2003-2004 Kentucky High School Girls’ Basketball Preview

2003 Ron Harrison

This should be another interesting year for girls’ high school basketball in the state of Kentucky.  It would appear on paper to be two levels in the state this season.  Sacred Heart and Christian County appear to be slightly ahead with several other contenders nipping at their heels hoping they falter.  However as history has taught us pre-season predictions can be extremely risky and the games are still decided on the floor.  I have listed 20 teams that I believe will have excellent seasons, but I left out another 20 that could also be very good.  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 20 teams are as follows:

1.

Sacred Heart

 

11.

Butler

2.

Christian County

 

12.

Muhlenberg North

3.

Lexington Catholic

 

13.

East Carter

4.

Newport Central Catholic

 

14.

Mercy Academy

5.

Mercer County

 

15.

Scott County

6.

Rockcastle County

 

16.

Boyd County

7.

Jackson County

 

17.

Elizabethtown

8.

Assumption

 

18.

Henry Clay

9.

Henderson County

 

19.

Clinton County

10.

Perry County Central

 

20.

Woodford County

 

#1 Sacred Heart – Coach Donna Moir’s Valkyries finished 37-1 last season and captured their second consecutive Sweet 16 championship.  They are favored to win the 7th Region crown this season and will begin the season ranked No. 1 in the state.  6-3 Sr. Crystal Kelly, another leading Miss Basketball candidate, does it all for the Valkyries.  Kelly is an excellent scorer and rebounder with her quick outlet passes triggering the fastbreak.  Kelly controls the paint with her defense and ranks high at SHA in career steals.  5-8 Jr. guard Carly Ormerod is a very intense player who gets the job done on both ends of the floor.  She can score off the dribble or nail the jump shot.  5-6 Sr. Connie Ferch is jet-quick, and excellent defender, and is an excellent shooter who has played in the shadows of her more heralded teammates.  5-10 Jr. Taylor Kopple is an outstanding athlete who can score, rebound, and defend.  The Valkyries have several players who will contribute this season, including 5-8 Jr. Jackie Distler, 5-9 Jr. Kelsey McCarty, 5-9 Jr. Meredith Wade, and 5-5 Jr. Allison Denbow.  Sacred Heart won their third consecutive State AAU championship this summer and is poised to defend their Sweet 16 championship despite some formidable competition.

#2 Christian County – Coach Don Dillard’s Lady Colonels finished 29-4 last season and should compete for the Sweet 16 title this season.  6-1 So. Arnika Brown can play anywhere on the floor and is one of the best underclassmen in the country.  5-9 Sr. Corkey Stiger can run and jump and is absolutely super in the open court.  5-5 Sr. Shaleea Petty is a playmaking guard who has committed to Murray State.  6-1 So. Lydia Watkins transferred from Florida and is expected to be an important addition to the team.  5-10 Sr. Jana Betts, 5-7 Jr. Ashley Briggs, and 5-5 Shana McCombs will also log important minutes this season.  The Lady Colonels will compete with Henderson County for 2nd Region supremacy and both teams should be ranked among the state’s elite this season. 

#3 Lexington Catholic – Coach Greg Todd’s Lady Knights finished 32-5 last season and despite graduating stars Sarah Schell and Chelsea Chowning are favored to capture the 11th Region crown this season.  The Lady Knights should be led this season by 6-1 Jr. Shannon Novosel who averaged 14 ppg last season.  Coach Todd will also get help inside from 5-11 Sr. Laura Bell, 6-0 So. Anaris Sickles, and 5-11 Fr. Kellie Cash.  5-8 So. Nikki Davis and 5-6 Fr. Keyla Snowden are expected to be key contributors.  5-8 Jr. Lesley Server is a deadly three point shooter.  5-9 Jr. Adaeze Azubuike transferred from Paul Dunbar and if declared eligible by the KHSAA will be another weapon in Coach Todd’s arsenal.  Lexington Catholic has a tough schedule but this is a team that should peak by tourney time. 

#4 Newport Central Catholic  – Coach Christie McDonald’s squad finished 25-9 last season and will be back to defend both their 9th Region title as well as their 9th Region All-A title.  The Thoroughbreds return nine of their top 11 players and have one of the best backcourts in the state.  5-11 Sr. Nicole Chiodi (18 ppg) can play any position on the floor and 5-8 Jr. Jayme Thiem can score from either outside or off penetration to the basket.  5-8 Sr. Jenny Prigge is an excellent three point shooter.  NCC also should get help from 5-8 Sr. Danielle Schout, 5-11 Sr. Jenna Ziegler, and 5-9 Sr. Tricia Bertke.  The Thoroughbreds have excellent team chemistry and could be very good if they can defend against dominant centers in the paint.

#5 Mercer County – Coach Chris Souder’s Lady Scotties finished 28-6 last season and this 12th Region squad enters this season with high expectations.  Coach Souder returns eight of his top 10 players and once again will pressure the ball and utilize an up-tempo style of play.  5-6 Sr. Courtney Watts (12.0 ppg) is one of the premier point guards in the state, who dished out seven assists a game last season. Watts will finish out her career with over 1000 points and a ton of assists.  5-8 Sr. Leslye Johnson (14 ppg) is a deadly outside shooter with good range.  Mercer County will also get help from 5-8 Jr. Jillian Horn, 5-5 So. Chrystal Claunch, 5-6 So. Chelsea Goodman, 5-10 Sr. Cala Alford, and 6-0 Jr. Erica Lee.

#6 Rockcastle County – Coach Chrysti Noble’s Lady Rockets finished 26-7 last season and hope to break Jackson County’s hold on the 13th Region crown this season.  Rockcastle County will be led by the excellent junior guard duo of 5-5 Johnna Abney (17.5 ppg) and 5-10 Tara Rowe (13.3 ppg).  5-10 Jr. Heather Hammond is a very athletic forward who plays well on both ends of the floor and should increase her scoring this season.  Other players expected to contribute include 5-6 So. Ashley Lunsford, 5-11 Jr. Rachel Stocker, 5-9 Jr. Katie Parsons, 5-9 Jr. Sara Parsons, and 5-10 Sr. Lauren Clontz.

#7 Jackson County – The Jackson County Lady Generals are coached by Greg Parrett and finished 28-8 last season, playing in the competitive 13th Region.  This year’s senior class has experienced winning two All-A State Championships, and All-A State Runner-Up title, and a runner-up finish in the Sweet 16.  Miss Basketball candidate 6-7 Sr. Sarah Elliott averaged 21 ppg, 12 rpg, and is an intimidating shot blocker in the paint.  Elliott recently committed to play her college basketball at Kentucky.  5-3 Sr. point guard Whitney Moore handles the ball well and can shoot the three ball.  5-10 Sr. Kenni Lakes adds shooting and rebounding to the team.  5-10 Sr. Candrea Bingham and 5-9 Sr. Stisha Rose both rebound well and play good defense.  5-9 Jr. Brittany Bingham is an excellent three point shooter and 5-8 Jr. Danielle Roaden can score both inside and out.  5-4 Jr. Ashley Whitehead brings intensity and determination to the mix.  Jackson County should start the season highly ranked and favored to capture the 13th Region crown.

#8 Assumption – The Rockets finished 19-12 last season and Bob and Martha Todd take over as co-head coaches this season.  The Todds are well known in coaching circles as they were the directors and coaches of the St. Agnes girls basketball teams and coached the Louisville Fillies AAU team.  Martha Todd was the head coach of the now defunct Holy Rosary program for four years.  The Todds will employ a new game style and upgrade the schedule and should be the major threat to Sacred Heart in the 7th Region.  The Rockets return 5-8 Sr. point guard Trish Todd (12 ppg, 5 apg), who is one of the premier point guards in the state.  6-1 So. Amber Norton (14 ppg, 10 rpg) was a force in the middle last year as a freshman.  5-7 Sr. Jennifer Wiedmar (8ppg) and 5-11 Sr. Jessica Gilbert (8 ppg, 6 rpg) are also key returnees.  The Todds should also get help from a young but talented group of underclassmen.

#9 Henderson County – The Lady Colonels are coached by Jeff Haile and finished 22-5 last season.  Henderson County returns their key personnel and should challenge Christian County for the 2nd Region crown and should be one of the top teams in the state.  The Lady Colonels return starters 5-8 Jr. Krista Hatfield, 5-8 Sr. Kera Gibson, 5-8 Sr. Courtney Buchanan, and and 5-9 Jr. Ashley Hawkins.  5-10 Jr. Whitney Waddell had her knee scoped again after last summer and if she comes back healthy Henderson County could be hard to beat.  The Lady Colonels also expect to get key contributions from several players including 5-11 Jr. Christal Floyd and 5-7 So. Aurelia Quarles, who transferred from Tennessee.

#10 Perry County Central – The Lady Commodores are coached by Randy Napier and finished 27-4 last season.  They are expected to repeat as 14th Region champs and contend for state honors this season.  They will be led by 5-10 Sr. point guard Polly Sebastian (13.5 ppg).  5-11 Sr. Brittany Baker (14 ppg), 6-0 Jr. Britta Maggard (10 ppg), and 5-7 Sr. Chasity Napier are also returning starters.  6-0 So. Jessica Baker, 5-6 Nikki King, and 5-11 Sr. Melissa Shell will also log significant playing time for Perry County Central.    

#11 Butler – The Bearettes are coached by Stephanie Greathouse. They were 21-11 last season and captured the 6th Region crown, but the best could be yet to come.  The Bearettes will be led by 6-1 Sr. Ashley Lewallen who averaged 21 ppg and 9.5 rpg last season.  Lewallen plays inside but has all the tools to play forward at the next level.  She has the ability to post but can also stroke the outside jumper.  5-8 Sr. Mandy Evans (8.3 ppg) is a slasher and penetrator who is difficult to defend on the floor.  Evans is always hustling and is an excellent defender.  5-9 Sr. Megan McGrath (7.8 ppg) can nail the outside shot and also defends and hits the boards.  5-4 Sr. Jenna Hedges (6.8 ppg), 5-10 Jr. Racheal Cummings, and 5-2 So. Nicole Holman (7.2 ppg) are expected to be key contributors.  The Bearettes hustling defenders averaged 14 spg last season.  The Bearettes return all five starters and they have the talent to contend for state honors this season.

#12 Muhlenberg North – The Lady Stars, coached by Mike Harper, finished 26-6 last season and return the talent to challenge for their fifth consecutive 3rd Region crown this season.  6-2 Sr. Jade Perry (21 ppg, 11 rpg) returns for her senior campaign and is one of the leading contenders for Miss Basketball.  Perry has committed to play her college ball at Maryland.  Other returning starters include 5-7 Sr. Megan Whitaker, 5-6 So. Lauren Tatum, and 5-11 So. Candace Garrett.  Other key players include 5-7 Jr. Veronica Peercy, 5-9 Jr. Heather Oglesby, 5-7 Fr. Heather Mitchell, and 5-10 Sr. Jillian Fortney.  It was reported that a couple of players had suffered injuries that may limit their play but hopefully everyone will be healthy for the late season tourney runs.

#13 East Carter – The Lady Raiders are coached by Hager Easterling and finished 21-9 last season.  East Carter had a good summer, finishing 40-2 and should be one of the favorites to capture the 16th Region crown this season.  6-0 Sr. Kim Stapleton, (15 ppg, 9 rpg) is very effective in the paint but can also nail the three point shot.  5-10 Sr. Amanda Prichard (10 ppg) is also effective around the basket.  The Lady Raiders have an excellent guard duo in 5-6 Sr. Molly Jackson (12 ppg) and 5-6 So. Ashley Baldwin (10 ppg).  Other key contributors are 5-10 So. Brook McDavid, 5-9 Jr. Krista Kouns, and 5-7 Fr. Tawnee Tackett.  The Lady Raiders have a very solid seven player rotation that should be solid defensively and have the potential to also be a good shooting and rebounding team.

#14 Mercy Academy – Coach Mark Evans’ squad finished 20-10 last season playing in the very competitive 7th Region.  Coach Evans graduated five players but you can never count Coach Evans or his squad out of the title chase.  Mercy has enough talent returning for a banner season.  6-0 Sr. Katie Willinger (12.5 ppg) returns and should be effective again in the paint.  Several players logged quality time last season and should step up this season.  Some of these players include 5-11 Sr. Kate Ulanowski, 5-8 Sr. Laura Rather, 5-8 Sr. Anna Mehr, 5-7 Sr. Ashley Mannel, 5-6 So. Mallory Luckett, and 5-8 Jr. Courtney Hall.

#15 Scott County – The Lady Cardinals are coached by Steve Helton and finished 17-11 last season. The 8th Region title appears to be up for grabs this season but Scott County may have enough talent to claim the prize.  Scott County also has a deep and talented group of perimeter players that include 5-6 So. Chelsia Lymon, 5-6 Jr. Michelle Howard, 5-10 Fr. Rebecca Gray, and 5-4 8th grader Kayla Moses.  The Lady Cardinals will get help inside from several players including 6-1 Fr. Holly Milburn and 6-0 Jr. Aimee Bruckner (transfers from Lexington Catholic).  5-9 So. Ausha Weathers has moved to a swing position this year and is expected to have a good season.  Coach Helton has several other talented players who will get playing time and the Lady Cards will utilize an up-tempo style and pressure defense.

#16 Boyd County – Coach Pete Fraley’s Lady Lions finished 24-7 last season, winning the 16th Region crown, and should battle East Carter for the crown again this season.   5-8 Jr. Kasi Mullins-Galloway is a gifted player on both ends of the court.  Coach Fraley should get key contributions from several players including 5-7 Sr. Jennifer Swann, 5-9 Sr. Ashley Caniff, 5-7 Jr. Brandi Mahar, 5-8 So. Megan Brown, and 5-10 Sr. Jessica Easterling.

#17 Elizabethtown – Coach Tim Mudd’s Lady Panthers finished with a 20-9 record last season and despite graduating three starters should challenge for the 5th Region crown this season.  5-11 Jr. forward Robyn Jennings (11.0 ppg, 8 rpg) scores on the mid-range jumper and also has the ability to take the ball to the basket.  Jennings also is an aggressive rebounder.  5-7 Jr. guard Lara Donnelly (7.0 ppg) and 5-8 Sr. guard/forward Megan Hatfield (5.0 ppg) are also key personnel and 5-11 Jr. Sara Sexton (6.5 ppg, 5 rpg) is an aggressive force in the paint who can also knock down the mid-range jump shot.  Other key players include Jr. Tasha Turner and So. Kabrenda Warfield.

#18 Henry Clay – The Blue Devils are coached by Scott Cromwell and finished 21-6 last season.  Coach Cromwell has enough talent returning to challenge for the 11th Region title but he must develop depth and someone must step up as a team leader.  5-4 Sr. Johnna Lewis-Carlisle (15 ppg) returns at point guard and 6-0 Sr. Mary Tobin (13 ppg, 8 rpg) can score both inside and out.  5-7 Sr. Jessie Birdwhistell and 6-1 Sr. Abby Currens are also very important members of the team.  Other players expected to contribute this season include 5-10 So. Erica Coleman, 5-8 So. Lamisha Storey, 5-11 Jr. Virginia Northcutt, and 5-8 Fr.  Brittany Bibbs.  

#19 Clinton County – The Lady Bulldogs finished 34-2 last season and won the 4th Region crown for the second consecutive year.  They lost three starters and Coach Gary Abbott who became the boys coach at Monticello.  The new coach will be a familiar face—Ronnie Guffey, the father of Clinton County’s returning stars Amber and Paige Guffey.  Amber is a 5-7 Jr. while Paige is a 5-8 Jr. and both can hit the outside shot as well as penetrate.  Despite their size, both are very effective in the paint.  Coach Guffey should get contributions from several players, including 5-8 Jr. Leslie Brown, 5-8 Jr. Jessica Curry, 5-10 Jr. Dorothy Papineau, 5-6 So. Jessica Cummings, and 5-10 So. Rachel DeForest.

#20 Woodford County – The Lady Yellowjackets are coached by Jay Lucas and finished 25-7 last season.  They graduated four quality players but the cupboard is hardly bare.  5-9 Jr. guard Destiny Mattingly, one of the best players in the state.  They should also get contributions from 5-11 Sr. Blythe Brown, 5-9 Sr. Katie Routt, 5-11 Jr. Emily Freibert, 5-7 So. Brittany Henderlight, and 5-7 Sr. Beth Nunnelley.  Coach Lucas will also mesh other players into the rotation including talented 7th grader Katy Cooke.  The Lady Yellowjackets had an excellent summer and Coach Lucas’ team will always play hard and hit the three pointers.  Woodford County should be one of the top teams in the 11th Region again this season.

 

Conclusion

This preview was supposed to be posted on December 1st, 2003.  However, due to a heavy workload of games, events, and event previews I am two weeks late.  This preview is based on info received prior to the season and does not take into consideration games played to this date.