1. Science Hill
3. West Ridge
4. Daniel Boone
5. David Crockett
Science Hill is the favorite to win the Big 5 Conference girls basketball title based on its talent and history. Lady ’Toppers coach Scottie Whaley is high on the team based on their attitudes.
“It’s a great group of young kids,” Whaley said. “They are ‘we’ kids, not ‘me’ kids on the roster. They’re unselfish to the point of being almost too unselfish at times.”
The Lady ’Toppers are coming off a season when they won the District 1-4A championship, went to the region final and lost in the sectional to eventual state champion Bearden.
Kath- ryne Patton, a 6-foot senior post, is expected to be the leader of the team. Since last season, she’s improved both her ball handling and perimeter shooting.
Kierra Whitney, a 5-4 senior, will run the point with other projected starters to be Lexi Green, a 5-6 junior Whaley expects to have a breakout season, along with senior forward Aniya Pace and junior post Zaylah Bowling.
Kaylee Oler, both a standout shooter and defender, was in the starting lineup for the season opener at Volunteer. Science Hill also has depth in sophomore Kirsten Heaton and a pair of freshmen — Clara Crowe and Audrey Adams — Whaley feels could be special players in the future.
They also have the flexibility and size on the defensive end to be effective with a man-to-man or a matchup zone.
The Lady Indians could offer the stiffest challenge to Science Hill once Kaydence Black returns to the court in a few weeks. She led Dobyns-Bennett in scoring over its summer contests.
Rae Evans (5-7, Jr.) does a good job at the point of setting others up, while Caroline Hill (5-8, Jr.) is versatile enough to play the 1, 2 or other positions. She’s someone based on matchups where Dobyns-Bennett wants to get the ball in her hands.
Allison Sayler (5-6) is the team’s lone senior, also expecting to play a lot at guard.
Zari Brice (5-9, Jr.) is the team’s best defender. She will be playing in the post, along with Payton Moore (5-10, Jr.) and Hannah Frye (5-9, Jr). Carlee Cradic is a freshman guard who excelled in soccer and brings great energy to the basketball court.
“I like this team. They’re energetic, fun to be around and they get along well,” D-B coach Bill Francis said. “They listen, grasp and translate the information quickly. They’ve got a little grit about them and play well together.”
It’s easily the tallest starting lineup in the league with head coach Kristi Walling rolling out three players 6-foot or better for the Lady Wolves.
Lillian Bates (6-4, Jr.), a transfer from Livingston Academy, and Alexis Hood (6-2, Jr.) head up the towering bunch. Add in Fallon Taylor (6-0, So.) and no one can match West Ridge in a traditional 2-3 zone.
Allie Reilly (5-10, So.) runs the offense at the point with Rachel Niebruegge (5-8 Sr.) rounding a starting lineup. They have plenty of senior leadership with Parker Fischer, Emma Potter, Lexi Sexton and Emilia Monno.
West Ridge suffered a setback with a knee injury to Laynie Jordan (5-7, Jr.) who they’d like to get back before season’s end.
Junior guards Kyleigh Bacon and Josie Jenkins look to lead the Lady ’Blazers back to their former glory under new coach Justin Humphries.
Lillie Walters (5-9, So.) and Andrea Flores (5-9, Fr.) are other projected starters along with Kylie Beach (6-0, Sr.). They have shown an ability to knock down shots and there appears to be depth with record-setting softball sensation Maci Masters (5-9, Sr.), Addison Dietz (5-5, So.) and Ashlyn Seymore (5-9, So.) some of the key players off the bench.
Humphries likes how the team has come together as they’ve changed their system.
Will the Lady Pioneers rebuild or reload?
They’re coming off historic a 24-7 campaign, which saw them win a share of Big 5 Conference title and advance to District 1-4A championship game. However, they’ve lost nine of 10 starters from the last two years’ teams.
One player back is sophomore point guard Bella Ferguson, a 5-4 whirlwind on the floor. She leads a young but skilled group, according to coach Thomas Gouge.
Other starters include: Aaliyah Story (6-2, Fr.), Brylee Tullock (5-7, Fr.) and Lacey Byrd (5-11, So.). Elizabeth Wheeley (5-10, Jr.) and the team’s lone senior, Gabby Wood, will likely start at times depending on matchups.
Gouge is concerned about the lack of varsity experience, but optimistic Crockett will exceed expectations as they work on being able to go 9-10 deep by the end of the season.