Girls’ basketball outlook: Plenty of new faces
Posted: December 5, 2012
WINCHESTER — Naturally, Millbrook girls’ basketball coach Debby Sanders knew that someday, she would no longer coach the members of the Pioneers’ decorated class of 2012.
Sanders went to the graduation ceremony, but there have still been times she has to remind herself that the main players responsible for a state-record three consecutive Group AA championships and a state-record 80-game winning streak over the last three seasons truly are gone.
“It’s been really interesting,” Sanders said. “You look around the gym and you see a lot of new faces, but the same numbers on the back. It makes you stop and think.”
The No. 22 of Courtni Green will never be worn again — the three-time Group AA Player of the Year and the VHSL’s third all-time leading scorer, now playing at the University of Delaware, has had her jersey number retired. But Pioneers fans will also have to adjust to not seeing the likes of fellow all-state players Sara Mead (Columbia University) and Alisha Mobley (Lenoir-Rhyne University) no longer running the floor in their No. 15 and No. 34 jerseys.
Millbrook only has three players on its roster who spent the entire 2011-2012 season on the varsity roster and lost 91 percent of its scoring. And the only player who started last year, senior forward Ky Rooks (3.9 points, 3.2 rebounds), might not return to the court until January because of a knee injury.
Sanders said one thing that hasn’t dropped off is the team’s dedication to success, which has helped the Pioneers run their winning streak to 83 games with a 3-0 start.
“These girls that I have — I’m extremely pleased with their work ethic and pride,” Sanders said. “This is the hardest-working group I’ve seen in a long time. Since we started conditioning drills in August, they’ve shown tremendous dedication, because they want to excel.”
Millbrook has shown early on that it will be formidable. Junior guard Brenna Cook (22.7 points through three games), a transfer from Central, has led the Pioneers in scoring each of the three games, and senior guard Brooke Borlie (15.0 points) has also been strong in victories over Briar Woods and Heritage.
But while the Pioneers take a lot of pride in what they’ve accomplished in compiling a 105-3 record over the last four years and have high expectations, Sanders said this year’s Millbrook team can’t automatically be expected to perform like they have in the past because of its youth and inexperience working together.
The graduated players seemed to know where they were going to be on the court without looking at each other, but that took time.
“Can we contend for a district title and get deep into the region? Sure,” Sanders said. “But I think it would be unrealistic to say we’re going to win a state title. There’s too much work we have to do. Come February, we’ll have a good idea of where we are.”
Though Millbrook has won its last 48 games within the Northwestern District, the Pioneers will indeed have their work cut out for them because of another young team with notable talent.
Though Sherando lost its all-time leading scorer in Morgan Sirbaugh, the Warriors return five players, including second-team All-Northwestern District guard Jessica Hakel (12.7 points, 3.7 steals). The Warriors will also feature Dani Rizzari (a sophomore transfer from James Wood, all-district honorable mention), and most notably, freshman combo guard Lauren Reed.
Reed, coach Kevin Reed’s daughter, went out and scored 38 points while hitting a school-record nine 3-pointers in her debut, an 87-29 win over Liberty.
The rest of the Northwestern District also featured significant turnover, as James Wood junior guard Whitney Dick (7.1 points, 3.1 assists, 3.0 steals) is the only other returning all-district performer.
Clarke County has already flexed its muscle locally with wins over Handley and Skyline, but the Eagles will face formidable competition in the Bull Run District, headlined by defending Group A Division 2 champion George Mason.
Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy has gotten off to a hot 4-0 start, but the Patriots will definitely look different without their force in the middle from last year’s team that was VACA State and North Region champions as well as NACA national finalists, Allie Pieper.
But the Patriots return most of everyone else and have been bolstered by Millbrook transfer and senior forward Amanda Barlow, who is averaging 17.6 points thus far.
Coach: Debby Sanders, 9th season.
Last year: 30-0 (8-0 Northwestern District); Group AA, Division 4 state champions; Region II, Division 4 champions; Northwestern District regular season and tournament champions.
Key losses: Courtni Green, Sara Mead, Alisha Mobley, Danielle Banks, Lisa Merriman, Diauna Farrish, Danielle Hernandez.
Key returnees: Ky Rooks, Sr. F; Brooke Borlie, Sr. F; Ashley Gooddman, Sr. G.
Top newcomers: Brenna Cook, Jr. G; Casey Ackerman, So. G; Mia Vandertoorn, So. G; Elizabeth McDonald, Fr. F; Jonesha Cain, Fr. G; Robyn Reed, So. G; Kalie Kremer, Fr. F; Amanda Hayton, Fr. G.
Outlook: For Millbrook (3-0), the big thing right now truly is experience level, which is why Sanders would love to have Rooks on the floor. Rooks was solid contributor to each of the Pioneers’ three state titles. In addition to having an altered level of athleticism, experience is part of why Millbrook has to make adjustments to the pressure defense that resulted in 23.8 steals per game last year.
“Our basketball IQ was so high,” Sanders said. “In some ways we’re going to be playing the same, in some ways no. We’ll run our same offense and defense in some settings, but we’ll have to mix it up more.”
Fortunately, with Borlie and Goodman, Sanders does have two players who know what the day-to-day expectations are at Millbrook, and she expects big things out of both.
“Ashley’s a good shooter, and if she’s confident she’ll be able to get some buckets for us,” Sanders said. “We’re really going to look to Brooke for rebounding and to hold the fort inside. She’s one of the strongest girls I’ve ever seen down there.”
Though Millbrook is working with Cook on being more of a ball-handler, Sanders said her addition has been a boon for the Pioneers. Cook was a a first team All-Bull Run District selection last year.
“She’s going to give us scoring and rebounding,” Sanders said.
Coach: Kevin Reed, 2nd season.
Last year: 17-8 (6-2 Northwestern District); lost to Millbrook in the Region II, Division 4 semifinals
Key losses: Morgan Sirbaugh, Allison Boespflug.
Key returnees: Jessica Hakel, So. G; Erin Magalis, So. G; Alaina Combs, Jr. F; Audra Sites, So. G.
Top newcomers: Lauren Reed, Fr. G; Dani Rizzari, So. G.
Outlook: Of Sherando’s 10 players, nine are either freshmen or sophomores, and only one junior dots the roster. But this Warrior team might be capable of doing even more damage than last year’s group because of a wealth of guards who are capable of running the floor and shooting from beyond the arc. Even not factoring in Reed’s 9 of 17 3-point shooting against Liberty, Sherando (1-0) still made 5 of 10 3-pointers.
“We’ll usually go with a smaller four-guard lineup, which is not something I’m not used to,” said Reed, who will likely feature Brown as the lone big with that look. “We’ll be able to run the floor and keep the ball on the perimeter. Everybody, including Heidi has the green light to shoot from out there.”
Certainly, Reed showed against Liberty that she should be able to shoot from wherever she wants. But Kevin Reed emphasizes that Lauren Reed — who had five assists against Liberty — can do a lot more than just score.
“She’s played against some of the best competition in the country [AAU], and she’s always played well and risen up,” Kevin Reed said. “She can be one of the best players in the region. Her basketball IQ is very high. She enjoys watching men’s and women’s basketball, and she enjoys watching film. And while a lot of people probably noticed that she scored a lot of points [against Liberty], if you were at the game you would’ve seen a very unselfish player and willing passer.”
Reed also expects Hakel to continue to excel at getting to the basket, defending and rebounding, and he has high praise for what Magalis can do on the defensive side.
“She’s been one of our top leaders so far this season,” Reed said. “I’m confident in saying she is possibly our best on-ball defender in our area and region.”
Coach: Marvin Scott, 11th season.
Last year: 14-8, (4-4 Northwestern District); lost to Monticello in the Region II, Division 3 quarterfinals
Key losses: Kirsten Ward, Corin Scott, Sadie Thomas, Cassie Alamo, Verna Hilaire-Lee, Destini Wallace.
Key returnees: Cassidy Veach, Sr. F; Kara Riley, Sr. F; Tomeika Waller, Sr. G; Sydney Clapperton, Jr. G; Scarlett Hutchins, Jr. G.
Top newcomers: Alysandra Worrell, Fr. G; Angelica Robinson, Fr. F; Hannah Long, Fr. G; Jackie Trabosh, So. F.
Outlook: Virtually all of Handley’s minutes were devoted to its seniors last year, three of whom — Ward, Scott and Thomas — earned all-district honors. But thanks to the addition of some promising freshmen, the Judges have gotten off to a decent 2-2 start during their learning process.
“We’re just looking to have everyone play together right now,” Scott said. “We’re still learning how to play as a team, and learning our roles. Because we’re learning, they have to go through situations where they say, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t do this,’ before they can figure it out.”
Scott feels his team has a lot of good athletes, and Worrell in particular has caught his eye. In the team’s season opener, Worrell went a perfect 14-for-14 from the free-throw line in a 17-point night, and in Monday’s 33-21 win over Fauquier she scored a game-high 13 points.
“I tell you, she’s probably the fastest kid we’ve had at the guard position,” Scott said. “She’s a really good positional point guard. She’s made for that position. We have no problem with her as far as getting to the rim and playing transition defense, it’s about doing what we can to develop all her skills.”
Scott said Robinson should be an effective post player, and Long is a solid all-around player with potential.
Coach: Rhonda Slider, 4th season.
Last year: 9-13 (1-7 Northwestern District); lost in Northwestern District play-in to Skyline.
Key losses: Miranda Moore, Sarah Callaham, Dani Rizzari.
Key returnees: Whitney Dick, Jr. G; Erica Hepner, Sr. F; Brooke Nesselrodt, Jr. G; Morgan Duncan, So. F; Laura Seymour, Jr. G;
Top newcomers: Keiana Brooks, Fr. G; Emily Woods-Hulse, So. G; Brittany Arnold, Jr. F; Sarah Johnson, So. F; Kaitlyn Crane, So. G.
Outlook: The Colonels have gotten off to a 2-1 start, but James Wood might have to adjust more than it would like in the early going. Slider said Hepner suffered a knee injury last week in the first round of the Strasburg Tip-Off Tournament against Luray, which could sideline her for awhile.
“We thought with Erica and Morgan, our strength would be post play,” Slider said. “But we’re hoping that Whitney is really going to set the pace for us — she’s a very aggressive defender and can get to the basket — and Brooke will provide some outside shooting for us.”
Dick averaged 7.0 points and Nesselrodt averaged 6.9 on 35.9 percent 3-point shooting a year ago. Slider will also to the quick Brooks to lead.
The main thing that Slider wants to see from her team is consistency, which is why the team’s poor shooting against Luray was disappointing.
“We just need to get everyone playing the way we want to play and on the same page,” Slider said.
Coach: Tim Lawrence, 9th season
Last year: 9-14 (8-6 Bull Run District); lost to Madison County in Bull Run District quarterfinals
Key losses: Brittany Teasley, Megan Waring, Ammie Levi, Isabella Eyles.
Key returnees: Sydney Chrane, So. C; Anna Blue Catlett, So. Wing; Becky Smith, Sr. G; Rachel Sefton, Sr. G; Anna Bodkin, Jr. G.
Top newcomers: Hannah Ravenscroft, Fr. G; Allie Hicks, So. C; MacKenzie Kibler, So. F; Stephanie Nelson, Jr. F; Amanda Robinson. Jr. F;
Outlook: The Eagles are 3-0 after beating three Group AA teams, so Lawrence is naturally feeling good about his team’s chances for improvement.
“I think this team has a tremendous amount of potential,” said Lawrence, who won’t have Eyles because of injury and Levi because she’s focusing on volleyball. “We were very challenged on offense last year in terms of scoring, but I think we’ve improved in that area.”
With Chrane (second team All-Bull Run District last year, 10.9 points, 9.7 rebounds, 2.3 steals last year) averaging 22.3 points and Catlett (10.9 points last year) 12.7 thus far, the Eagles have a couple players who they can count on for points.
“[Chrane’s] improved all-around,” Lawrence said. “Her passing has improved, and the sky’s the limit for her. Anna Blue has gotten better on the defensive side of the ball, and is going to be a big presence for us.”
Ravenscroft has already been entrusted to run the point as a freshman, and the Eagles will look to Sefton and Smith in particular on the wings.
Coach: Lauren Culler, 5th season.
Last year: 31-9; NACA finalists; VACA State and VACA North Region champions.
Key losses: Allie Pieper, Sarah Benkendorf.
Key returnees: Shannon Conradi, Sr. Wing; Carol Bartholomew, So. F; Hannah McGann, So. G; Kayla Freemire, Sr. G.
Top newcomers: Amanda Barlow, Sr. F; MacKenzie Yarnall, Sr. Wing; Samantha Yarnall, Fr. G.
Outlook: Culler was worried about how the Patriots would fare inside this year without Pieper, but the addition of Barlow to team with Bartholomew (5.8 points, 6.8 rebounds last year) has kept the Patriots strong.
“[Barlow’s] got power and skill, but what’s really impressed me with how team-oriented she is,” Culler said. “She’s really embraced being here and has been a leader.”
Culler said the returning leadership of McGann, Bartholomew and Conradi has been key, and the addition of the Yarnall sisters — as well as Freemire’s defensive presence after a one-year absence from the team — has Culler thinking SVCA can match last year’s impressive campaign.
“I really do,” she said. “We’re strong inside, and we’ve got a lot of good ballhandlers, which we haven’t always had in the past.”
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