returning players, transfers, and a lot of time spent at the Kentucky Basketball Academy watching AAU events.  I have read everything I could find, perused the internet websites on a daily basis, and followed the Louis Meadows network on the ladies’ game.  What will happen once the season starts?  We should at least have an idea by late December as many of the top teams will be playing in major invitational tournaments.

 

My Pre-Season Top Five

#1 Sacred Heart – The Valkyries, coached by Donna Moir, finished 37-1 last season, won the Sweet 16 championship, and should be ranked No.1 in the state entering the season.  This deep, talented squad will be led by 6-2 Jr. Crystal Kelly, who averaged 16.5 ppg and 10.8 rpg last season.  Kelly also recorded 103 steals, 101 blocked shots, and 81 assists, usually only playing three quarters of the game.  Kelly had an excellent summer and is being heavily recruited by the major colleges.  5-11 Sr. Becca Kopple averaged 10 ppg, was third team all-stater, and expects to be back full strength after missing the summer schedule with a knee injury.  Becca’s sister, 5-10 So. Taylor Kopple, had an excellent summer and is a star in the making.  5-8 Sr. Krisha Byron may play in the shadows of her highly touted teammates but this young lady has range on her jump shot and can pass the ball.  5-7 So. Carly Ormerod was named tourney MVP at the Sweet 16 last year, can shoot and pass, and is an excellent floor general.  Kristina Kleinert is a 5-9 Sr. swingman who can get the job done on offense and defense, inside or outside.  5-6 Jr. Connie Ferch has a consistent jump shot and plays solid defense.  5-7 Sr. Kristin Windchy is a solid scorer and rebounder.  The Valkyries have several sophs including 5-10 Kelsey McCarty, 5-9 Meredith Wade, 5-6 Katie Kiper, 5-8 Jackie Distler, etc. who should provide depth this season. Coach Moir will certainly not let her team fall victim to complacency but there are several teams in the Bluegrass who could challenge Sacred Heart for state basketball supremacy this season.

#2 Lexington Catholic – The Lady Knights, coached by Greg Todd, finished 29-3 last season and return a deep, talented squad who should challenge for the top spot this season.  Lexington Catholic will be led this season by 6-0 Sr. Chelsea Chowning who averaged 17 ppg, 8 rpg, and is one of the leading candidates for “Miss Basketball”.  5-10 Sr. guard Sarah Schell averaged in double figures the last two seasons and plays a very intelligent, solid all-around game.  6-1 So. Shannon Novosel added 11 ppg last season and is a very solid post performer.  Novosel possesses a nice shooting touch, rebounds well, and is a rising star.  Catholic received a setback when 5-6 Sr. Regina Carney suffered another knee injury possibly costing her the season.  Catholic will also get contributions from 5-5 So. Lesley Server, 5-10 Jr. Laura Bell, 5-6 Jr. Megan Mendenhall, 5-2 So. Dani Yanelli, 5-9 So. Aimee Bruckner, etc.  Greg Todd has two talented newcomers, 6-0 Fr. Anaris Sickles and 5-5 Fr. Nicki Davis, who will be future stars in this program.  Catholic had an excellent summer campaign, only losing to Sacred Heart in the state AAU championship

#3 Jackson County – The Lady Generals finished 34-4 last season, runner-up in the Sweet 16 tourney, and Coach Greg Parrett’s team should be among the elite in the state again this season.  6-7 Jr. center Sarah Elliott averaged 16 ppg, 11 rpg, and blocked 296 shots last season.  This heavily recruited post player gets the job done at both ends of the floor.  5-8 So. Kasi Mullins transferred from East Carter, averaged over 20 ppg last season, and is capable of lighting up the scoreboard.  Also expected to contribute are 5-3 Jr. Whitney Moore, 5-4 Sr. Jeanenna Hignite, 5-8 Sr. Jenna Lakes, 5-8 So. Brittany Bingham, 5-9 Jr. Kenni Lakes, 5-10 Jr. Candrea Bingham, 5-9 Jr. Stisha Rose, etc.  Jackson County lost key players from last season but the cupboard is far from bare for this 13th Region power.  The Generals have a lot of talent returning and with the addition of Mullins they should be a force to reckon with. 

#4 Christian County – The Lady Colonels finished 29-1 last season and Coach Don Dillard returns all five starters from last year.  Christian County plays excellent defense, runs the floor well and have upgraded their schedule which should make them tourney tough for the postseason wars.  They will be led by 6-0 Fr. Arnika Brown, who averaged 14 ppg last season and has all the skills and athletic ability to become a very special player.  5-10 Jr. Corky Stiger averaged 18 ppg last season and absolutely thrives in an up-tempo game, 5-6 Jr. guard Shaleea Petty averaged 12.6 ppg last season.  Coach Dillard will get Sr. leadership from 5-9 D’Errica Jones who averaged 11 ppg last season.  They should also get key contributions from 5-8 So. Anita Sanchez, 5-11 Jr. Jana Betts, etc.  The Lady Colonels enter this season with the confidence of knowing they can play with any team in the state and have set their sights on a state title.

#5 Clinton County – The Lady Bulldogs finished 29-5 last season, lost some key players, but return a lot of talent to enter the 2002-2003 season.  Coach Gary Abbott also picked up a promising transfer, Staci Ross, who could be the missing piece of the championship puzzle.  6-5 Sr. center Angela Brown averaged 17 ppg and 9 rpg last season.  Brown is also an excellent shot blocker.  The Guffey twins return for their sophomore campaigns.  5-5 Amber Guffey averaged 12 ppg and handed out 212 assists last season.  5-6 Paige Guffey scores off the dribble and averaged 15 ppg last season.  Both ladies have the ability to nail the three ball.  5-8 So. Brittany Abbott (the coach’s daughter) averaged 7 ppg, handles the ball well, and has a good understanding of the game.  5-10 Sr. Staci Ross transferred from McCreary Central, where she averaged 12 ppg and 7 rpg last season.  Ross provides additional scoring in the paint, rebounding, and additional interior defense.  Clinton County has experienced performers coming off the bench, including 5-6 Sr. Gina Ferguson, 5-7 Jr. Chloe Sohm, etc.  The Lady Bulldogs had an excellent summer and Staci Ross seemed to integrate well into the lineup and should be a big help.

 

Sacred Heart, Lexington Catholic, Jackson County, Christian County, and Clinton County would appear to be the top five teams in the state entering the season.  Who should claim the big prize this year?  Sacred Heart will probably be pre-season number one and should be.  However, there are some hungry contenders and the Louisville hoop wars are brutal.  Jackson County has added a prolific scorer in Kasi Mullins and Sarah Elliott is a force in the middle.  Christian County has a group of talented athletes and will be tourney tough this season.  Lexington Catholic is deep and talented but will they be able to neutralize centers like Crystal Kelly, Sarah Elliott, and Angela Brown?  Shannon Novosel and Anaris Sickles will have to contribute especially on defense against the big three.  Clinton County has added a valuable piece to the puzzle in Staci Ross.  She has enough size and agility to help out inside on defense.  Will team chemistry enter the equation?  Yes, it always does and from that point of view Sacred Heart would seem to have a slight advantage based on experience.

Will tempo be a factor?  Coach Greg Todd has demonstrated he will control the tempo and is capable of changing styles.  Can anyone run with Christian County?  Can anybody slow down Jackson County when Mullins and Elliott are both on their games?  Clinton County can blow you out with a three point barrage and if you extend the defense it opens up the interior for Brown and Ross.  Christian County creates matchup problems—can they be checked man-to-man?

All these questions are fun to ponder but can only be answered on the court.  There are also several other teams that can challenge.  Harrison County beat Clinton County in the Sweet 16 last year and took Sacred Heart to the wire.  I have listed several teams below in no particular order or ranking that could be interesting to watch this season.

 

Other Teams to Watch (not listed in any particular order)

Louisville Holy Cross – The Cougars are coached by Scott Smith and should challenge for the 6th Region title this year.  Holy Cross returns several key starters plus they add two major transfers from Holy Rosary, which closed its doors after the 2001-2002 season.  Tiffany Reid, a 5-7 Sr. guard, transferred from Holy Rosary and averaged 15 ppg and recorded a state record for steals last season.  Reid is an excellent ball handler, passer, and possesses excellent court vision.  6-2 Jr. Sara Eilers also transferred from Holy Rosary and has an excellent touch around the basket and rebounds well.  5-11 Sr. Jenn Skaggs averaged 20 ppg and 11 rpg last season and does most of her damage in the paint.  Eilers and Skaggs should give the Cougars an excellent 1-2 punch in the paint.  5-7 Sr. guard Jennifer Jones will contribute on both ends of the court.  5-7 Sr. Stephanie Lush is a swingman who does all the little things that help a team win.  Holy Cross should also get help from 5-6 Sr. Kasey Rice, 5-4 Jr. Julie Bowman, etc.

Harrison County – Coach Mac Whitaker’s Fillies finished 26-8 last season and advanced to the elite eight in the Sweet 16 tourney last season.  Harrison County has a balanced attack and should be strong again this season.  They will be led by 6-0 Jr. Megan Gray, who averaged 18 ppg and 10 rpg last season.  Gray is an excellent defender and has been a starter since the 7th grade.  The Fillies have an excellent senior guard combination in 5-8 Amanda Linville and 5-6 Allison Snedeker.  A young player to watch is 5-9 Fr. Brooke Faulkner, who averaged 10 ppg last season and is an excellent three point shooter. Coach Whitaker must replace graduating seniors 5-9 Shelly Cracraft and 5-10 Kim Furnish but he has an excellent nucleus to continue the Fillies’ winning ways.

Louisville Mercy Academy – Coach Mark Evans’ Jaguars normally utilize a 10-12 player rotation and wear opposing teams down on both ends of the court.  6-0 Jr. center Katie Willinger scores well underneath, hits the boards, and provides an inside presence on defense.  5-6 Sr. point guard Lauren Parrish averaged 14 ppg last season and is an excellent ball handler and floor general.  5-7 So. Courtney Hall transferred from Spencer County and is an excellent ball handler who can also shoot the trey.  The Jaguars will get contributions from several players including 5-7 Erica Hardy and Sr. Lorie McDonald.

Newport Central Catholic – The Thoroughbreds are coached by Christie McDonald and have the returning players to maintain their run-and-gun style.  5-11 Jr. Nicole Chiodi is a smooth operator at point guard who averaged 17 ppg and 8.3 rpg last season.  Chiodi has a fine overall game and can either penetrate for the score or nail the jumper.  5-8 So. guard Jayme Thiem averaged 14 ppg and is a definite “go-to” type of performer.  5-9 Sr. Heather Maudlin should provide an inside threat.  5-8 Jr. guard Jenny Prigge, 5-10 Jr. forward Jenna Zeigler, and 5-8 Jr. forward Tricia Bertke should be key contributors this season.  The Thoroughbreds should challenge for the top spot in the 9th Region this season.

Woodford County  – The Yellowjackets, coached by Jay Lucas, finished 25-7 last season, won the 11th Region crown, and made it to the Sweet 16 tourney.  They return four starters and should have another excellent squad.  They will be led by 5-9 So. point guard Destiny Mattingly who averaged 17 ppg and 6 rpg last season.  Mattingly is extremely quick and can score either on penetration or her jumper.  She will get plenty of help from 5-7 Sr. Mallory Kirtley (10.3 ppg), 5-11 Sr. Laura Swann (10.4 ppg), 5-9 Sr. Erica Rasmussen (7.9 ppg), and 5-8 Sr. Megan Foster.  The Yellowjackets probably did not have the most talent in the 11th Region last season but they had excellent team chemistry and always gave a great effort.  As defending region champs they will have a large target on their backs but these ladies have never backed down from a challenge.

Dupont Manual – The Lady Crimsons are coached by Mina Todd and return a group of tall, talented young players.  6-1 Jr. Sarah McKemie scores well in the paint and also hits the boards.  McKemie came in well conditioned this summer, added quickness, and had an excellent summer campaign.  6-1 Jr. guard Candyce Bingham has excellent size and all the tools necessary to be outstanding.  6-0 So. Maggie McKemie and 6-1 Ellen Doolittle are also expected to be key contributors.  This team could be a force in the very competitive 7th Region if they get consistent point guard play.    

Pleasure Ridge Park – The Lady Panthers are coached by Craig Webb and should compete for the 6th Region title again this year.  They should be led by their outstanding guard combination of 5-8 Sr. sharpshooter Kellie Peyton and the speedy 5-6 Jr. Anitha Williams.  5-7 So. Alisa Pierce, 6-0 Jr. Chelsea Bibelhauser, 5-10 Sr. Natalie Neal, 5-7 So. Quinetta Nelson, 5-9 Jr. Michelle Reichle, and 5-6 Jr. Kelly Thieneman are all expected to contribute.  PRP also has three new players expected to contribute this season:  5-10 Sr. Lauren Weber (transfer from Presentation), 5-9 Jr. Andrea Bishop (transfer from Holy Rosary), and 5-6 Fr. Janay Jones.  PRP will have one of the top backcourts in the state, and if they develop a deep rotation should have another excellent season.

Assumption – The Chargers are coached by Tom Creamer and should have enough firepower returning to compete with anyone.  5-10 Sr. guard Sarah Todd is one of the best long-range shooters in the state.  5-7 Jr. point guard Trish Todd averaged 11 ppg last season and is one of the truly outstanding ballhandlers and passers in the state.  It is difficult to press Assumption with Trish operating at the point.  They have several other players returning and the state is talking about the arrival of 6-1 Fr. Amber Norton.  Norton is already being billed as one of the next outstanding players to come through the ‘Ville. 

Louisville Butler – The Bearettes are coached by Stephanie Greathouse and should challenge Holy Cross and Pleasure Ridge Park for 6th Region honors.  6-1 Jr. Ashley Lewallen averaged 14 ppg and 7 rpg last season and stepped up her game another notch this season.  Lewallen is an excellent interior passer and has the ability to score inside and out.  5-7 Jr. point guard Mandy Evans is a whirling dervish in the open court, slashing to the basket at will.  Evans is an excellent defender, and as she adds more consistency to her jumper the sky is the limit.  5-8 Jr. guard Megan McGrath is a nice outside shooter who also plays well on defense.  5-4 Jr. Jenna Hedges is also expected to be a key contributor.  5-2 Fr. Nicole Holman, according to observers, is an excellent ballhandler, passer, and defender capable of creating her own shot and is definitely a player to watch.

West Carter –Coach John “Hop” Brown’s Lady Comets have made an appearance in the Sweet 16 for five consecutive years and should contend for the 16th Region again this year.  They lose a lot of talent in graduated seniors 5-8 Kayla Jones and 6-1 Megan Hillman, but the cupboard is hardly bare.  5-6 Sr. guard Megen Gearhart averaged 17 ppg last season and is one of the leading candidates for “Miss Basketball”.  Gearhart can score either on slashing drives to the basket or on lang range jump shots.  5-6 Jr. guard Stephanie Hall can shoot the ball, and forwards 5-11 9th grade Brandi Rayburn and 5-9 Sr. Brooke Mullis will be key contributors.  5-11 Sr. Jenise James is also expected to help this season.  West Carter may struggle early because of their graduation losses, but they have Gearhart, senior leadership, and enough returning talent to put up a strong defense for their 16th Region crown.

Johnson Central – Coach Phillip Wireman’s Lady Eagles captured the 15th Region crown last season and return all of their starters and most of their key reserves from that squad.  5-8 Sr. Ashley Wireman is another coach’s daughter who knows how to play the game.  She has a good all-around game and averaged 12 ppg last season.   5-9 Sr. Rhonda Adams averaged 12.5 ppg and was consistent throughout season.  6-0 Sr. Michelle Music (6.6 ppg), 5-8 Sr. Brianne Daniels (8.0 ppg), and 5-8 Sr. Melissa Murphy (7.6 ppg) are also returning starters.  Other players expected to contribute are 5-9 So. Jayme Dials, 5-7 Alice Daniel, Jr. Ashley LeMaster, Jr. Maggie Callis, etc. 

Elizabethtown – Coach Tim Mudd’s Lady Panthers finished 19-9 last season and should challenge for the 5th Region title this season.  They return four starters and got a talented transfer from Ft. Knox, 6-0 So. Robyn Jennings.  Jennings scores well inside the paint and is an excellent rebounder.   5-8 Sr. guard Kathryn Yates led the Panthers in scoring last season.  5-10 So. Sara Sexton had an excellent summer and should team well with Jennings.  Other key contributors should be 5-6 So. Lara Donnelly, 6-0 Sr. Jessica Lucas, 6-0 Sr. Andrea Self, 5-10 Jr. Whitney Valentine, etc.  

Wayne County – Coach Tim Pyle’s Lady Cardinals finished 24-8 last season and made an appearance in the Sweet 16 tourney.  The Cardinals lost four seniors but have talent returning.  They play an aggressive match-up zone defense and can slow down most opposing offenses.  5-7 Sr. Trisha Gothrup should provide outside scoring.  5-10 So. Ashley Bell averaged 7 ppg last season and has the ability to play several positions.  Bell should be a rising star in the 12th Region.  6-0 Sr. Claudia Parris is an excellent inside player who works hard for her points. Parris could be the leading scorer in Wayne County’s history by the end of the season.  Several other players should contribute, including 5-8 Jr. Kenita Ball, 5-5 Fr. Lindsey Dishman, etc.  in Wayne County is the defending region champion but this year should be a real battle with Mercer County, South Laurel, and Somerset anticipating good seasons. 

Shelby County – The Lady Rockets finished 26-6 last season, captured the 8th Region title, and have a new coach this season in Sally Zimmerman. The Rockets return one of the best 1-2 punches in the state in Toni Slaughter and Charlotte Marshall, and have enough talent remaining to be the region favorite again this season.  5-11 Sr. forward Toni Slaughter, one of the top athletes in the state, averaged 18 ppg and 7 rpg last season.  Slaughter is a candidate for “Miss Basketball” and scores either on the drive or jump shot.  5-10 Sr. guard Charlotte Marshall averaged 13 ppg and 5 rpg last season and can score either inside or out.  The Rockets should also get help from 5-9 Sr. Dawn Schlotterbeck, 5-9 Sara Schlotterbeck, 5-6 Jr. Natoya Railey, 6-0 Jr. Jackie Hayse, 5-9 Sr. Anna Watts, 5-10 LaShondra Gray, 5-11 Bridget Crittendon, etc.

Henry Clay – Coach Scott Cromwell’s Blue Devils finished 28-3 last season but lost two key players to graduation in 5-10 Nastassia Alcius and 5-9 Katie Columbus.  However, Coach Cromwell has size and talent returning, making him a contender again in the 11th Region.  They should be led by 6-0 Jr. Mary Tobin, who has size and potential and should be one of the top players in the region.  5-6 Jr. guard Johnna Carlisle should run the show and provide outside scoring.  Henry Clay will have good size with 6-2 Jr. Ashley Bush, 6-1 Sr. Leah Hill, 6-2 Jr. Abby Current, etc.  Other players expected to contribute include 5-7 Jr. Jessie Birdwhistell and 5-8 Sr. Rachel Wilson.

Muhlenberg North – The Lady Stars finished 27-6 last season and advanced to the semifinals of the Sweet 16 before losing to state champion Sacred Heart 65-64 in two overtimes.  Coach Mike Harper loses four senior starters but retains 6-2 Jr. center Jade Perry, who averaged 17 ppg and 9 rpg last season.  Perry is being heavily recruited by the major colleges and will have to improve her numbers this season to compensate for graduation losses.  Muhlenberg North expects contributions from 5-7 Sr. Ashley Wilcox, 5-7 Sr. Kendall Gunn, 5-10 Jr. Jillian Fortney, 5-7 Jr. Megan Whitaker, 5-7 So. Veronica Peercy, 5-10 Fr. Candace Garrett, etc.  The presence of Perry makes the Lady Stars a slight favorite in the 3rd Region.  Coach Harper has some good players at his disposal and this team should gel during the season.

Henderson County – The Lady Colonels finished 24-6 last season Coach Jeff Haile has several key players returning and could challenge Christian County for 2nd Region supremacy.  5-8 Jr. guard Kera Gibson has averaged in double figures since her freshman days and can shoot the trey. 5-11 So. Whitney Waddell tore an ACL last season and hopefully will be game ready this year.  5-9 So. Ashley Hawkins is a promising young player.  5-6 So. Krista Hatfield, 5-10 Katie Farris, 5-9 Jr. Courtney Buchanan, etc. should also be key contributors this season.  

 

There are several deserving teams that I have left out due to space considerations.  Other teams expected to have good squads this season include Graves County, Barren County, Washington County, Notre Dame Academy, Bishop Brossart, Bryan Station, Mercer County, Cawood, Rockcastle County, Knott Central, Perry Central, Whitesburg, Ashland, etc.  The ladies game is growing by leaps and bounds, getting better and more competitive each season.  I hope to cover several of the premier teams and events this season on my website.  Also please follow the ladies game on Louis Meadows network.  Louis is probably the number one ladies fan in the state and truly loves the game.