Saturday, November 30, 2013

Commercial Appeal Girls Basketball District Previews

Here is a district-by-district look at the girls high school basketball season.

The addition of Overton means the two teams that have dominated AAA in recent years — the Wolverines and Central — now reside in the same league. Overton will be looking to make another trip to the state tournament behind 5-4 senior Philecia Atkins, an Iona College signee who is one of the area’s top shooters. Seniors Amber Holmes and Fontanelle Walker are experienced veterans while sophomores Kyler Green and Rodrea Echols both offer plenty of size and promise. ... Central’s biggest task will be replacing three-time Best of the Preps player of the year Nina Davis, who is making a great impact as a freshman at Baylor. Tennessee State signee Tia Wooten will be counted on heavily, as will senior point guard Me-Me Hill, a terrific passer. Senior twins Dereka and Darriel Johnson will also need to have big years for Niki Bray’s Lady Warriors.
If either of the leaders slip then White Station and Whitehaven will be poised to climb. Sophomore Miyah Barnes and junior Emanye Robertson are back to lead the Spartans, who also have a promising freshman in 5-10 Damiah Griffin and a first-year coach in Tola Black. ... Whitehaven has a talented squad as well, led by junior Maia McCoy, who won the 100 and 200 last year at Spring Fling. Seniors Tiara Coleman and Laka Blache have been through the wars before and Johnny Luckett is a veteran coach who will get the best out of his group. ... A young East squad may slip a little but the Mustangs have the district’s leading returning scorer in 5-4 senior Javeshia White. ... Hamilton has a good one in Briauna Mitchell, while a young and inexperienced Melrose team will look to cause some surprises for longtime coach Robert Newman.

The best team in Memphis this year could very well be Rhonda Kendall’s Ridgeway squad. The Roadrunners went undefeated in the league last year en route to a 28-3 season that ended with a loss to Overton in the region semis. Sophomore Brandi Beasley is an excellent prospect at point guard, while 6-2 junior Eryn Foster is a force in the paint. Ashley Jackson and Breounna Humphrey are other returning veterans for a strong Roadrunners team. ... Houston and Collierville will battle for second. The Mustangs top returnee is Jaida Roper, who averaged almost 15 ppg. as a freshman in 2012-2013. Senior Aysha Harris (5-10) and Cheridan Burroughs (6-1) are solid and transfer Marisa Knox will shore up the backcourt. Collierville’s top player is 6-2 senior Jessica Brown (13.9 ppg.), a North Alabama signee.
Elsewhere, Germantown will rebuild behind 5-7 senior Brittany Parmenter while Wooddale’s top standout is 5-9 senior Karneisha Trent. ... Southwind should do better than last year’s 6-21 season, thanks to junior Ciara Douglas and sophomore Ebony Shaw. ... Kirby has a new coach in Anthony White and has already shown signs of improvement so far this year.

Arlington and Bartlett are the favorites in what should be a tightly-contested district. Senior Raylin Starks, junior Cheiyanne Norton and sophomore Torrie Sewell return for a Tigers team that finished 18-10 a year ago. Bartlett will counter with two of the top returnees in the area, seniors Shondria Scruggs (13 ppg.) and Shuntavia Rodgers (11.5).
The rest of the league is wide open. Millington won the regular-season title last year with a 9-1 mark (15-15 overall) but will be very young this year. ... Bolton has an excellent building block in Charity Savage, who averaged 14.2 ppg. as a freshman last year. ... Kingsbury moves up from AA and will competitive behind 5-6 sophomore Candiz Echols, while Cordova will look to improve after winning just once last year.

Trezevant and AA newcomer Craigmont will compete for the title in this new-look district. The Lady Bears will be sparked by the return of one of the area’s best, Mississippi Valley State signee Khadejah Stevens, who averaged 17 ppg. as a junior. Classmate Ashleigh McGhee will also be a key factor for coach Brandon Hill’s team. Craigmont, meanwhile, has a fine 1-2 combo of its own in 5-10 junior Kiara Caswell and 5-7 sophomore Danielle Conley. ... Keep an eye also on Raleigh-Egypt; the Pharaohs should surpass last year’s 14-11 record behind a strong group of returnees, led by sophomores Manaya Jones and Corlisha Howard and junior Brenda Fields.
Manassas, a regular AA state tournament participant in recent years, will be in rebuilding mode under first-year coach Paula Harris. Sophomore Joslynn Basemore has had some good success early for the Tigers. ... Douglass has an excellent sophomore of its own in Gazmyne Herndon, who averaged 19 ppg. last season. ... Fairley won only four games last year but will get a big lift from 6-0 Marnesha Hamer, who averaged 19.5 ppg. last season as a freshman at Memphis Business Academy. ... Sheffield, Westwood and Frayser will look to avoid last place. Westwood’s coach is Isiah Brown, who will be doing double-duty this year coaching the boys team too.

Booker T. Washington and Class A newcomer Oakhaven will compete for the title in a 13-team league. Like the boys team, BTW will have a new face on the sidelines as Steven McKinney replaces the highly-successful Derek Hunter. Renisha Hale, a 5-9 junior who averaged 16 ppg., and Rakesha Curry, a 5-4 senior, will lead the Warriors. Oakhaven’s top weapon is super senior Derrica Wiggins, who averaged 21.3 ppg. and is a good bet to pace the city scoring charts this time around. ... A team to watch is Mitchell, which welcomes back 6-1 junior Nicole Johnson and 5-10 sophomore Marquesha Fennell from a team that ended last season with a 12-13 mark.
Kenyata Echols played just nine games for Hillcrest last year but made a big impact, averaging 15.9 ppg. ... Tyanna Warren is back for MASE after averaging 23.6 ppg while 5-11 sophomore Tiana Williams will be the key to Soulsville’s chances. ... Lyric Stallings is the top returnee for Carver, which drops down from AA. ... Junior Dana Moore is back for Power Center, while 6-1 senior Kiara Chambers of MAHS will be a very tough matchup for most of the teams in this league. ... Memphis Business Academy suffered some heavy losses and will struggle to match last year’s 14-6 mark while Northside and Middle College will look to improve after each winning five games last year. ... There’s no place to go but up for KIPP, which went 0-19 last season.

Division 2-AA
Briarcrest has dominated this league in recent years and will be heavy favorites to return to state again after losing in the semifinals to Brentwood Academy back in March. Coach Lee Smith’s team will center around one of the top players in the state, Nebraska signee and reigning Miss Basketball Jasmine Cincore, who averaged 15.1 ppg. and 8.2 rebounds. Junior twins Brynne and Elise Holden are back as well, while seniors Gabby Salazar and Kalynn Parks and junior Kathryn Newman should all shine in bigger roles. ... Seniors Caroline Cook and Sarah Sneed are back for a St. Agnes team which finished second in the league last season, but the Stars will get pushed from St. Benedict, which has two good ones in 5-6 sophomore Taylor Barnes (11.5 ppg.) and 5-10 sophomore Nicole Ferris. ... Senior Carolyn Kelly is back for Hutchison, which will be looking to improve on last year’s 1-20 campaign.

Division 2A-1
A very interesting battle is shaping up between Harding and Northpoint — both of whom are coming off great years — and what should be a very much improved ECS squad. Harding has to replace the school’s all-time leading scorer in Kaylah Keys but still has some fine talent on hand in senior Rachel Maynard and Antoinette Lewis, who saw plenty of quality playing time as an eighth-grader. Northpoint lost in the state semifinals to end the year 25-8 and lost some key contributors but welcomes back one of the top players in the area in 5-8 senior Kimberlee Keltner. A lot will also be expected from 5-4 freshman Ashtyn Baker. The wildcard in it all will be ECS, which already had two fine returnees in senior cousins Kate and Caroline Jamison. The Eagles then got a big lift when home school standouts Sara Lytle, a 5-10 senior, and her 6-0 sophomore sister Emily transferred in. They will make an instant impact and will make ECS a dark horse state tournament contender.
St. Mary’s and Catholic look like the best of the rest. Junior Kaylan Pugh has been pouring in the points since her eighth-grade year and returns after leading the city in scoring at 25.2 ppg. Catholic lost Henrietta Wells to graduation but shouldn’t slip very far, thanks to senior Amber Hooker and sophomore Gaby Moore. ... Lausanne has a chance to be a lot better, thanks to the return of senior Reagan Patrick and freshman Selena Pruitt, another eighth-grade standout. ... Carmen Moore is the top returnee for FACS, while Immaculate Conception while strive to be better after going winless last year.

Division 2A-2
St. George’s and Fayette Academy will challenge University School of Jackson for first place in this league. Senior Shelby Sims is the best of the Gryphons’ eight returning players. Coach Scott Crockett will look to push the pace for a St. George’s team that is coming off a 22-8 finish. Legendary coach Rick Sullivan stepped down after last season’s 18-11 finish but Fayette Academy will still be in the hunt under Peter Moffatt. Margy Westbrook and Amber Johnson are both back after averaging in double digits. ... Bethany Berger (12.8 ppg.) is back for Tipton-Rosemark while Rossville welcomes back the league’s top returning scorer, 5-7 junior Taylor Robertson.

Center Hill had a banner year in 2012-13, finishing 24-6. Three starters are gone and this year’s squad will be on the young side but coach Jonathan Moore has two good building blocks in Kiara Golden and Erin Cross. ... Munford will be in the hunt for a region championship after going 27-6 last year and losing in the sectionals. Juniors Kierra Richardson, Precious Mills and Lindsey Owen are the keys. ... Brighton will be extremely young but should also be competitive. Sophomore Shayna Johnson is the lone returning starter. ... Covington will be the favorite in its league, returning three starters from last year’s 34-3 team that lost in the quarterfinals of the AA state tournament. Senior point guard Precious Harvey (11.5 ppg., 3.5 apg.) is the best of the bunch. ... Senior Travon Williams (15 ppg.) leads Fayette-Ware.

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