Thursday, December 1, 2011

First Commercial Appeal Dandy Dozen Girls Basketball Rankings

1. Central

Coach: Niki Bray

Last season: 29-9 (won Class AAA state championship)

Outlook: The Lady Warriors will be looking to do what no other girls team from West Tennessee has done, repeat as state champs. And they have the talent to do it. All five starters return led by 5-8 guard Danielle Ballard (headed to LSU), 5-11 sharpshooter Aaliyah Whiteside (committed to Georgia Tech) and 6-0 junior Nina Davis, last year’s Best of the Preps player of the Year. Senior Jalen O’Bannon and sophomores Tia Wooten and Marissa Knox figure to contribute heavily as well and good things are expected from junior shooting guard Tia Hyman, who Bray says “has the sweetest shooting stroke I’ve seen in a long time.” Central plays a very difficult national schedule so don’t judge this team by wins and losses.


2. Overton

Coach: Lynn Smith

Last season: 30-7 (lost in Class AAA semifinals)

Outlook: The Wolverines will be looking to advance to Murfreesboro for the fourth straight season behind an experienced core of talented players. Cortice Golden, a 6-1 senior, is a force in the paint and she gets good help inside from 5-8 senior Jasmine Stafford. In the backcourt, 5-9 senior Cornelia Fondren, last season’s leading scorer at 12.5 ppg and a Syracuse commitment, leads the way with great support from sophomore Philecia Atkins, a fine 3-point shooter.


3. Briarcrest

Coach: Lee Smith

Last season: 24-6 (lost to Chattanooga GPS in Division 2-AA state final)

Outlook: Three starters return, led by 6-1 Northwestern signee Lauren Douglas. Douglas played in just three games last year after transferring, averaging 18.7 points and 7 rebounds. Senior Dakota Doss, who is headed to North Alabama, averaged 12 points. There are also some talented newcomers on board, led by freshmen twins Elise and Brynn Holden.


4. Arlington

Coach: David Offerle

Last season: 27-4 (lost to region semifinal)

Outlook: Arlington steamrolled to the District 14-AAA title last season, winning all 14 league games. Just two starters are back but they’re both good ones: guard Ariel Hearn has already signed with the University of Memphis while backcourt mate Chrystin Hopper has signed with Alabama A&M. Elsewhere, the Tigers are young, but Offerle is hoping the team will gel quickly.


5. Horn Lake

Coach: Janna Lyons

Last season: 23-4 (lost in state championship game)

Outlook: Two starters return to lead the Eagles, center Savannah Kimmons (12 ppg., 5 rpg) and junior guard Brittany Grant (10 ppg., 3 steals). Seniors Danesha Dillard and Jasmine Edwards will be counted on to step up and so newcomers will have to learn fast but Horn Lake is still the team to beat in the North Half.


6. Fayette Academy

Coach: Rick Sullivan

Last season: 28-2 (lost in Division 2-A semifinals)

Outlook: Sullivan has a veteran team at his disposal, with seven seniors returning. CBU signee Samantha Reeves, a 6-1 post and her sister, junior Emily Reeves, a 5-5 guard, lead the way. The Vikings will most likely be without Sierra Gould all year after she tore her ACL in a powder puff football game, meaning increased responsibility for guards Gracie Cocke and Addie Tomlin.


7. Harding

Coach: Becky Starks

Last year: 21-8 (lost in Division 2-A semifinals)

Outlook: Starks is excited about her team and with good reason; all five starters return from last season’s state tournament team. Leading the way, as always, is junior guard Kaylah Keys. The BOP player of the year finalist led the city in scoring last year, averaging almost 25 points per game. Ki’ana Christy is a great complement in the backcourt, while guard Kristen Betts, forward Emilee McCurdy and center Alicia Whetstone offer plenty of experience and talent.


8. Memphis Home Education Association

Coach: Tracy Rice

Last season: 31-5

Outlook: MHEA made great strides last season and has already opened this year with victories over Fayette Academy, Briarcrest and Southwind. Guard Bethany Lytle, a 5-10 senior, her sister Sara, a 5-10 sophomore forward and 5-10 freshman guard Torri Lewis are the key players for the Eagles.


9. Manassas

Coach: Tommy Warren

Last season: 27-8 (lost in Class AA state quarterfinals)

Outlook: The Tigers have a great shot to make it back to the state championship. Several key players return and the Tigers have some excellent size in 6-0 senior Denise Johnson, 6-0 junior Tiffany Jones and 6-2 senior Jamie Bond. Phikala Anthony will be an important player in the backcourt, especially since last year’s leader, Victoria White, has graduated.


10. Whitehaven

Coach: Johnny Luckett

Last season: 21-8 (lost in first round of region tournament)

Outlook: The Tigers look like the second-best team in District 16-AAA behind Central. Nearly everybody returns led by senior forward Jessica Howard (12 points, 4 rebounds) and senior guard Kenesha Odum (10 points, 3 steals). Expect big things too from forward Tomeka Wright and guard Keonda Fields.


11. Southwind

Coach: Stan Gatlin

Last season: 19-12 (lost in first round of region tournament)

Outlook: New coach Gatlin should have a pretty solid first season at Southwind. Three starters return: senior center Jasmine McAllister (13 ppg.), senior shooting guard Bianca Cage (11 ppg.) and sophomore point guard Amber Holmes (9 ppg.). Elsewhere, the team is young but talented and the district looks fairly wide open behind Overton.


12. Fairley

Coach: Dexter Bryant

Last season: 22-9 (lost in regional semifinals)

Outlook: Only one starter returns — senior forward Jacquelyn Gardner — but Bryant feels his team can remain very competitive. Quickness will be the Bulldogs’ main asset and there’s a fine group of newcomers that should make an immediate impact.

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