2012-13 Girls Basketball Preview
Mon. November 19, 2012 at 4:00 a.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
Bartow focused on defense in the offseason, and the team's summer conditioning program is intense. The Yellow Jackets hope that's enough to slide past rival Haines City. (Photo by PIERRE DUCHARME | THE LEDGER)
CLASS 7A, DISTRICT 7
Coach: Richard Murvin (ninth season, overall record not available)
Last Season: 22-5
Last in playoffs: 2012
Players to Watch: Zykira Lewis (SG, Sr.); Ashanti Groover (F, Sr.); Chenya Sealey (SG-PG, Jr.); Bailee Wolf (F, So.); Jerrika Joyce (PG, Sr.); Diantrah Walker (SG, Jr.); Janique Seawell (F, Jr.).
Quick hits: Finished second in the district to Haines City last season but returns Lewis, a first-team All-County and All-State pick who has signed to play basketball for Central Florida, and starters Sealey and Groover. Lewis averaged 17.7 points a game and Sealey 6.9. Groover had 41 blocks and 44 steals. The Yellow Jackets graduated Arielle Gallon, Taylor Payne and Melanie Newton but have more size this year. "This year's team has improved with the emergence of strong post play and strong guard play over the spring, summer and fall months," Murvin said. The players said there has been a heavy focus on conditioning and defense during the offseason. "We've been doing a lot more conditioning, believe it or not," Lewis said. Added Sealey: "We talk a lot on defense and stress communication and going to the right spots." Joyce will take over at point guard for Bartow. "She pushes the ball down court fast," Groover said.
Coach: Gregg Mays (first season)
Last Season: 5-17
Last in playoffs: 2009
Players to Watch: Morgan Oglesby (PG, So.); Ashley Dudney (SG, Sr.); Sy-Anah Lattimore (SF, Jr.); Jalenia Plummer (PF, Sr.).
Quick hits: Team will be led by Oglesby. Coach Mays said his Lady Eagles will have a solid starting lineup, even if they lack a lot of depth. "The team, overall, is inexperienced, but the future is very bright," he said, adding that this team could surprise many teams in the district.
Coach: LaDreda Akins (13th season, 284-94 overall)
Last Season: 30-3
Last in playoffs: 2012 (state runner-up)
Players to Watch: Joné Akins (PG, Sr.); Brekia Henderson (G, Sr.); Jasmine Reddick (G, Sr.); Jasmyn Brown (F, So.); Ja'Deshia Johnson (F, So.).
Quick hits: Graduated Briona Brown, the PolkPreps.com player of the year last year, and LaDerricka Spillman, a first-team All-County pick, but return three starters from last year's state runner-up team. That includes Akins, who had 81 assists and averaged 3.7 points per game, Henderson (7.4 points, 74 percent free-throw shooter) and Reddick (4.7 points, 5 rebounds). Jasmyn Brown also will contribute heavily. She had 5.8 rebounds per game last year with 4.2 points. The Hornets' main opponent in the district is Bartow, a team they swept in the regular season and playoffs last year. "We know what it takes to beat them," Henderson said. Akins says the goal is to get back to state and win it. "Mark my words — we will get there," she said. Coach Akins said she likes what she sees from her post players so far. "I have two tall girls who are aggressive and know their role. It's going to take a little bit of heat off our guards."
Coach: Michael Cope (fourth season, 22-73 overall)
Last Season: 8-16
Players to Watch: Ranasha Ollins (PG, Jr.); Keyonna Maultsby (F, Jr.); Paige Jennings (G, So.); Katrice Marcus (G-F, Sr.).
Quick hits: Were held out of the playoffs last year after being fined by the FHSAA for a fight that took place at the end of a game against Fort Meade. Return three starters from last year's squad, though, including Ollins (7.8 points, 3 steals), Maultsby (9.1 rebounds, 6.8 points) and Jennings (3.3 points, 2.5 rebounds). ViDonica Skipper, the team's leading scorer last year, transferred to Ridge. Cope thinks his team can be competitive. "We're looking a lot better, smaller but quicker," Cope said. "Our guards are very quick, and we're going to put a lot of pressure on teams." Look for Marcus to make a difference this year in Lake Region's 3-point game.
Coach: Jeffrey Haley (first season)
Last Season: 9-12
Last in playoffs: 1997
Players to Watch: Jade Bryant (PG, Sr.); Mone't Herbin (F, Fr.); Brinae Mcpherson (G, Sr.); Gabrielle Holland (F, So.); Brionna Scott (F-C, Jr.).
Quick hits: Haley cleaned house when he was hired after Foley's departure. "There was a lot of turmoil and attitudes, and one by one we started getting rid of players who contributed to that negative energy," Haley said. The result: a young team hungry to win. Bryant and Mcpherson are two of the team's three seniors, and Haley said he'll look to them for leadership. Herbin, who played ball in middle school, said the team has some athleticism. "We're a pretty quick team, we just have to work to develop it more into basketball form," Herbin said.
Coach: Jo-Ann McCoy (first season)
Last Season: 2-15
Players to Watch: YoJana Kinsler-Harris (C, Sr.); ViDonica Skipper (SG, Jr.); Christina Negron (PG, Jr.); Jackie Duran (SG-PG, Sr.).
Quick hits: Negron is one of the lone leftovers from last year's squad. Skipper and Kinsler-Harris are new to the team but are tall players who will help Ridge improve its post game. That's what first-year coach McCoy likes. "We have some height this year, and I like that because I'm an inside coach and an inside player," said McCoy, who played college ball at George Mason and the University of West Virginia. Skipper averaged 8.8 points and 8.4 rebounds a game last season. McCoy said she will rely heavily on Duran, who lived in San Diego last year, to help get the team in a good flow on offense and that Negron will be key in getting the ball inside. "We've got plenty of talent this year and we're capable of doing some really good things," Negron said.
CLASS 6A, DISTRICT 9
Coach: Greg White (10th season at school, overall record 148-90)
Last Season: 17-10
Last in playoffs: 2012.
Players to Watch: Christin Strawbridge (C, Sr.); Destiny Small (G, So.); Kiara Abram (G, Sr.); Mercedes Sirmons (G, Sr.); Kiana Abram (G, Sr.); Anaya Thomas (F, So.); Jasmine Holmes (F, So).
Quick hits: With center Christin Strawbridge eligible this year, head coach Greg White feels all the pieces are in place. "We have the jets to go with here. It's going to be fun," White said. Strawbridge was declared ineligible last year after transferring from Lakeland Christian. The players around Strawbridge include senior guards Mercedes Sirmons and sisters Kiara and Kiana Abram. "Everyone on the team shows hunger for the game, and if everyone shows hunger and dedication, we can be successful," Kiara Abram said. Attitude will also play a role, said Sirmons. "I like the fact that we all bond together and we all get along. Everyone knows their positions on the court, and everyone knows what we can do and not do so that makes us stronger," she said. The Red Devils were runners-up in the district to Winter Haven, which lost in the state semifinals last year to Miami Norland. "We have never beaten Winter Haven, ever," White said. "We're going to give it a shot this year."
Coach: Stephanie Davis (first season at school)
Last Season: 12-13
Last in playoffs: 2008.
Players to Watch: Kiara Wright (G, Sr.); Shaledra Turner (F, Sr.).
Quick hits: Lake Gibson's goal this year is growth and improvement. The Braves, according to new coach Stephanie Davis, have no returning varsity players. "Pretty much everyone on the team this year was on (junior varsity) last year," she said. "We have a brand new team, brand new coach, brand new players. Our goal this year is just to make lots of progress." Two players she'll turn to are guard Kiara Wright and forward Shaledra Turner. "I think we'll do well if we play as a team," Turner said. Davis has focused on fundamentals. "If we don't have the fundamentals," said Turner, "we can't play the game right." The fact that the team played together on the JV squad last year will help Wright added. "We have a common bond," she said. "We know our strengths and weaknesses and we can all build on that."
Coach: Johnnie Lawson (fifth season at school, overall record 92-25)
Last Season: 19-9
Last in playoffs: 2012.
Players to Watch: Cynkeria Mobley (G, Sr.); Zeneka Willix (F, Sr.); Khadijah Howell (G, Sr.); Tekera Henderson (G, Sr.); Ly'Na Battles (G, So.); Berdaja Mathis (C, So.).
Quick hits: The Blue Devils have been a perennial power in Polk County, advancing to the state Final Four 11 times in the past 13 years. That makes them the team everyone else shoots for. "It feels great, but everyone's trying to beat us, so it makes us work harder," said senior forward Zeneka Willix. This year's team features a mix of senior experience, including three returning starters from last year's state semifinal team mixed with a group of young players coming up from a junior varsity team that went undefeated. "We have a group of young girls," said senior guard Khadijah Howell. "We're trying to get them on the same level as we are."
CLASS 5A, DISTRICT 10
Coach: Jake White (first season at Auburndale)
Returning starters: Briana Gaskins (G, Jr.)
Quick hits: The Bloodhounds have eight freshmen on varsity but new head coach Jake White said the team will be "aggressive and very quick." Freshman Tiffaine Billings will be an impact player at the guard position. "You're going to see a lot of people diving for a lot of balls," Billings said.
Coach: Demetrius Sanders (seventh season at Lake Wales, 89-70)
Last Season: 18-20
Last in playoffs: 2012, lost in first round
Returning starters: Shayla Sewell (F, Sr.), Sha'Coria Wertz (G, Sr.), Alisha Tucker (F, Sr.)
Quick hits: The Highlanders should be a much improved rebounding team. The defending district champions have set a goal to penetrate deep into the state playoffs and equal the 2008-09 team's run to the regional finals.
Coach: Henery McIntyre (second year at Tenoroc, 4-13)
Last Season: 4-13
Quick hits: The Titans have four returning seniors, and sophomore Danielle Brown has the potential to be one of the top point guards in the county.
CLASS 4A, DISTRICT 10
Coach: Jeff Cable (first year at Mulberry, 20-7).
Last Season: 1-17
Returning starters. None.
Players to Watch: Tomiah Williams (W, Jr.), Alisha Mason (G, So.), Brianna Costa (PG, Sr.), Nichelle Chasse (PG, Sr.); Ashaley Williams (G, So.), Reagan Cook (G, Fr.).
Quick hits: Cable said that if the work ethic remains at a high level to look for an improvement from last season. "Transfer Tomiah Williams, along with upcoming sophomore Alisha Mason, should give the Panthers a competitive front court)," Cable said "Seniors Brianna Costa and Nichelle Chasse will improve guard play."
CLASS 3A, DISTRICT 7
Coach: LaKisha Palmore (second season at Fort Meade, 10-11).
Last Season: 10-1
Last in playoffs: 2010.
Returning starter: Quinika Williams (PG, So.).
Quick hits: Key players include Jameka Williams (G, Jr.), Shamari Brown (G-F, Fr.) and Deja Windham (G, Jr.). This is a year of "rebuilding, recovery and redemption" after last year's disappointing finish, according to coach LaKisha Palmore. There are no seniors. "We want to play a fast style, but we will slow it when we have to because of inexperience," Coach Palmore said. "We are looking for the returning players to become elders on and off the court."
Coach: Mike Carl (second season at Lakeland Christian, 120-92).
Last Season: 13-11
Last in playoffs: 2012.
Returning starters: Tess Horne (F, So.), Emily Murphy (F, Jr.).
Quick hits: Emily Carl (G, Jr.), Jesse Andrew (G, Fr.), Kristen Schaendel (G, Fr.), Allie Chmura (F, Sr.) are key players ... Four seniors are gone from the district runners-up of a year ago ... Emily Murphy sat out her sophomore season with a broken finger. "Look for the Vikings to be a good rebounding team and for their guard play to improve as the season progresses," Coach Carl said. "We will look to get the ball inside more this year and will need to improve in he area of 3-point shooting."
Coach: Carleb Marcelin (second season at McKeel, 20-5 overall).
Last Season: 20-5
Last in playoffs: 2012.
Returning starters: Kayla Wilson (F, Sr.), Jasmine Jackson (F, Sr.), Kaliyah Gibson (F-G, Sr.), Karissa Maze (G, Sr.).
Quick hits: Brinae Wilkerson is another key player. The Wildcats have upgraded their schedule to prepare for a playoff run. "Sometimes, offense won't be there, but defense will always be there," senior forward Wilson said. We'll have a full-court press, no mercy." Coach Marcelin said they have a small roster, but it's packed with potential. " We're going with eight girls, but we have eight really good girls," Marcelin said. "We have good senior leadership on this team."
Santa Fe Catholic
Coach: Cary Murphy (first year at Santa Fe Catholic.)
Last Season: 10-10.
Last in playoffs: 2010 (lost in regional quarterfinals)
Returning starters: Rosa Ancaya (G, So.), Lexus Nunnery (C, Jr.), Alli Hendon (G, So.).
Quick hits: Guard Lindsay Chritten is the Crimson Hawks' top freshman ... The team includes seven freshmen and no seniors ... Murphy is a former softball coach who is coaching basketball for the first time. "We are an incredibly young team," Murphy said. "We are short and fast. Power is not our game. Right now we're working on controlling the ball, cutting down on turnovers to try to stay in the game."
CLASS 2A, DISTRICT 7
All Saints' Academy
Coach: Bob Lepre (first season at All Saints, 12th season overall; overall record 165-105)
Last Season: 15-7
Last in playoffs: 2012 (lost in regional quarterfinals).
Players to Watch: Courtney Krakowski (F, Jr.); Madison Wells (F, Fr.); Melanie Rex (F/G, So.); Kaylania Young (F/G, Jr.); Hope Hunter (F/G, 8th); Tara Welratner (F/G, 8th); Diamond Battles (G/F, 7th); Ronisha Battles (G/F, 7th); Dani Guice (G/F, Jr.); Elizabeth Canto (G/F, Jr.).
Quick hits: Bob Lepre, a veteran coach, steps in at All Saints. He will have a young team that has no seniors coming off a 15-7 district runner-up season. "We will be very young," he said. "This is a rebuilding year. We will have to work hard for everything we get." His squad includes two eighth-graders and two seventh-graders.
Coach: Rick Brewer (third season at Victory Christian; 16th season overall; overall record 178-155)
Last Season: 13-10
Last in playoffs: 2011.
Players to Watch: Raven Brewer (G, Jr.); Sydney Burroughs (G, Fr.); Sabrina Sarun (G, So.); Emily Carson (C, Fr.); Mikayla Mason (G, So.); Sarah Mabe (F, So.); Abbie Carson (F, So.).
Quick hits: Victory Christian's biggest challenge will be adjusting after the graduation of Michelle King, who averaged 29.6 points and 18.0 rebounds per game. "We had Michelle King last year (for offense)," Coach Brewer said. "Our defense is going to have to generate our offense this year." His players say they're ready for that. "Our strength is our defense," said sophomore forward Mabe. "We need to work on our shooting, but I think we'll have a pretty good team this year, even without Michelle." It's a team that knows how to play together, said freshman guard Burroughs. "We know how we play, we know everyone's strengths," she said. It's also a team that likes playing together, added junior guard Brewer. "We're not like a team, we're like a family and we depend on each other all the time."