Coach: Shawn Ransom, first year
Last season: 18-11 (lost to Franklin County in first round of region)
Top players: Lakeysha Stennis (5-9, sr.); Zaria Elery (5-5, jr.); Destiny Cozart (5-9, so.); Victoria McCoy (5-10, sr.); Jamayah Fields (5-9, so.).
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Outlook: Strengths are athleticism, quickness and shooting ability. Weakness is lack of experience, according to first-year coach Shawn Ransom.
"We lost a lot of seniors last year, probably 80-85 percent of their scoring, their leadership and things like that," Ransom said. "The only returning scorer is Lakeysha. She averaged 12.9 a game last year, but she wasn't really heavily relied on because she had so much senior leadership (around her)."
McCoy won't be available until January due to a torn meniscus.
"She's probably the most physical inside presence that I have," Ransom said. "So we're really small, but we're extremely quick, we're athletic. We look to push the ball up and down the floor, and we're just trying to be real hectic on defense, quick buckets on offense. We want to lead the state in points scored. We like to get our shots up and we like to play our pressure defense."
That pressure will come in various forms, he said.
"We'll mix it up. We'll do a lot of man; we'll do some zone. We'll do a lot of full-court trapping; even when we go to the half-court we do a lot of trapping. It all depends on the matchup personnel we're going against."
Lady Defenders' schedule
Dec. 6—at Madison Central, 7:30; 10—at Henry Clay, 6:30; 13—Sayre, 7:30; 14—Bourbon Co., 5:30-x; 19—Elizabethtown, 5:30-y.
Jan. 3—Nicholas Co., 7:30; 4—Bullitt East, 8:30-z; 6—Scott Co., 6; 7—at Madison Southern, 7:30; 9—Lafayette, 7:30; 15—at Tates Creek, 7:45; 17—Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 23—Henry Clay, 7:45; 25—Dunbar, 7:45; 28—at Anderson Co., 7:30; 31—at Lafayette, 6:15.
Feb. 4—Franklin Co., 7:30; 7—at Montgomery Co., 6; 8—at Southwestern, 7:30; 11—at Scott Co., 7:30; 13—at Dunbar, 8; 18—Bath Co., 7:30; 21—Tates Creek, 7:45.
x—Defenders of the Station Classic; y—Republic Bank Classic at Lexington Catholic; z—Centria Metals/Staxx BBQ Shootout at Franklin Co.
Coach: Eric Sanford, third year (19-37)
Last season: 15-14 (lost to Bryan Station in first round of district)
Top players: T'laya Lyvers (5-6, so.); Destiny Carter (5-5, jr.); Jazmine Richmond (5-6, jr.); Kamari Boyd (5-9, sr.); Kerrigan Davis (5-9, jr.); Aereanna Porter (5-10, sr.); Hannah Young (6-0, jr.); Kennedy Coney (5-6, jr.); Nakirya Joyce (5-6, jr.).
Outlook: Coach Eric Sanford said his team is athletic and deep, but doesn't have a lot of size.
"Guard play, definitely," is the strength of the team, he said. "We're extremely quick, and all of them play extremely hard. We've got a bunch of girls who can handle the ball."
Lyvers averaged 12.2 points last season, with Carter adding eight points and three assists.
As for inside play, "we've got one true big, who's 6-foot, and that's Hannah Young. She's a junior. She'll be relied on to be our anchor in the middle," Sanford said. "Aereanna Porter (6 ppg, 9 rpb), she has a fantastic motor, with Kamari Boyd (4 ppg, 6 rpg). They're active enough to be pretty good rebounders."
The Lady Defenders will push the pace.
"We're definitely up-tempo," he said. "We're going to press from start to finish. Full-court. ... We definitely try to mix it up to throw teams off."
Most of all, Sanford said, his team will take care of business in practice.
"We work extremely hard. We're still a blue-collar team, and the only way we know how to get it done is to put in the work to get it done."
Lady Blue Devils' schedule
Dec. 3—at Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 6—at Shelby Co., 7:30; 10—Bryan Station, 6:30; 13—Tates Creek, 7:45; 14—Nelson Co. 4-w; 19-23—at Lexington Catholic; 26—Boone Co., 1:30-y; 27—Highlands, 10:30 a.m.-y 28—TBA.
Jan. 7—Lafayette, 7:30; 11—Madison Central, 7:30; 14—at Scott Co., 7:45; 16—at Dunbar, 6:30; 17—at Knox Central, 7:30; 23—at Bryan Station, 7:45; 25—Marion Co., 8-z; 31—Scott Co., 8.
Feb. 3—Sayre, 7:30; 6—Dunbar, 8; 8—Woodford Co., 6:30; 10—at Franklin Co., 8; 12—at Lafayette, 7:30; 14—at Tates Creek, 7:45; 18—at Ballard, 7:30; 21—Wayne Co., 7:30.
w—Defenders of the Station Classic at Bryan Station; x—Republic Bank Classic at Lexington Catholic; y—State Farm Classic at Conner; z—Bob Tripure Classic.
Coach: Allison Denton, 13th year (197-155)
Last season: 21-13 (lost to Madison Central in region finals)
Top players: Sarah Cooley (6-0, sr.); Ken'yale Demus (5-7½ , sr.); Dee Givens (5-11 jr.); Kiara Pankins (5-11, fr.); Megumi Nagahiro (5-7 sr.); Ashanti Thomas (6-4, jr.); Shirlisa Demus (5-5 sr.).
Outlook: Strengths include height, rebounding and experience.
"There's a little bit of experience that may help us out," Coach Allison Denton said. "We've got four pretty solid three-point shooters in Givens and Pankins and Ken'yale Demus and Shirlisa Demus."
Post play features 6-4 Ashanti Thomas and 6-0 Sarah Cooley. But Pankins can play in the paint if needed, as can 5-8 Marion County freshman transfer Kendyl Powell and sophomore Aisha Conwell. Denton figures her bench gives her seven to nine players who can contribute.
As for tempo, "our success last year came off of the steals that we had. We can run; we're a very good running team," Denton said. "Our decision-making has some way to go. We could run all day but it doesn't mean good things will come out of it. I want hard work. ... We're wanting our offense to come from our defense, so I'm hoping if our defense is where it's supposed to be, we're going to get those steals that we need. So I would prefer a fast pace, but we'll see. That comes with decision-making. If our decision-making has improved, then that will determine whether or not we can run."
Lady Generals' schedule
Dec. 3—Danville, 7:30; 7—Tates Creek, 2:30; 10—at Franklin Co., 7:30; 14—Ryle, 2:30-w; 16—at Boyle Co., 7:30; 17—at Lexington Christian, 6; 27-29—Surf 'n Turf Tournament at San Diego.
Jan. 3—Mercer Co., 8-x; 7—at Henry Clay, 7:30; 9—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 11—Dunbar, 2:30; 14—at Lexington Catholic, 6:15; 18 —Lincoln Co., 5-y; 25—Bath Co., 5:30-z; 28—at Dunbar, 6; 30—Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 31—Bryan Station, 6:15.
Feb. 3—at Western Hills, 7:30; 4—Woodford Co., 7:30; 6—at Tates Creek, 7:30; 10—at Madison Central, 7:30; 12—Henry Clay, 7:30; 14—Lexington Christian, 7:30; 20—at Anderson Co., 7:30.
w—Defenders of the Station Classic at Bryan Station; x—Centria Metals/Staxx BBQ Shootout at Franklin Co.; y—Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at East Jessamine; z—Bob Tripure Classic at Henry Clay.
Coach: Scott True, second year (11-18) at Catholic, 12th overall (190-156)
Last season: 11-18 (lost to Lafayette in district semifinals)
Top players: Rachel Blake (5-8, jr.); Suzanne Miller (5-5, sr.); Caroline Lynch (5-8, jr.); Bailey Browning (5-0, jr.); Sarah Bonn (5-9, so.); Caroline Osbourn (5-7, so.); Mallie Cornett (6-0, fr.).
Outlook: Although Catholic must replace the scoring and leadership of Octavia Wilson, who is now at the University of New Orleans, this season's squad has more experience and depth than a year ago. The Lady Knights will go eight or nine deep.
"Offensively, we'll be more balanced," Coach Scott True said.
He added that he wants a transition-style team, keyed by a defense that will play a lot of man and some zone, trying to keep opponents off-balance.
"We're not overly athletic," he said, so it's important to keep the other team from finding a rhythm. Then there's quality of opponents, going back to last season. "We played one of the toughest schedules in the state last year, and that will help us this year," True said.
Rachel Blake leads the returnees in scoring with 11 points (and five rebounds) a game. Suzanne Miller and Caroline Lynch each averaged six points, while Bailey Browning added five points and three assists per game.
Lady Knights' schedule
Dec. 3—Henry Clay, 7:30; 5—Rowan Co., 7:30; 10—at Sacred Heart, 7:30; 13—Dunbar, 7:45; 14—Bullitt Central, 5; 19—TBA-x; 27—TBA-y.
Jan. 3—Scott Co., 6:15; 7—Lexington Christian, 8; 10—Tates Creek, 7:45; 14—Lafayette, 6:15; 17—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 18—Mason Co., 9:30 a.m.-z; 24—at Tates Creek, 7:45; 25—at Boone Co., 3:30; 28—at Clark Co., 7:30; 30—at Lafayette, 7:30; 31—at Madison Southern, 7:30.
Feb. 4—at Dunbar, 6:30; 7—at Lexington Christian, 6; 8—Menifee Co., 5; 11—Madison Central, 6:15; 14—at Mercy, 7:30; 18—Montgomery Co., 8; 21—at Scott, 7:30.
x—Republic Bank Classic at Catholic; y—Queen of Palms tourney at Fort Myers, Fla.; z—Coaches vs. Cancer Classic at East Jessamine.
Coach: Nick Cann, first year
Last season: 14-14 (lost to Lexington Catholic in first round of district)
Top players: Katelin Bundy (5-7, sr.); Holly Huellemeier (5-11, sr.); Allison Brooks (5-7, so.); Hannah Sue Hartley (5-3, so.); Hayley Strunk (5-8, jr.); Sydney Weeks (5-7, fr.); Abby James (5-10, so.).
Outlook: "Although small in number, we have great leadership from our seniors," Coach Nick Cann said. "On the floor, we should have solid guard play, with a great group of shooters and ballhandlers."
Hannah Sue Hartley will be handling the ball quite a bit. So will sharpshooter Katelin Bundy, a Belmont signee.
Off the bench, Sydney Weeks and Allison Brooks will provide depth.
As for style, "we're going to try to get up and down," Cann said. "I know that in the past they haven't done as much of that. They've slowed it down a little bit. But we've been working pretty hard on our transition game and getting the ball up and down the floor, looking for early offense. ... Trying to use some of our speed. We're not real big, but we do have some kids that are fast and that can move. We want to get out and try to get our shooters spotted up and get them some quick, easy looks."
LCA will mix it up on defense with half-court man-to-man, some zone and even a little full-court defense.
"We're just trying to play to our strengths and what we think we're best at," Cann said.
Lady Eagles' schedule
Dec. 3—Bath Co., 7:30; 5—at Christian Academy Louisville, 7:30; 7—Estill Co., 3:30; 10—Tates Creek, 6; 14—Somerset, 3:30; 17—Lafayette, 6; 19—at Moore, 7:30; 27—Waggener, 6-y; 28-30—TBA-y.
Jan. 3—Boyle Co., 7:30; 7—at Lexington Catholic, 8; 10—Bourbon Co., 7:30; 14—Dunbar, 6; 17—Russell, 7:30; 18—at Holmes, 6; 22—at Frankfort, 6:30-z; 30—Jeffersontown, TBA.
Feb. 1—at Dunbar, 2:30; 4—at Shelby Co., 6; 7—Lexington Catholic, 6; 11—at Tates Creek, 6; 14—at Lafayette, 7:30; 15—at St. Henry, 7:30; 17—at Oldham Co., 7:30; 21—West Jessamine, 7:30.
y—Titan Holiday Classic at Mercer Co.; z—11th Region All "A" Classic.
Coach: Sarah Bridenbaugh, third year (47-19)
Last season: 17-12 (lost to Madison Central in region semifinals)
Top players: Brooke Todd (6-2, sr.); ShaKeema Jackson (5-4, sr.); Ezzy Ighodaro (5-4, so.); Merissa Marrow (6-0, jr.); Nicole Armstrong (5-10, jr.).
Outlook: "First and foremost, our strength is always defense and always has been, so we're going to continue with this group and try to defend," Coach Sarah Bridenbaugh said. "The offense will come from that."
One thing that has changed is a makeup that has gone from speed last season to height this time.
"We're actually pretty big this year, so being as tall as we are we're going to look to rebound and expose some teams in that area," Bridenbaugh said.
The Bulldogs will start three bigs in 5-10 Nicole Armstrong, 6-2 Brooke Todd and 6-0 Merissa Marrow, a transfer from Nebraska.
Tempo will "come down to a lot more X's and O's for this team this year, and execution on offense and defense," Bridenbaugh said. "We're probably not going to be able to get out and outrun teams like we have in the past."
Dunbar has experience with 10 who are juniors or seniors. "I think we're going to compete with teams," Bridenbaugh said. "We worked so hard in this pre-season, and all the focus has been on our defense. ... We're very smart and we rebound well, so we're going to try to lean on those things to win ballgames."
Lady Bulldogs' schedule
Dec. 3—at Walton-Verona, 7:30; 5—Anderson Co., 7:30; 13—at Lexington Catholic, 7:45; 14—at Clay Co., 4:30; 17—at Tates Creek, 7:45; 20—Apollo, 6:30; 27—Ashland Blazer, 8-z.
Jan. 3—at Mercy, 8; 7—at Montgomery Co., 5:15; 9—Bath Co., 7:30; 11—at Lafayette, 2:30; 14—at Lexington Christian, 6; 16—Henry Clay, 6:30; 18—at Clark Co., 3; 23—Madison Central, 8; 25—at Bryan Station, 7:45; 28—Lafayette, 6; 30— Tates Creek, 7:45.
Feb. 1—Lexington Christian, 2:30; 4—Lexington Catholic, 6:30; 6—at Henry Clay, 8; 8—at Ryle, 6; 11—at Woodford, 8:15; 13—Bryan Station, 8; 15—at Frankfort, 7:30; 21—Scott Co., 6.
z—Gateway Holiday Classic at Montgomery Co.
Coach: Scott Sutton, 11th year (169-86)
Last season: 11-13 (lost to Scott County in first round of district)
Top players: Molly Manella (5-7, sr.); Gabby Bowie (6-3, jr.); Haydn White (5-7, sr.); Sydney Strup (5-7, fr.); Grace Rahman (5-7, sr.); Jesse Klus (5-9, so.); Hannah Brady (5-2, so.).
Outlook: The Lady Spartans have four returning starters.
"(Gabby) Bowie and (Molly) Manella can score with anybody," Coach Scott Sutton said. "Gabby is a terrific all-around player — scores, boards, blocks shots and I ask her to handle the ball a lot. Getting Grace (Rahman) back will help. Experience will help this year."
Bowie averaged 14.3 points and 11.3 rebounds last season, and blocked 151 shots. Manella added 14.7 points and 1.8 assists. Rahman missed last season due to a knee injury.
Other returning players include Haydn White, who averaged 3.3 points and 2.1 rebounds, and Sydney Strup, who added 4 points and 3.2 rebounds. Several players made their varsity debuts last season, so experience will be a plus this time around.
"Defense will improve this year with Rahman coming back," Sutton said. "She was my best player on defense as a sophomore. We must rebound better. We are not big at all, and we need to take the pressure off."
Lady Spartans' schedule
Dec. 4—at St. Patrick, 7:30; 7—at Model, 3; 9—Scott Co., 7:30; 12—at Henry Co., 7;30; 13—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 21—TBA, 6:30; 27—TBA; 28—at Kentucky Country Day, 8.
Jan. 4 —Bethlehem, 2:30; 8—Berea, 7:30; 10—Burgin, 6:30; 14—Menifee Co., 7:30; 18—Wolfe Co., 2:30; 21—Model, 6; 27—at East Jessamine, 7:30; 30—Madison Southern, 7:30.
Feb. 3—at Henry Clay, 7:30; 6—Nicholas Co., 6; 8—Robertson Co., 2; 11—Whitefield Academy, 7:30; 13—Jeffersontown, 5:30; 18—at Kentucky Country Day, 7:30; 22—TBA, 2.
Coach: Tina Winn, second year (10-18)
Last season: 10-18 (lost to Dunbar in district semifinals)
Top players: McKenna Cummins (5-8, sr.); Haley Blackburn (5-10, jr.); Hannah Hamill (5-6, jr.); Myra Brown (5-8, jr.); Lori Nsimpasi (5-5, jr.).
Outlook: The strength of the Commodores, Coach Tina Winn said, is defense. She favors man-to-man coverage but will mix in other looks to focus on "pressuring the ball."
As for makeup, "I don't have any superstars but I have great role players," Winn said. "So I think the strength is us being a team and working together. They all get along really well."
The biggest question marks are rebounding and youth.
"There are a lot of young girls that are on this team, so you're dealing with the fundamentals of the game. Just the I.Q., I think, will be a big thing."
In addition, "I've seen improvement from the summer. It was a tough summer for us, but we got a lot of basketball in. I just think the girls went back during our break and just kind of revamped. ... They're working hard, so I've seen improvement, and that's really all I ask for, especially from a young team."
Winn wants to see an up-tempo game, triggered by pressure. "I think with us being so young, with us staying together as a part of this team, I think we'll be stronger as we go along. Right now, we'll hit our bumps in the road, but it's a part of growth, and I have girls that want to be here."
Lady Commodores' schedule
Dec. 2—at Boyle Co., 7:30; 7—at Lafayette, 2:30; 10—at Lexington Christian, 6; 13—at Henry Clay, 7:45; 14—Covington Holy Cross, 11:30 a.m.-w; 17—Dunbar, 7:45; 19—Harrison Co., 8:30-x.
Jan. 4—at Shelby Co., 1:30; 7—Woodford Co., 7:45; 10—at Lexington Catholic, 7:45; 15—Bryan Station, 7:45; 17—at Clark Co., 7:45; 20—Bath Co., 12:30-y; 24—Lexington Catholic, 7:45; 25—Bourbon Co., 4-z; 28—Scott Co., 7:45; 30—at Dunbar, 7:45.
Feb. 4—Madison Southern, 6; 6—Lafayette, 7:30; 11—Lexington Christian, 6; 12—Bourbon Co., 7:30; 14—Henry Clay, 7:45; 17—at Madison Central, 7:45; 21—at Bryan Station, 7:45.
w—Defenders of the Station Classic at Bryan Station; x—Republic Bank Classic at Lexington Catholic; y—Holbrook Drug MLK Shootout at Rowan Co.; z—Bob Tripure Classic at Henry Clay.