by Jeremy Benson, GrandRiverConference.com
Princeton Tigers are the coaches’ pick to win the GRC East in Girls Basketball in 2022-23. Polo and South Harrison received 3 first place votes each and finished 2nd and 3rd in the poll. Defending Champion Milan is picked #4.
Princeton Tigers lost 1st-team all-conference Lauren Krohn from a team that 17-9 and 5-2 in conference last season. But they return six of their top seven players. The Tigers, who finished 2nd in the South Harrison Tournament and 3rd at Gilman City, welcome back Sophomore Addy Henke. Henke also earned 1st-team all-conference and is the leading returning scorer in the conference at 19.9 ppg. 2nd-team all-conference Grace Kelly (7.6 ppg) will be the main inside presence and Makenzie Dunkin (3.2 ppg) will help at the guard spot. Other key players returning include Klaire Buckler (3.5 ppg), Randa Shahan (2.9 ppg) and Gracie Allnutt (1.9 ppg).
Coach Steve Richman said “I feel like we will have a 7 to 8 man rotation. We will still be relatively young with just one senior starter (Dunkin). Lauren Krohn is the only starter we will lose from last year. She will be a tough person to replace, but I think our young kids are after the challenge.”
Polo Lady Panthers won the district championship last year for the first time since 1994. They finished 23-7 and 4-3 in conference. They were also champions of the Gallatin and Osborn tournaments. Both of those tournaments were their second consecutive title. The Panthers fell to Bishop LeBlond in the State Sectionals and finished #10 in the final state rankings.
Polo will have to replace two starters from last year’s team. Haley Aubrey was an all-conference and all-district point guard that averaged 7.3 ppg. Mary Copeland was all-conference, all-district, and all-state. She was the leading scorer at 14.9 ppg playing forward/center. Both Aubrey and Copeland were four-year starters for the Panthers. But Polo also loses key players off the bench in Alayna Chapman, Kayla Larkins, Kendal McKracken, and Jenee Qualman. All of them provided quality minutes. In total, Polo will need to replace 60% of their scoring from last season.
Returning starters that will be expected to take up the scoring slack will be Chloe Gilbert, Hanna Vaught and Lily Gentry. Gilbert was all-conference and all-district and averaged 6.5 ppg. Gentry averaged 5.9 ppg. Both are seniors joined by Junior Vaught, who is the leading returning scorer at 8.4 ppg. Vaught was honorable mention all-conference and all-district.
Other returning players expected to contribute are Juniors Layna Norton, Shianne Barrickman, and Oliva Wolf along with Sophomores Emersyn Parker and Lacy Maier. Jade Misel is one of the newcomers this year. She is a senior that you may know from baseball and track but has not played basketball since her freshman year. Other newcomers are Freshman Libby Norton, Kendyl Fitzwater, Dani McKee, Emma Chapman, and Jorja Ebert.
New coach Wally Aubrey said “We did lose 6 seniors from last year’s district championship team, and they will be missed, but I have tremendous confidence in this year’s team. They are tough, coachable and they respect everyone. They don’t let much of anything bother them, and we are excited! It should be a fun year for all the fans of the Polo Lady Panthers.”
South Harrison Bulldogs finished 16-12 and 4-3 in conference last season. They captured consolation in the Albany Tournament and 3rd Place in their own tournament. Winning 16 games last season was a vast improvement considering the Bulldogs had a total of 13 wins over the previous four seasons. They look to build upon that success this season. They will have to replace Emily Miller, who was a great rebounder and passer on the offensive side and helped protect the paint on the defensive side. However, everyone else is returning on a team that is loaded with talent.
Leading the way is Hannah Carter. She averaged 16.8 ppg as a Sophomore earning 1st-team all-conference honors. Carter’s 6.4 2-pt field goals per game was 2nd in the conference last season behind only Cady Pauley. Also returning with Carter are Abigail Molloy (6.6 ppg), Megan Norris (4.6 ppg) and Kylee Cannon (2.2 ppg).
Juniors Hallee & Emma Chamberlin and Megan & Morgan Bottcher are expected to also play an expanded role this season. Also look for Freshmen Kataya Sunderman and Lexi Hunter to contribute.
Coach Kale Watson said, “Expectations for this season are high for us as we bring back a lot of key players, and we start to add more players to the rotation. I think early on we will see some bumps in the road as we work through in-game situations and defining roles. We should be a much deeper team from a year ago as we add some new pieces to our team.”
Milan Ladycats were in familiar territory last year. After having won their 3rd consecutive GRC East title, they were once again playing in the GRC Championship. Unfortunately for them, the first two attempts resulted in losses to GRC West opponents, Worth County and Stanberry. To make matters worse, their opponent in the 2022 Championship Game was a team that had just beaten them by 32 eight days before. It looked like Milan might be headed for the same fate again. Christian was up 6 when Cady Pauley launched a shot from the Christian free throw line at the halftime buzzer. The home crowd at Milan roared as the shot fell to cut the lead in half. Milan was able to use that momentum to propel itself to a 70-63 win and their first GRC Championship.
The Ladycats would finish the season 22-7 including a District Championship before falling to East Buchanan. They finished the season receiving votes in the Class 3 state poll. In addition, they won their home tournament for the second consecutive season. Senior Cady Pauley finished her career with over 3,000 points and is now a Freshman at the University of Virginia. Replacing one of the top players in the state will be no easy task for Milan, but they do have a strong supporting class returning with a deep team returning.
Milan returns three starters from last year’s team: Seniors Auburn Cole and Gracie Dickson and Junior Avery Pickering. While it is unlikely that any of them will make up for the scoring lost by the graduation of Cady Pauley, Milan will be looking for them for additional production this season.
Auburn is a returning all-conference and all-district post player that Milan will be counting on from the inside. Gracie along with fellow seniors Emily Menchaca and Hallie Weaver are expected to really turn a corner this year on the offensive side. They have also better defensively, and Coach Hurley expect them to give opposing players fits.
Avery played a lot last year. She is a long and athletic forward and a great energy player. She is expected to step up on the offensive side this year. Junior Addison Miller is an athletic guard that can really play defense and she gives opposing players fits most of the time. She will step up on the offensive side this year as well. Junior Danika Shepherd is a post player that really started dominating in the JV ranks last year. She is strong and a really good rebounder.
Sophomores are Emerson Pauley, Amy Pickering, Violet Gray, and Tania Vasquez help add to the depth. Emerson and Amy played a lot of varsity as freshman. They are both long and athletic guards. Emerson is a really good shooter that should really take the next step for Milan. Amy is quick and fast and plays defense very well and has improved offensively. They should really give the Wildcats valuable minutes offensively and defensively this year. Violet is an undersized post but knows how to score over bigger players and is an outstanding rebounder. Tania is an athletic guard that is one of their most improved players and could see some minutes.
A newcomer that is expected to be a big contributor is Freshman Marian Dabney, who is the daughter of the boy’s coach. She is 6'1" and very athletic. She will play in and out because she has a great shot from outside. I think she could be a real match up problem for most teams and will take pressure off the other post players.
Coach Hurley said “Our expectations are always the same. We want to play for championships. Any tournament you play in the goal is to try and win, doesn't always happen but that is one of our goals. We know that people think that we will be down this year, but we believe we will be in the conversation for the conference championship and district championship.”
Trenton Bulldogs were picked to finish #7 in the GRC East last season. But Mirena King hit a 3-pointer to put Trenton up 31-30 over Milan with 38.3 seconds left. A win for Trenton would put them in the GRC Championship against St. Joseph Christian. Cady Pauley would hit a shot to go up 1 with 26.6 left, but Trenton had one last shot to win it. The Bulldogs held the ball for the last shot. Morgan King’s made one last attempt from 3 to win it, but it was no good at the buzzer.
While Trenton, fell short of reaching the GRC title game, they had many great moments during the 2021-22 campaign. They finished 17-11 and 5-2 in conference. They finished 2nd in the Gallatin Tournament and consolation in Lawson and Hamilton tournaments. They also placed 2nd in Districts and won their crossover game with North Andrew.
They will be missing six players from last season. There was a lot of experience, leadership, and impactful minutes that they will have to find a way to replace. Point Guard Chandler Lynch, who was 2nd team all-conference and Morgan King, who set a school record for 3-pointers last season, will be the toughest to replace. Teya Cooksey and Gracyn Rongey will also be missed on both ends of the floor for their poise and experience as well as being unselfish kids who did whatever they could to help our team win. Mallory Sole and Rebecca Urich will be difficult to replace the impact they had as leaders and teammates. Coach Kameron Cool said, “We're going to miss that group of kids, but I am excited for them as they continue in their lives and will go do great things.”
Two starters return for the Bulldogs, Mirena King and Madi Moore. Mirena was 1st-team all-conference and averaged 12.7 ppg. They are going to have to take on larger roles on both ends of the floor. They will also have to step into leadership roles on and off the floor. Additionally, returning player Astrid Soriano, who played limited minutes last year, is expected to contribute at the point guard position.
Coach Cool said “We have several players who were on the varsity last season in a limited capacity who will be expected to jump into significant playing time. We will have to do our best to shorten the learning curve and find a way to compete quickly.”
The hallmark of the Trenton team has been their defense. They held their components to 35.9 points a game, including 4 opponents under 20 points. Coach Cool added “Our biggest expectation is to remain competitive night in and night out and that starts for us on the defensive end. We lost a lot of great defenders who worked incredibly hard to be successful in that regard, so we expect girls to step up and continue battling on that end of the floor. For this group, we definitely want to see a lot of growth throughout the season and hopefully by the time we get to the end we are a team no one wants to be matched up against. I'm really excited to get to work with this group. We have a lot to figure out together after losing so many players from last season, but that is all a part of the process. They're great kids and we know they'll work hard this year.”
Putnam County Lady Midgets lost 1000-point scorer and leading rebounder Claire Tipton before Christmas Break last season. Although, she did suit up for one more game on Senior Night, Tipton was not able to play the remainder of her senior season. With only having one other senior in Grace Schnelle, the Lady Midgets had to rely on a young team. They finished 10-13 and 1-6 in conference including consolation in the Tri-Rivers Classic. While they struggled at times last season, they gained valuable experience. Key players returning this season will be Allise Perkins (7.0 ppg), who earned honorable mention all-conference honors, Karley Seaton (6.3 ppg), Adeline Dickerson (5.0 ppg) and Jesslyn Knowles (4.7 ppg). In addition, Emma Whitlock joins the team from Milan where she averaged 1.9 ppg as a sophomore.
Coach Keith Smith said “We are returning four of our five starters from the end of last season. Our expectation is to be more competitive, stay healthy, and be playing our best basketball at the end of the season.”
Gallatin Lady Bulldogs had 7 players that were freshman or sophomore on last season’s team representing 85% of their scoring. To say that they were rebuilding is an understatement. They started the season with 16 straight losses, but they were a vastly improved team at the end of the season. They were able to win 4 out of 6 games late in the season including a win in the crossover game over Albany 46-30. Despite falling to Polo in their first district game, they played them very tough in a 52-36 loss.
The Lady Bulldogs ended the season 4-20 and 0-7 in conference, but they are looking for big improvements this season. They return 100% of their scoring from last year’s team including Junior Annabelle Ball, who was 2nd team all-conference and led the team with 12.1 ppg. Junior Ashley Feiden was 2nd in scoring at 8.4 ppg. Other returning starters are Senior Elle Copple (4.3 ppg), Sophomore Kallie Salmon (4.3 ppg) and Junior Alex Endicott (2.1 ppg). Senior Presley Wells will be joining the team this year and is expected to play point guard.
First-year coach Trisha Adkison said “Gallatin Lady Bulldogs have been working hard during the summer to build our program. We are growing and gaining confidence one step at a time. A goal that we set as a team is to end our season in the Top 5 of the GRC. As far as standouts, I’d like to see our newcomers and returning players continue to compete for roles that will benefit the team as a whole.”
Maysville Lady Wolverines had a tough start to last season. After winning their first two games, they dropped 8 of their next 9. However, they finished the season winning 9 of their last 14 games including consolation trophies in both the South Harrison and King City tournaments. They also defeated North Harrison in the crossover game 26-13. The Lady Wolverines finished the season 12-13 and 2-5 in utn
This year, Maysville will be looking to replace five seniors, including Ashley Brown, who led the team with 11.2 ppg and earned 2nd-team all-conference honors, and Ashton Willis, 7.8 ppg and honorable mention all-conference. They also lose their next three leading scorers in Claire Catlett (7.0 ppg), Braelyn Windham (5.5 ppg) and Rylie Boyer (5.0 ppg). Those players represented 86% of Maysville points, which is the most among all GRC girls teams. Coach Rodney Flinn will look to Elana Clark and Hayley Sweiger to lead the team. They will be supported by Lily Boyer, Sophia Redman and Bailey Vanisko.
Coach Flinn said that “We will be an inexperienced team for the most part, but we expect ourselves to play hard and be competitive.” He also added that “We are excited to announce the addition of Coach Maddie Book to our Lady Wolverine Basketball Staff. Coach Book recently graduated from Northwest. She played varsity basketball at Lafayette, St. Joseph and college basketball at North Central Missouri College.”
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