Monday, November 23, 2015

Girls Prep Basketball Preseason Dandy Dozen Preview

image and article from Commercial Appeal

1. Olive Branch
Last year: 32-2 (lost to Horn Lake in MHSAA 6A championship game)
Outlook: After two straight runner-up finishes, this looks like the year the Lady Quistors finally bring home the title. Reigning Pepsi Best of the Preps player of the year Myah Taylor (Mississippi State commitment) averaged 27.3 points, 8.7 assists and 6.0 steals through the first three games and 5-8 sophomore Mahogany Vaught averaged 23.7. Savanna Geeslin is a terrific long-range shooter who complements the big two, and the bench will get better as the year progresses.

2. Overton
Last year: 24-4 (lost to Bartlett in AAA sectionals)
Outlook: Missing the state tournament meant a down year for the Wolverines, but don't expect them to miss this season. Kyla Green returns after leading the team in scoring (15 ppg) and rebounding (8 pg). Rodrea Echols (Oklahoma State) and Kayla Williams (Wichita State) are the other leaders of a close-knit group that is embracing its high expectations.

3. Arlington
Last year: 26-10 (lost to Morristown West in AAA state quarterfinals)
Outlook: After their first taste of state play in 2014, the Tigers will be hungry for a return to Murfreesboro. The talent is certainly there — Raegyn Branch (Wake Forest) and Tori Sewell (Arkansas State) are future D-1 players, and senior forward Ashley Lee should improve on last year's 6 points per game average. There's good depth too.

4. Bartlett
Last year: 22-11 (lost to Murfreesboro Oakland in AAA state quarterfinals)
Outlook: The Panthers' hopes for a return trip to state rest with senior Charity Savage, who has committed to Middle Tennessee State and has a strong claim to being the best player in Shelby County. Jessica Jackson is a very capable floor leader; Nyla Smith and Stella Gill also have plenty of starting experience.

5. Horn Lake
Last year: 29-4 (won MHSAA 6A championship)
Outlook: Standouts Alexyse Thomas and Rodneshia Martin are gone, but the Eagles still have plenty of talent as they go for a three-peat in MHSAA 6A. Tae'Lour Richardson, a 5-9 senior who has committed to Eastern Kentucky, will carry much of the load until other players adjust to bigger roles.

6. Northpoint
Last year: 24-7 (lost to Knoxville Webb in Division 2-A state semifinals)
Outlook: The Trojans have made three straight state trips and this year's team could be better than any of those. Ashtyn Baker (12.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 4 apg, 4.1 steals) and sharpshooter Lauren Gross (15.9 ppg, 7.3 rpg) lead four returning starters who will be joined by talented newcomers Jade Wells and Lindsey Whiteside.

7. Craigmont
Last year: 26-8 (lost to McMinn Central in AA state quarterfinals)
Outlook: The Chiefs return several key players from last year's team that won 15 in a row before a state tournament loss. Guard Danielle Conley will contend for player of the year honors, and Daja Scurlock (6-1) and Morgan Morris (5-10) form a fine inside combo.

8. Houston
Last year: 19-8 (lost to White Station in quarterfinals of Region 8-AAA tournament)
Last year: A good group of returning veterans led by Louisiana Tech signee Jaida Roper will make the Mustangs dangerous. Junior Shannon Sharp should be better this year, but what really makes Houston exciting is the arrival of freshman sensation Jayla Hemingway, who dropped 32 on Bolton in the season opener last week.

Last year: 33-5 (won home school national championship)
Outlook: Torri Lewis and her 3,000-plus career points are at Ole Miss, but the Eagles won't fall far. Three-point ace Jamie Crum is the top returnee, and sophomore Lindsey Vaughn was the home school sixth man of the year. Games against Central, Ridgeway and Briarcrest will be good tests.

10. Ridgeway
Last year: 26-2 (lost to Arlington in AAA sectionals)
Outlook: Few teams lost as much to graduation as the Roadrunners, who won 26 straight before losing their last two. But Illinois signee Brandi Beasley, a Miss Basketball finalist last season, is back for her senior year along with promising sophomore Elizabeth Dixon.

11. Central
Last year: 19-11 (lost to Overton in semifinals of Region 8-AAA tournament)
Outlook: Central made big strides with a freshman-heavy team last year and should be even better in 2015-16. UAB signee Miyah Barnes leads a team that loves to push the pace and knock down 3-pointers.

12. Harding
Last year: 25-7 (lost to Franklin Road Academy in Division 2-A state semifinals)
Outlook: Always a threat to reach state, the Lions will depend heavily on Antoinette Lewis and Anna Horner, who averaged double-doubles last year.

Others to watch
Briarcrest: Graduated a ton of talent the last two seasons but still will be formidable.
Mitchell: Derenisha Taylor and newcomer Vertonia Bady will make the Tigers tough.
Munford: Sophomore Gabby Crawford leads a squad with a lot of promise.
Raleigh-Egypt: 6-3 Old Dominion signee Manaya Jones leads the Pharaohs as they challenge Craigmont in AA.
West Memphis: Four starters return from a 17-9 team.
White Station: First-year coach Tommy Warren is a proven winner.

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