A lot of familiar and big time faces have disappeared from the Northeast 8 Conference, but has it brought parity to some of the groupings? The top contenders from last season pretty much stay in their places, but with some new faces and new coaches, the gap between four and eight may be closer than its ever been.
NOTE: The order of teams listed is Bounce’s personal predicted order of finish. Don’t sue me.
Norwell has always been right there at the top of the Northeast 8, but last year was kind of a year of destiny for Bellmont under the reign of Grace Hunter. But things have flipped back quickly. Norwell graduated some great talent, but return as much as anyone in the conference behind their guard trio of Lauren Bales (Top 50 Girls Hoops #30), Kaylee Fuelling (Top 50 Girls Hoops: #6 Kaylee Fuelling) and Maiah Shelton (Top 50 Girls Hoops #9). This team is going to play very high level and disciplined basketball.
Bellmont developed a brand around Grace Hunter and those four years went fast. But once the Squaws started winning, it became contagious in their program. Coach Andy Heim showed his players that buying in and working hard was the only way to contend. So here they are, without the best player in their program’s history and still near the top. Expect Bellmont versus Norwell to be a battle again.
Columbia City built themselves for this season and will again be right there in the NE8 but have to warn against early letdowns. Olivia Shearer (Top 50 Girls Basketball #27) is one of the top players in the conference and nostalgia gets to play a role too as the Eagles play their final season in their current school. A key for the Eagles will be how well they can rebound the basketball because, as noted, the teams above them are workhorses. Look for Bekah Marshall to breakout, more on that below.
Leo is a team that will be looking to shore things up with Hannah Adams patrolling the middle. Expect more from Olivia Simcox as a senior leader that can help propel confidence forward with this team even though they are younger than the top teams in the NE8.
East Noble was led by five sophomores last season and that worked out directly in their favor in rebuilding the program. Carly Turner and Grace Patton both return for a team that will lean on their experience. Turner’s 23 points against a quality defensive Snider team last season was a solid indication of her potential. Avan Beiswanger will also return after missing last season.
New Haven will be another team to take on a new coach as former Bishop Luers assistant and Harding grad MyQueisha Bratton takes over a team with just nine wins in the past three seasons. To change the culture at New Haven won’t be easy but Bratton appears to have a solid connection with this group. Kayla Williams has really good length and the junior guard could be the standout player for the Bulldogs. Look for Avarcia Nard to continue to play a big role. Saniya Jordan could be a good addition coming off a strong volleyball season.
Huntington North also has a new coach as Matt Hinds moves over from his role as an assistant on the boys side. He will have some work to do to grow this program. Reece Colclesser is a pace setter who’s value will be determined by her court vision. There will be growing pains for the Vikings.
DeKalb is looking to play fast this season and try to run with the NE8 big dogs, which is a pace that helped them two years ago, but there is still no Leigha Brown. Yet, they can still get some quality shooting from Paige Pettis, who shined with quality playing time on and off last season and averaged a team best 7.9 points per game. Can they defend as quick as they hope to?
Maiah Shelton of Norwell (pictured) is my kind of player. She is tenacious, doesn’t look like she has a care in the world except taking the basketball away from you and putting it in the hoop. Shelton is tough and toughness wins basketball games and Bounce’s fandom.
Carly Mabie of Columbia City (Top 50 Girls Hoops #36) will be the tone setter for a Columbia City team again with moderately lofty expectations. Jitters should be gone and Mabie, I think, is going to perform as one of the conference’s best defenders.
Meghan Busick of Bellmont is the enigma here. If she looks at 100 percent coming off her season ending injury, she will be in the mix as the NE8’s best player. She can do a little bit of everything very well. Players in the area are becoming more diverse but many at the risk of not being as strong in those areas. Name an area that Busick isn’t good at; I’ll wait.
PLAYERS ON THE RISE
Bekah Marshall (Top 50 Girls Hoops #31) of Columbia City has a really solid output last season, but the Eagles success this time around may be a direct result of how well she can score and rebound on the offensive end. She could end up going from a player on the rise to one of the conference’s best.
Kiley Crow of Norwell has been talked so well about by coach Eric Thornton, it is hard to not be excited to see her development. She will fit perfectly into Norwell’s drive first mentality but also has a stellar shot. She is certainly going to fight to be the NE8’s breakout player.
Avarcia Nard of New Haven showcased a lot of really good effort last season despite a dismal season at New Haven. She is a hard fighting rebounder and defender who caught Bounce’s eye in their Sectional loss. If the Bulldogs will be better, a lot of it will have to do with Nard.
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