Coach: Shawn Ransom, second year (7-17)
Last season: 7-17 (lost to Scott County in district)
Top players: Brittany White (5-7 jr.); Zaria Elery (5-3 sr.); Carah Burdette (5-5 so.); Darian Mitchell (5-8 sr.); Kyrah Hardin (5-6 fr.); Asjah Hall (5-7 jr.).
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Outlook: "This will be a very young team with little varsity experience," Ransom said.
The Defenders lost Lakeysha Stennis (18.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg) to graduation and their top returning scorer and rebounder Destiny Cozart to a knee injury over the summer.
Hardin averaged 6.2 points and 2.0 steals last season. White added 5.5 points and two rebounds, while Elery chipped in with 4.0 points and 3.5 assists.
On the plus side, Ransom thinks he has a quick, athletic team.
"Carah Burdette should be destined for a breakout year after having to sit out varsity last year due to a transfer from Lexington Christian after her eighth-grade year," Ransom said. "She is a very nice talent. This will be a very interesting year for the very young Lady Defenders. Looking forward to the challenge."
Dec. 5—at Madison Central, 7:30; 6—vs. Beechwood, 6:30; 8—at Bourbon Co., 7:30; 9—Henry Clay, 6; 12—at Sayre, 7:30; 13—Bethlehem, 3:30; 16—at Scott Co., 7:30.
Jan. 3—at Nicholas Co., 7:30; 14—Tates Creek, 7:45; 15—at Lafayette, 8; 16—Scott Co., 6; 20—Franklin Co., 6; 23—at Henry Clay, 8; 24—Dunbar, 7:30.
Feb. 2—at Western Hills, 7:30; 6—Montgomery Co., 6; 10—Lafayette, 6:30; 12—at Dunbar, 7:30; 14—at Lexington Catholic, 6:30; 19—at Tates Creek, 7:45.
Coach: Eric Sanford, fourth year (36-49)
Last season: 17-12 (lost to Dunbar in region semifinals)
Top players: T'Laya Lyvers (5-6 jr.); Kennedy Coney (5-5 sr.); Kerigan Davis (5-9 sr.); Nakyira Joyce (5-6 sr.); Hannah Young (6-1 sr.); Jazmine Richmond (5-6 sr.); Destiny Carter (5-6 sr.); Anovia Byars (5-8 jr.); Nakeisha Greene (5-11 jr.); Jordan Jackson (5-10 jr.).
Outlook: "We hope to compete at a high level every night," Sanford said. "We are very experienced with six returning seniors and four juniors. I have a group of kids who play extremely hard and want to win, but we will need consistent on-the-court leadership in order to be successful in the district and region."
Lyvers, a fast and athletic hustle-type guard, averaged 13.6 points and five rebounds last season, with Coney adding 7.0 and 2.0.
Sanford calls Lyvers "fearless," as she accepts all challenges, and is a mentally tough player.
As for style, "basically, the name of the game for us is tempo," Sanford said. "We're a very deep, athletic team and we want to force tempo—we want to play fast, we want to play hard and we want you all to be very tired come fourth quarter."
Defensively, the Blue Devils will press, play a lot of man-to-man and be aggressive.
BLUE DEVILS' schedule
Dec. 4—at Shelby Co., 7:30; 6—Lexington Catholic, 6; 9—at Bryan Station, 6; 12—at Tates Creek, 8; 13—vs. Waggener at Bryan Station, 5:15.
Jan. 2—vs. Butler at Central Hardin, tba; 7—at Lafayette, 8; 10—at Madison Central, 8; 12—at Scott Co., 7:30; 15—at Dunbar, 6; 17—Bullitt East, tba; 21—Male, 7:30; 23—Bryan Station, 8; 29—Scott Co., 7:30; 31—Lafayette, 2:30.
Feb. 3—at Sayre, 7:30; 5—Dunbar, 8; 6—at Woodford, 7:45; 10—at Mason Co., 7:30; 13—Tates Creek, 8; 17—at Ballard, 7:30; 20—at Wayne Co., 7:30.
Coach: Allison Denton, 14th year (225-159)
Last season: 28-4 (lost to Butler in state quarterfinals)
Top players: Dee Givens (6-0, sr.); Ashanti Thomas (6-4 sr.); Kiara Pankins (6-0 so.).
Outlook: Strengths include size and rebounding, and having three returnees who led the team in all statistical areas.
Givens, a Western Kentucky recruit, averaged 16.8 points and 7.0 rebounds last season.
Thomas, a Penn State signee, added 9.2 points and 8.2 rebounds.
Pankins, a 43.9 percent shooter from three-point range, chipped in with 13.2 points and 5.8 rebounds.
However, the Generals lost their starting point guard and must develop team chemistry on the floor.
"The three returners, who are excellent ballplayers, have got to learn to play with whoever's in those other two positions," Denton said. "With the chemistry that they had with the two that graduated (Kenyale Demus and Sarah Cooley) ... we've got to get a feel for the game. There's got to be a flow with them."
Lafayette's size advantage is countered by a lack of quickness.
"Teams are probably going to press us because we play a lot of bigs," Denton said. "That's something that we'll definitely have to work on, is handling the press."
Denton wants a disciplined half-court offense, not a two-passes-and-shoot tempo.
"I don't want to say I want to play a fast-paced game; I want to play fast when the opportunity happens," she said. "I don't want us to try to create things that aren't there,"
Lafayette's size also translates to good defense, Denton said.
Dec. 4—at Tates Creek, 8; 6—vs. Covington Holy Cross at Henry Clay, 4:30; 9—Franklin Co., 7:30; 13—vs. Southwestern at Bryan Station, 1:45; 15—Boyle Co., 7:30; 16—at Lexington Christian, 7:30; 19-21—vs. TBA at Berea Holiday Classic; 27-29—vs. TBA at Gateway Holiday Classic.
Jan. 3—vs. Shelby Co. at Franklin Co., noon; 7—Henry Clay, 8; 10—at Dunbar, 2:30; 13—at Lexington Catholic, 6:15; 15—Bryan Station, 8; 21—Tates Creek, 8; 23—vs. Incarnate Word (Mo.) at Mercy, 7:30; 24—vs. Bullitt East at Mercy, 1; 27—Dunbar, 6:30; 29—Lexington Catholic, 8; 31—at Henry Clay, 2:30.
Feb. 3—at Woodford Co., 7:45; 9—Madison Central, 8; 10—at Bryan Station, 6:30; 13—Lexington Christian, 6; 19—Anderson Co., 7:30.
Coach: Scott True, third year (28-30)
Last season: 17-12 (lost to Dunbar in district)
Top players: Rachel Blake (5-8 sr.); Bailey Browning (5-0 sr.); Caroline Lynch (5-8 sr.); Tori Pippen (5-6 sr.); Victoria Barr (5-1 sr.); Sarah Bonn (5-6 jr.); Caroline Osbourn (5-7 jr.).
Outlook: "We return five seniors and two juniors who all played major minutes for us last year," True said. "This group has been through the battles over the past two years. Those experiences will benefit us this year. Our lack of size will be an issue, so rebounding will be a concern."
Blake averaged 14 points and four rebounds as a junior, while Browning added nine points and four assists.
Lynch was right there with eight points and eight rebounds, and Pippen was next with five points and three boards.
"We're going to push the ball on offense and try to get transition baskets when we can," True said. "For us to be successful, we're going to have to get some easy transition baskets and use our quickness. Because against bigger teams we're really going to struggle to just bear down in the half-court and score. ... Defensively, we'll mix it up. We'll play some zone, we'll play some man, we're going to press at times."
Dec. 4 —Scott, 8; 6—at Henry Clay, 6; 9—Sacred Heart, 6:15; 12—Dunbar, 7:45; 19—TBA, Republic Bank Classic; 29—vs. Bishop Brossart at Conner, 1; 30—at Conner, 1:30, and vs. Bullitt Central at Conner, 7; 31—vs. TBA at Conner.
Jan. 7—Lexington Christian, 7:30; 9—at Tates Creek, 7:30; 13—Lafayette, 6:15; 17—at Christian Academy of Louisville, 6; 20—at Bourbon Co., 7:30; 23—Tates Creek, 7:30; 26—at Madison Central, 7:45; 29—at Lafayette, 8; 30—Madison Southern, 6:15.
Feb. 3—at Dunbar, 6:30; 6—at Lexington Christian, 7:30; 10—Clark Co., 7:30; 14—Bryan Station, 6:30; 17—at Montgomery Co., 6; 19—East Jessamine, 7:45.
Coach: Nick Cann, second year (10-17)
Last season: 10-17 (lost to Lafayette in district)
Top players: Hayley Strunk (5-8 sr.); Hannah Sue Hartley (5-2 jr.); Claire Panter (5-9 sr.); Sydney Weeks (5-6 so.); Payton Rodgers (5-7 fr.); Reagan McGuire (5-11 so.); Grace Combs (5-6 8th); Faith Osborne (5-7 8th).
Outlook: "After losing Katelin Bundy and Holly Huellemeir (combined 33 ppg), we have several kids stepping into new roles on our team," Cann said. "We will undoubtedly lean on our upperclassmen, especially early in the season, to lead the way for a talented group of young kids hungry for their first shot at varsity action."
The Eagles will play a deeper rotation than in the past, relying on young players in big roles.
"It's no secret that we don't have a lot of size, so we will have to quicken the pace and look to use our speed and jump-shooting ability to win games," Cann said. "Our biggest strength might be our versatility, as we have several kids capable of playing multiple positions and roles. Hayley Strunk (6.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) can play in the post, on the wing and even at the point. We want to move kids around the floor looking for our best fits for each individual game and matchup."
Dec. 1—at Frankfort, 7:30; 2—at Bath Co., 7:30; 5—at Jeffersontown, 7:30; 6—Collins, 2; 9—at Tates Creek, 7:30; 11—at Madison Central, 7:30; 13—Christian Academy-Louisville, 2; 16—Lafayette, 7:30; 22—at Gallatin Co., 6; 27—at Mercer Co., 8:30.
Jan. 2—Taylor Co., 7:30; 7—at Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 10—Harrison Co., 6; 13—Dunbar, 7:30; 17—Bardstown, 2; 19—Frankfort, 6; 26—Owen Co., 7:30; 30—at Spencer Co., 7:30; 31—at Dunbar, 2.
Feb. 2—at Bourbon Co., 7:30; 6—Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 10—Tates Creek, 6; 13—at Lafayette, 6; 14—at St. Henry, 2:30; 16—Oldham Co., 7:30; 17—at Model, 6:30.
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Coach: Sarah Bridenbaugh, fourth year (72-27)
Last season: 25-8 (lost to Lafayette in region finals)
Top players: Nicole Armstrong (5-10 sr.); Ezzy Ighodaro (5-4 jr.); Kristina Rosen (5-7 sr.); Merissa Marrow (6-0 sr.); Autumn Herriford (5-10 so.); MaShayla Cecil (5-4 fr.).
Outlook: The Bulldogs aim to replace 65 percent of their total offense from last season, using young and intelligent players. "We have strong guard play, so that's hopefully going to lead us to a successful season," Bridenbaugh said.
The guard play starts with Ighodaro.
"Ezzy's such a great point guard, has great vision, a great passer, but she can also shoot the ball pretty well," Bridenbaugh said. "We're looking for her to lead us, along with Nicole Armstrong, who's a 5-10 senior. Those two make quite the duo between a point guard and a forward. And Ezzy's definitely so quick that she pushes the tempo for us as well."
Dunbar looks to shoot the ball well and pressure opposing teams on defense.
The Bulldogs are well disciplined, but lack height in the post. With a roster loaded with guards, they plan to contend in the 43rd District with their defense and quickness.
"Defense is a big part of what Dunbar basketball does, and we're going to go out and try to defend the floor and turn teams into making mistakes," Bridenbaugh said. "We are going to use our quickness and our shooting ability on offense to our advantage."
Dec. 1—Walton-Verona, 7:30; 4—at Anderson Co., 7;30; 6—Woodford Co., 7:30; 9—at Madison Southern. 7:30; 12—at Lexington Catholic, 7:45; 13—Clark Co., 2:30; 17—at Tates Creek, 7:45; 20—Conner, 2:30; 22—Franklin-Simpson at Hopkins Co. Central, 6; 23—vs. TBA at Hopkins Co. Central; 27—East Carter at Montgomery Co., 1:30; 28-29—vs. TBA at Montgomery Co.
Jan. 3—Montgomery Co., 1; 6—Mercy, 8; 8—at Bath Co., 7:30; 10—Lafayette, 2:30; 13—at Lexington Christian, 7:30; 15—Henry Clay, 6; 22—Madison Central, 8; 24—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 27—at Lafayette, 6:30; 29—Tates Creek, 7:30; 31—Lexington Christian, 2.
Feb. 3—Lexington Catholic, 6:30; 5—at Henry Clay, 8; 12—Bryan Station, 7:30; 14—Frankfort, 2:30; 19—at Scott Co., 7:30.
Coach: Scotty Sutton, 12th year (190-94)
Last season: 18-7 (lost to Henry Clay in district)
Top players: Gabby Bowie (6-3 sr.); Hannah Brady (5-2 jr.); Dee Dee Wheeler (5-6 fr.); Ellie Alford (5-4 so.); Emma Bilberry (5-5 so.); Isabel Pergande (5-10 fr.).
Outlook: The Spartans return four of their eight rotation players from last season. It was going to be five of eight until defensive stopper Sydney Strup tore an ACL over the summer.
"Certainly Gabby is primed for a huge senior year, and her attitude has been terrific," Sutton said. "She has an outside shot of becoming a 2,000-point scorer. She is very close to 1,000 rebounds and 500 blocked shots."
Several mid-major schools are looking at Bowie.
Brady will move from two-guard to the point.
Look for Wheeler to step in and score. After overcoming an early injury she was a huge help with scoring late in the year.
"Although only a freshman, I look for her to be special," Sutton said. "Ellie Alford is a sophomore, and I look for her to step into a starting role; very athletic girls who can run the floor and finish as well as anyone I've coached."
Another nice addition is Pergande, who brings size and scoring to the Spartans.
One of the keys to the team will be the play of Sayre's other two seniors, Meg Croney-Clark and Dealla Samadi. Neither played much last season, but Sutton is expecting both to step up and help the team reach its goals.
Among those goals is to repeat as All "A" regional champion.
Dec. 3—St. Patrick, 7:30; 6—Model, 2:30; 8—at Scott Co., 7:30; 12—Bryan Station, 7:30; 19—at Whitefield Academy, 7:30; 27-29—at Ky. Country Day tourney.
Jan. 3—at Bethlehem, 3; 6—at Berea, 7:30; 8—at Burgin, 7:30; 9—Jackson Co., 6:30; 13—Menifee Co., 7:30; 15—at Doss, 7:30; 17—Ky. Country Day, 2:30; 22—All "A" Classic at Lexington Christian, 6; 24—All "A" Classic at Lexington Christian, 6; 26—at East Jessamine, 7:30; 29—at Madison Southern, 7:30; 31—Bluegrass Conference, tba.
Feb. 3—Henry Clay, 7:30; 5—at Nicholas Co., 6; 7—at Robertson Co., 2:30; 9—Bethlehem, 7:30; 12—Spencer Co., 7:30; 19—at Jeffersontown, 5:30; 22—at Model, 2.
Coach: Tina Winn, third year (10-48)
Last season: 0-30 (lost to Lexington Christian in district)
Top players: Myra Brown (5-8 sr.); Alyssa Harriston (5-6 sr.); Hannah Hammel (5-8 sr.); Tyanne Bentley (5-5 jr.) J'Lyn Martin (5-5 so.); Shaytara Wilson (5-6 jr.); Dasia Woods (5-6 so.); Safiyah Addus-Salam (5-5 so); Dacurtshonna Cannon (6-1 fr.); Oriana Woods (5-8 fr.); Kiauri Shannon (5-8, jr.)
Outlook: "Our team is more of a role-playing team," Winn said. "I don't have a superstar on my team."
The Lady Commodores' strength will be, she said, "athleticism. We're top-heavy in guards, so we'll be fast and athletic. Definitely better than last year; all the girls have matured a year. We're going to be up-and-down the floor, a lot of pressure. ... Ball movement; I don't believe in the ball sticking in one person's hands. A little bit more (ball movement) this year. Definitely the defense has to come up this year."
Winn said her team is hungry for the taste of victory.
"I think I have a good group of girls. I've got everybody back except for one player, so they've been together for awhile. I think they just plan on sticking it out together. They're just good kids. I enjoy coaching them."
Dec. 1—Boyle Co., 7:30; 4—Lafayette, 8; 6—Iroquois at Henry Clay, 2:30; 9—Lexington Christian, 7:30; 12—Henry Clay, 8; 17—Dunbar, 7:45; 19—East Jessamine at Berea, 6.
Jan. 3—vs. South Oldham, 10:30 a.m.; 6—at Woodford Co., 7:45; 9—Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 12—Western Hills, 7:30; 14—at Bryan Station, 7:45; 16—at Bourbon Co., 7:30; 21—at Lafayette, 8; 23—at Lexington Catholic, 7:30; 26—at Scott Co., 7:30; 29—at Dunbar, 7:30.
Feb. 3—Madison Southern, 6; 10—at Lexington Christian, 6; 13—at Henry Clay, 8; 17—Madison Central, 8; 19—Bryan Station, 7:45.