Coverage of two Thursday night sporting events that was scheduled to appear in today’s sports section will not, as one event was postponed and the other cancelled.
Given that I need to fill the sports page(s) with some local content, I decided to use some of today’s space for a peek ahead to the 2021-22 high school girls basketball season for our six local teams plus another on the fringe of the local area.
Before I start, I want to remind readers that The Courier-Times soon will publish the final statistics package for the 2020-21 local high school girls basketball teams, followed afterward by the story of the C-T All-Area Teams, Player of the Year, and Coach of the year.
Be sure to watch for these features in upcoming editions of this newspaper.
Unlike last season, the 2020-21 campaign was dominated by seniors, give or take a few cases here and there. So we’ll start the analysis of next season with the teams that will suffer the heaviest graduation losses, Shenandoah and Tri, as both will see four starters pick up their diplomas this coming spring.
To state that this year’s senior group of Raider players consisting of Erikka Hill, Kathryn Perry, Jenna Stewart, and Rachel Soden was successful is an understatement.
That quartet was a part of Shenandoah teams that appeared in four consecutive sectional championship games, won two sectional titles, was a regional runner-up, and won the Mid-Eastern Conference championship last season (2019-20) plus two Henry County Tournament titles.
They will leave a huge void to fill, as that foursome provided most of the scoring, rebounds, assists, and steals this season, so who will step in to fill that void?
Obviously, one person who is in line to do so is the other starter on this year’s team, sophomore Kayla Muterspaugh, who averaged 3.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, and one steal and assist apiece per game.
Reserves who got a lot of playing time with the varsity during the 2020-21 campaign were junior Hannah Zody (2.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.1 apg, 1.8) and Holly Shepherd (1.7 ppg, 1.1 rpg).
The Raiders’ sectional roster also included sophomore Ali Brown (2.6 ppg), sophomore Addie Pruett (1.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg), and sophomore Carly Chandler (0.9 ppg, 1.6).
Undoubtedly, some players from this year’s junior varsity team and perhaps some incoming freshmen will occupy some varsity spots, but Head Coach Dameon Wyatt faces a major rebuilding (or reloading) task in the northwestern part of Henry County.
The Titans also had four senior starters this season in Maddie Burchett, Chloe Gentry, MacKenzie Neeley, and Averi Phelps, plus senior reserve Kennedy Peggs. Those five girls will pick up their diplomas this spring.
During their four year’s of high school, this senior group was a part of teams that won two Henry County Tournament championships, a sectional championship (as freshmen), and a sectional runner-up finish in 2020.
The only starter returning next season is current sophomore Bailey Parham, who is a good one as she averaged 11.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg, and 1.9 spg this season.
Other players scheduled to return who got significant varsity playing time this season are sophomore Abi Clarke (4.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg), junior Ally Wissler (3.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg), and junior Ashtyn Harvey 92.1 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.4 apg).
When most of the varsity players couldn’t finish out the season due to COVID-19 quarantine issues, several younger girls stepped up and played well.
Those girls, who played in at least six varsity contests and plan to return, are sophomore Amber Rich (3.6 ppg, 1.1 rpg, 1.0 spg, 1.1 bpg), freshman Rylee Boyd (3.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.8 spg), freshman McKaela Betsch (2.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg), junior Maleah Hewitt (1.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg), and junior Cayla Claar (1.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg).
In all probability, Head Coach Jeff Miller will have some other girls from the JV team and perhaps an incoming freshman or two to round out the rest of his varsity roster in 2021-22.
Blue River Valley
The Vikings say goodbye to this season’s senior starters Abby Thornburgh and Mallory Cross, plus senior reserve Lexi Whitinger.
This trio was part of a team that won three consecutive sectional championships, a regional title, and a Mid-Eastern Conference championship (in 2020-21).
Blue River will miss those seniors, but is well equipped to soldier on next season under Head Coach Terry Bales’ guidance, as it will return its top two scorers in current junior Ally Madden and sophomore Maci Chamberlin, both of whom are starters.
During the 2020-21 campaign, Madden averaged 17.4 ppg, 110.8 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.3 spg, and 2.6 bpg. Chamberlin produced 15.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.2 apg, and 2.2 spg. The other starter, junior Emma Blackburn, averaged 5.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, and 1.5 spg.
Other Viking girls who played in 10 or more varsity games and plan to return are junior Samantha Loveless (4.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.7 spg), junior Samantha Webb (2.5 ppg), sophomore Trinity Driskill (0.8 ppg, 1.7 rpg), freshman Maciah Driskill (1.3 ppg, 0.9 rpg), and junior Jenna Willis (1.1 ppg).
Blue River freshmen Ava Willis, Sydney Fellers, Reagan Parmley, and Tara Jarvis were on the sectional roster and will seek some varsity playing time next season.
Girls not coming out for the team or transferring to another school, injuries, and COVID-19 issues hit the Trojans hard this season, which is one reason their final record was what it was.
New Castle says goodbye to two seniors: leading scorer and rebounder Macayla McGowan plus Mackenzie Bridgeman.
One player the Trojans missed greatly this season was 6-0 sophomore Sakagawea Watson, who was averaging 8.0 ppg, 4.7 rpg, and 2.3 bpg before tearing her ACL early in the third game of the season and did not play again. Plans are for her to return and be a vital cog in next season’s team.
Junior Maddy Meek was injured during soccer season and didn’t play basketball until about midway through the season. In 12 games, Meek was the team’s second-leading scorer and rebounder at 10.6 ppg and 5.2 rpg, and will be vital to the 2021-22 team’s success.
Head Coach Molly Swift had to turn to younger girls as starters and for production, and this should be a benefit for next season.
Of those girls playing in seven or more varsity games, sophomore Jayci Reeves provided 3.9 ppg and 2.3 rpg; freshman Emma Hart averaged 3.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, and 1.4 spg; sophomore Chloe Vaughn provided 3.1 ppg and 1.8 rpg; freshman Morley Blessinger contributed 2.6 ppg and 3.2 rpg; sophomore Ava Stearns produced 1.6 ppg and 1.7 rpg; and sophomore Arey McTier averaged 0.9 ppg and 2.0 rpg.
Juniors Raynee Young and Grace Wickes, sophomore Savannah Kernel, and freshmen Devyn Ayers, Addison McGowan, and Jaylee Bush also were on the sectional roster and may compete for more varsity minutes next season.
The Panthers got better as the season progressed and will see three seniors graduate this spring: their top two leading scorers and rebounders in Rena’ Witham and Brachelle Wisner plus Mattie Manning. All three were starters.
Junior Paige Personett (3.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.1 apg) was another starter who got injured after playing in eight games and did not return this season. Her leadership and production will be crucial in 2021-22.
Therefore, Head Coach Darren Kessler turned to younger players to fill the other starting positions and play major roles coming off the bench.
Two freshmen and a sophomore emerged to get major minutes for Knightstown this season. They were sophomore Avery Bever (3.4 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 1.3 spg), freshman Taylor Reagan (3.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 1.0 spg), and freshman Jalyn Kopp (2.6 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.4 spg).
Other younger players seeing varsity action in at least 20 games were freshman Destiny McGlothin (1.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg, .500 shooting on three-pointers), freshman Allie Smith, and freshman Hannah Mefford.
Also on the Panthers’ sectional roster were sophomores Allexus Beckstrom, Cassidy Bertram, Reese McDonald, and Zoe Beabout, plus freshmen Emily Mathews and Zoey Wilkinson. All will seek varsity spots and playing time in 2021-22.
The Tigers say goodbye to six seniors, including four-year varsity starter Hallie Rogers who led Hagerstown in scoring, rebounding, assists, and steals. The others are Makayla Matanich, Makynna Matanich, Kyley Farmer, Ashlynn Oliger, and Heather Eales.
However, Head Coach Chris Oliger doesn;t have an empty cupboard of varsity talent returning, as two starters plan to return for next season.
Those two are junior Madelynn Ward (6.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.6 spg) and junior Grace Klein 96.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.1 bpg). Other players who were some of the first off the bench this season are junior Marissa Slagle (1.3 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and sophomore Delaney Oliger (1.0 ppg, 6.1 rpg).
Junior Tori Kelley (2.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.2 apg) got injured after six games and did not return to compete. Her presence on the court next season will be welcomed. Sophomore Hannah Ridge also was on the Tigers’ sectional roster.
The Rockets bid goodbye to seniors Danielle Ogden, Autumn Rice, and Harley Losey, but will return much production next season.
Union won nine games this season and finished as runner-up to Blue River Valley in Class A Sectional 56. So things are looking up for Head Coach Ryan Chiddister and the other folks in southwestern Randolph County.
Planning to return for the 2021-22 campaign are junior Taryn Armour, sophomores Honour Ellis and Brenda Foy, and freshmen Zoe Ogden, Kaitlynn Holderman, and Lilly Pierce.
Ellis was named to the All-Mid-Eastern Conference team.
The Rockets will look for other girls to help fill out the varsity roster, as they had no junior varsity team this season.