After a pandemic-interrupted season, Southside girls basketball teams are eager for a full year on the hardwood.
The Southside has a different look for the 2021-2022 campaign after the graduation of Indiana All-Star Maddie Bischoff of Roncalli, Mary Wilson of Center Grove, and Izzy Reed of Greenwood Christian after leading the Cougars to their second straight Final Four appearance in Class A.
Key players this season include Franklin Central’s Rayah Kincer, an Indiana All-Star candidate; Center Grove junior Savanna Bischoff, a Roncalli transfer; Greenwood senior Quinn Kelly; Greenwood Christian Academy senior Dory O’Dell; Perry Meridian’s Ella Scaringe; Southport’s CeCe Mitchell, and Roncalli junior Sydney Horton.
Kincer scored 22 points for FC in a 48-45 opener at Center Grove, and Mitchell scored 19 points against Speedway in Southport’s 55-40 win Thursday.
Some familiar multi-sport student-athletes also are back on the hardwood; namely Emma Halter, a backcourt starter for Roncalli after finishing her schoolgirl volleyball career as a libero on the Royals’ Final Four team; GCA guard Ellie Bigelow, who was the Cougars’ outstanding soccer goalkeeper; and Beech Grove sophomore Malone Moore, one of the state’s outstanding young softball pitchers.
The Southside’s new look finds a combo of Christel House Manual in Class A and four new head coaches.
Amanda Davidson, who coached professional basketball in Germany for four years, takes over at Perry Meridian where legendary mentor Denise McClanahan is an assistant. Davidson played for McClanahan in grade school.
Amy Selk, a former graduate assistant coach at the University of Indianapolis, heads the Beech Grove program.
Former Central Christian assistant Will Ferris is at Lutheran, succeeding 15-year coach Joe Morgan, and Andrew William Moore, a 1995 Beech Grove graduate and former Milan coach, is constructing the Christal House Manual program.
The Southside season outlook (all statistics from last season):
Beech Grove (3A, 4-19) - New coach Amy Selk became acquainted with some Hornets just before school ended.
“I saw some of the girls play in Lady Mac (summer ball), so I got to see them play,” Selk said. “These girls work hard and they’re starting to lock in on the little details. There is a recipe for success here again. We’re creating that foundation and that hype.”
Seniors are 5-7 forward rebounder Alexis Sterrett and twins Robyn Warner, a good mid-range shooter, and Samantha Warner, an undersized forward who can score from 3-point range.
Versatile sophomore Malone Moore also returns. Breanne Veal, is a projected starter at the point and is among a solid freshman group that also includes Brookelynne Rucker and 5-2 Joslyn Johnson..
“Breanne has good court vision and knows not to turn the ball over,” Selk said. “We have five freshmen on board and they are very motivated.”
Selk would like to stay with an in-your-face man-to-man defense and some zone with a patient offense.
“There’s a fine line between taking the quick shot and not taking a shot that you just passed up,” Selk continued. “We’re trying to figure out the shot selection so we can develop the offense.”
The Hornets open with three conference games among its first five contests.
Center Grove (4A, 14-11) - Coach Kevin Stuckmeyer (78-29) begins his fifth season with no seniors. The Trojans graduated three seniors from last year’s team and have seven juniors, four sophomores and one freshman on this year’s varsity.
“There will be some growing pains as we work with new faces and blend in,” Stuckmeyer observed. “These girls are conscientious and they will find a way to compete, but you don’t get that until they pay their dues.”
The Trojans have a trio of 3-point shooters with juniors Ella Hobson and Aubrie Booker and sophomore Savanna Bischoff (Roncalli transfer) plus 5-7 guard Emily Karr and 6-3 sophomore Rachel Wirts, who takes over for graduated center Mary Wilson, as starters.
Off the bench, Stuckmeyer can call upon juniors Emily Karr, Aina Williams, and Lindsey Walker plus freshman Lilly Bischoff (Roncalli transfer) in the backcourt and Ali Wiesmann (Perry Meridian transfer) and Kaho Takeda at forward.
The Trojans have two sectional championships, a Final Four appearance, and are two-time sectional finalists under Stuckmeyer who has set the bar high this season for a young team that needs to blend together.
“We have a lot of new pieces and we’re trying to figure out our identity,” Stuckmeyer said.”We’re capable of making it happen.
“The hope is when you play Center Grove that you know what identity, at least, you will see, Stuckmeyer continued. There’s going to be a toughness; a sense of urgency; a competitiveness; we’re going to take care of the ball, take great shots, make you earn it, and make you feel uncomfortable.”
CG opens defense of its county championship Tuesday, Nov. 16 in Vandermeer Gymnasium against Edinburgh and the Royals are gearing up for rugged MIC competition.
Christel House Manual (1-10) - First-year Eagles coach Andrew William Moore from Washington Catholic guides a new team that incorporates the two schools for the first time. He is a former assistant coach at Christel House. Most of the 13-player roster are from Christel House.
“We’ve not had any issues with the kids blending in as one team, but to build a culture is a bit challenging,” Moore said in historic Cummins Gymnasium. “The older kids are starting to get it, so I look for that to filter down to our younger players.”
Senior Jalei Edwards (Franklin transfer) brings strong leadership and a high basketball IQ. Junior Jazlyn Clark brings toughness, physicality and leadership. Junior standout Keira Noe played for Christel House last year. Freshman Tamara Futrell is a solid defender. Determined sophomore Zoe Robertson also will contribute.
“Everything is brand new to these kids,” Moore said. “We have to raise our skill level and our effort; those are my main priorities now, not necessarily the x’s and o’s because these kids will pick up those things very fast.
Moore concluded, “Long term we’re looking okay but short term it will be rough for a few weeks.”
He will be assisted by his sister T.J. Moore.
Franklin Central (4A, 5-13) - The Flashes are more than prepared to put last season’s pandemic-interrupted season behind them. The team was quarantined for six total weeks and had to reschedule at least 11 games and cancel four games.
Veteran coach Vince Cerbone returns with seven players, including including Indiana All-Star candiate Rayah Kincer (19.0 points, 7.3 rebounds), a 5-10 multi-position standout who is a true gym rat. The offense features a solid trio of Kincer, 5-10 sophomore Carys Wilson (7.0 points, 3.4 rebounds) and 5-10 freshman sharpshooter Lily Graves. Juniors Mattie Finney and Abby Steinhofer are starters.
The Flashes’ depth is solid with senior Bekah Ruley, juniors Adalyn Barlow and Madison Monday, sophomore Lauren Baker, and freshman Emma McVey.
“We’re trying to up the tempo on the offensive end to create more opportunities; our top players prefer that style,” Cerbone said. “Wilson is one of the better sophomores in the state and Graves is one of the top freshmen. We’re young and have a lot of room to grow. We’ve made major improvements and believe we’re better off than last year.”
Cerbone wants Wilson to be more aggressive in scoring along with Finney, who is the team’s best defender. Steinhofer takes over the board work from graduated 5-10 center Maddie Weaver.
Defensively, the Flashes will rely on man-to-man with some zone and full-court pressure.
“This group works so consistently hard; the work ethic is there on a daily basis,” Cerbone said. “We have more shooters than we’ve had in the past, but we need to learn how to score at a high level.”
Cerbone said he will know more about the Flashes by the time they take on Roncalli in the Marion County tourney in early December.
Greenwood (4A, 3-15) - Coach Justin Bennett is in his fourth year at the helm with his most talented and experienced team. That could be good news for a program that has won only a dozen games in the last three years.
“This year with the experience we have coming back, they look like it and are more comfortable with what we’re doing,” Bennett said during a recent practice. “Athletically and versatility, we’ll be a lot better, too. On defense, we will start with ball-pressure up front and we should be able to get up and down a little bit more.”
The only senior on a junior dominate team is 5-11 Quinn Kelly (9.4 points, 7.3 rebounds), a four-year starter. Sophomore point guard Brooklyn Bell (6.3 points) has basketball savvy and can shoot the 3. Lily Howe is a transfer from Providence who promises to be the missing link. The juniors are Ella Stivers (5.3 points), with an improved perimeter game, Josie Ochsner who missed most of last season with an injury, and Kira Faulkner. Freshman Keyra Johnson is expected to contribute quickly as a tenacious defender.
“Depth-wise we are a lot better than in the past and that’s why we’ve had good competition against each other in our practices,” Bennett said. “This group is good-spirited and they love being around each other.”
The roster includes one senior, five juniors, four sophomores, and one freshman. The Woodmen may look young but they’re not.
“I think we could sneak up on some people, but that’s a game-by-game thing,” Bennett observed. “The kids believe in what we’re trying to do; they just need to go out, do it, and find a way to win.”
The Woodmen will be trying to snap a skid of five losing seasons.
Greenwood Christian (1A, 16-7) - Coming off their second straight Final Four playoff appearance, the Cougars will discover what life’s like without Izzy, Savvanah, and Brooklyn – that is Reed, Frye, and Stubblefield. Those three seniors accounted for 50 points, 20 rebounds, and 11.5 assists per game last season.
“Obviously it’s going to be different with losing 4,000 career points between those three,” observed coach Alan Weems, the dean of Johnson County coaches. “There are easy ways to compensate for that. We’re asking the kids to take on different roles and to do things better than they’ve done it before. The baseline is there for them to be successful.
“We’ve got some kids that I’m very confident in,” he observed. “I’m seeing a lot of improvement.”
The Cougars offense begins with multi-sport 5-8 senior Ellie Bigelow (10.1 points), 5-11 Dory O’Dell, sharpshooter Chloe Grider and 5-7 Dani Simon, each played in the Jasper Semistate last spring.
“We’re going to expect the same from Eillie (Bigelow) that she’s done before - handle the ball, shoot it well when you have the opportunity, and make good decisions,” Weems said of the Cougars leader. “She just keeps getting better and better.”
Weems also has 5-8 sophomore Sydney Waldron, a transfer from Providence, along with juniors, 5-5 guard Lauren Peterson, 5-8 Addie Jolley, and 5-6 Ellie Sloan. Bigelow, Simon, Grider, and Waldron can handle the ball in the backcourt. O’Dell is expected to be more aggressive.
“We’re quicker this year and we our physicality is strong,” Weems said. “We will defend; hopefully we can hold teams in the low- to mid-40s. We averaged 66 points (offense) last year but we’re going to count a lot more on our defense.”
Even with the losses of three key graduates, Weems admits, “I’m sure when these kids look around, they think this is a different team. But they’ve waited for this. These kids were in the background when the three seniors got a lot of attention. It’s their turn now.”
The Cougars have a string of three sectional and two regional championships but have not gone beyond the Final Four as Loogootee has been their nemesis.
Lutheran (1A, 8-17) - Will Ferris, a first-year varsity mentor, takes the throttle from veteran coach and
racing enthusiast Joe Morgan who had 120 wins and one sectional title in 15 years.
The Saints have only eight players, including returnees, 5-5 senior point guard Bekah Caston (4.6 points, 3.0 assists), 5-7 junior center Cora Deane who is coming back from a knee injury, and sophomores, vastly improved 5-1 Caitlyn Brooks and scrappy 5-3 Aubree Bailey. Newcomers are senior forward Jaelah Chenault, sophomore guards Grace King and Kayla Burns, and freshman Kaitlyn Rose.
Ferris prefers up-tempo rather than a half-court offense and ball pressure on defense rather than a zone.
“Most of these players are fundamentally sound, but they are a young team,” said Ferris, who pointed out that five Saints played summer ball. “That gives us the opportunity to do some advance things which gives me hope that we can remain mostly competitive this year.”
Lutheran has the smallest enrollment in the Indiana Crossroads Conference and plays “up” against 10 teams in higher classifications.
Perry Meridian (4A, 10-14) - First-year varsity coach Amanda Davidson moves from being the Falcons’ boys freshman coach to the girls’ varsity coach. So she is somewhat familiar with this year’s players.
Davidson will rely on 5-9 senior guard Ella Scaringe, who could be one of the county’s surprise standouts and 5-7 junior guard Maya Mundy.
“They must continue to develop as leaders, but also they will be our key players to help with the younger players,” Davidson said. “They want it really bad and they want to improve every day.”
Senior guard Alli Rastrelli also is among six returnees including 5-8 junior guard Reagan Rhea and sophomores, 5-11 Brooke Drew, 5-8 Kaleigh Butts, and 5-8 Izzy Egan.
Davidson wants the Falcons to play fast and aggressive but under control and stick to the basics.
“I’ll play the girls who work the hardest and who really want to play,” Davidson said. “I want them to play together.”
One of Davidson’s assistants is legendary girls’ basketball mentor Denise McClanahan, who has developed young players throughout the Southside for decades.
Roncalli (4A, 20-5) - Second-year coach Tim Gray guided the Royals to their first 20-win season and sectional title in five years, but graduated four-year starters Indiana All-Star and No. 3 all-time Royals scorer Maddie Bischoff, 1,532 points, and twins Abbie and top rebounder Sofie Carr.
“We do have some experience back, but the girls who came off the bench last year will have to step into bigger roles,” Gray said. “We were seven-deep last year but now our players, four through 13, are pretty even and will have to contribute. We’ll have some time to find scorers.”
Two-year junior starter Sydney Horton is the most experienced Royal as Gray looks for 5-9 junior Jordan Hendricks and 5-6 sophomore Claire Lindsey to increase production as starters. National volleyball standout 5-5 Emma Halter 5-5 Cate Lehner, 5-7 Ainsley Newett, and 5-9 Tori Candler are seniors. Junior forward 5-9 Josie Origer and 5-6 sophomore guard Aubrey Silcox show promise. Junior Anna Dressman and sophomore Taylor Turk will be counted on, too.
The Royals open Thursday at Pike.
Southport (4A, 4-16) - Cardinals graduated two starters (Gracie Cherry and Maddy Newhouse) among four seniors from team that won only four games last year. Coach Adam Morelock has eight returnees which gives him more balance and depth. Loss of junior Katie Cherry, a 5-4 guard, due to a second ACL surgery, is a setback.
Responsibility for more scoring and ball-handling falls to 5-4 senior/three-year starter Miranda Deane (10.7 points, 5.2 rebounds) with help up front from senior 5-8 Cece Mitchell (6.7 points, 5.2 rebounds) and junior Lela Scott (4.4 points, 4.1 rebounds). Juniors, 5-8 Emily Galbraith and 5-7 Bre Reed, could join them as starters.
“We’re working on trying to put them in the right places in the lineup to be successful,” Morelock said. “It’s down to who looks best in practice and how we can rotate them. We’re hoping to see results early.”
Senior guard Taleah Nool and junior Marianna Martinez add depth. Freshmen, 5-11 Sophia Hguyen and 5-6 Kassie McMasters, are new to varsity competition.
Morelock had to use 16 different starting lineups last year due to the pandemic. He wants this year’s Cardinals to push the pace and be defensive-minded to hold foes to less than 50 points while offense finds more points.