Outside the Huddle keeps their eyes on several area teams outside of the four major conferences. While yours truly can’t exactly predict an order of finish like I can in those conferences, I can give you a handful of teams and players in the area to keep an eye on.
You are welcome.
TEAMS TO WATCH
The Tigers lost two critical pieces to graduation but return 6 of their top 9 from a really good team. The senior class of Kensie Ryman (7.9 points per game), Audrey Grimm and Kendall Wayne all have really good experience and juniors Abby Sanner (8.9 ppg/7.8 rpg) and Kacilyn Krebs (7.4 ppg) may be the best duo that few in our area talk about. In other words, Warsaw is going to be just fine following up a 16-8 season where they went 6-1 in conference.
Coach Lenny Krebs is looking for who will step up and fill out a bench rotation and there are some options with Bailie Stephens also returning and a several capable players up from the junior varsity. Warsaw is not a team to be overlooked in Northeast Indiana and they will have a tough schedule to prove their worth.
This is a team who hasn’t played at a high level for multiple years, but things are changing in the building at Whitko. A new athletic director and a new head coach means a significantly new approach. Coach Justin Jordan‘s experience on the high school level is mostly with boys but he has been a successful girls coach in the summers. Whitko returns five players so experience is there, led by junior Kylie Fugett. This isn’t a one year fix at Whitko, but getting the girls confident on the offensive end could push them significantly up the ladder from where they have been.
“I’m just hoping the girls buy in to what I’m teaching them and learning how to play together. I know they’re going to play hard, and be very scrappy. I look forward to seeing how they develop throughout the season with all of them being young and not having any seniors. The culture will start to change around here,” Jordan said.
When you look at teams that went from afterthought in the eyes of some to high level team in the area’s lower classes, the story of the Braves has been great. They not only competed against similarly sized schools, winning a Sectional title was the icing on the cake in 2019-20. Hailee Kline (18 ppg) can make the argument that she is the best small school player in Northeast Indiana. The Braves will return five others with experiences, including Lily Helmuth (7 ppg), Lydia Stayton (5 ppg/6 rpg) and Aubree VanderDussen (6 ppg); they will all be expected to expand their roles.
“We are very excited about the potential of this group,” Blackhawk Christian coach Steph Gongaware said. “We lost some key contributors from last year’s team but the returners have put in a lot of work this offseason and are excited for the challenge.”
We all know how valuable Chloe Jolloff is and she can also lay claim to possibly being the best small school player in Northeast Indiana. Her numbers beyond her 17 points per game continued to rise last year. Who will step up behind her is a big question as the Panthers have some unexpected roles to fill from last year’s younger team. Watch for junior Frannie Talarico to step up big; she is pretty scrappy. Kenzie Shepherd will be critical in cleaning misses at the rim.
Hailee Kline, Blackhawk Christian
Kline is a multi-tool kid who really shined a season ago. She can fly around the court and play big or she can sneak under the radar well. If Blackhawk Christian hopes to repeat as Sectional champions, the ball should be in Kline’s hands substantially as she can score in a variety of ways.
Chloe Jolloff, Lakewood Park
Jolloff has seen the highest highs and some low lows during her time with Lakewood Park. Yet, heading into her senior season, she has the Panthers primed for another Sectional title run. Teams key on her pretty hard so Jolloff will be looked at to create through contact and all kinds of junk defenses. Can she? So far in her career, she has been able to showcase significant growth each season so there is no reason to expect her not to.
PLAYERS ON THE RISE
Brookelyn Coburn, Whitko
Whitko is going to have to advance a lot of their statistical numbers this year especially to be able to fight for the ball on the glass. Coburn averaged 3.9 rebounds per game last season, the best among all returners. The Wildcats are going to look to her to keep getting them opportunities and she could be a really physical player to keep an eye on.
Emma Garriott, Manchester
The senior guard is small but can play mighty. Her shooting numbers need to improve but there is no doubt that she can get her shots both moving without the ball and creating some for herself. Garriott led Manchester at 7.1 points per game and if her numbers in shooting percentage improve even slightly, her scoring has the ability to skyrocket.
Aubree Vander Dussen, Blackhawk Christian
Vander Dussen did some good work a year ago and heading into her senior season she will have more room to work and grow in a system that caters her to her style of play. If Vander Dussen can move well with and without the ball, look for things to open up for her to improve on her six point per game average where she could be a real catalyst for a postseason run because of her drive to get to the rim.
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