Good luck predicting how things could go in the Northeast 8 Conference this season. We thought we had a handle on things last season but several teams put several wrenches in those expectations. Expect this though: a very competitive top end to the NE8.
If you have been paying attention to our Girls Hoops Preseason Top 50, then the “impact players” shouldn’t surprise you so we will be brief, but keep an eye on those players on the rise, all young ladies NOT in our preseason Top 50.
NOTE: The order of teams listed is Bounce’s personal predicted order of finish. Don’t sue me.
The three headed monster (Maiah Shelton, Lauren Bales, Kaylee Fuelling) is back for Norwell and that alone should have them at the top of the conference. As one of two NE8 teams in the OTH area wide preseason top 10, Norwell has really continued to separate themselves with their consistency and poise in pressure situations. Look for them to keep up that tempo not just with their those three senior guards that have continued to lead them. Grace Bradtmueller is going to be very important to control the inside; she reads the floor and game well. Junior Mackinzie Tolliver returns and classmate Emily Todd is up after being the JV leading scorer last season. You can read more on Norwell on their full Top 10 team preview.
“We return solid experience and leadership. We are also very excited about who we add to our rotation. This group has a great opportunity to improve from last season against an extremely difficult schedule,” Norwell coach Eric Thornton said.
East Noble Knights
This is a team that surprised some when OTH placed them in the preseason Top 10, but for that bovine and others, I say: give it time to percolate. This is a very good team who can frustrate opponents and provided some interesting moments a year ago. They have grown tremendously with their abilities and new coach Shawn Kimmel is focused on pressure, something he really knows how to coach. Karly Kirkpatrick, Carly Turner and Avan Beiswanger are major returners. Bounce also really likes Kylie Garton and what she can bring to that defensive structure.
Columbia City Eagles
The Eagles lost a ton of experience, scoring, rebounding and depth to graduation but they are going to right there in the hunt to repeat as champions after claiming a share of the NE8 last season. This is a team that could have a lot of success at the rim this season and will likely play to those strengths. They return three quality forwards in Hayley Urban (6.2 ppg/1.4 appg, Madison Woodward (7.4 ppg/4.3 rpg) and Bekah Marshall (6.3 ppg) and the 10 rebounds per game the three of them bring back will rise significantly because they are feisty. Marshall is one that Bounce has an eye on for a breakout campaign. Junior Brooke Lickey, sophomore Mattie Stonebraker and freshman Kyndra Sheets are all guards that join the team and help spread things out.
Huntington North Vikings
If you are going to beat the Vikings, you have to find a way around their smothering defense. Last season, Huntington North gave up just 30.7 points per contest, including beating Bellmont 21-16, Concordia 21-19 and North Side 60-2. While the Vikings have the athleticism to run, they can slow the game down and assert their will in pace very well and they will continue to do so. Six Vikings return to the varsity team, headed by experienced seniors Reece Colclesser (7.6 ppg/43% three point) and Katelyn Arnold (5.2 ppg/3 rpg) as well as breakout sophomore Taylor Double (7.8 ppg). Look for Colclesser and Double to really be the ones to handle pacing and tone for this group. Junior Leah Campbell (7.3 ppg/1.8 spg) is another major piece to handle perimeter control.
“We have to remember what we have centered our culture around and commit to an ‘All In’ approach day in and day out. There will be adversity in 2020…we must overcome,” Huntington North coach Matt Hinds said.
It feels weird and almost wrong to list Bellmont this low, but there is a reason we have so many “contenders” in the NE8 this season. Do not discount Bellmont. A major test for them is their identity; Bellmont is a girls basketball power still, but they have to play without any of their big three now and they have to replace graduated pieces. Morgan Shifferly (9.9 ppg/6.4 rpg) and Kenzie Fuelling (5.9 ppg/2.6 spg) lead the charge of returners; Shifferly brings a lot of excitement and fight to the table. Fellow seniors Faith Morris and Lauren Bleke bring a lot of energy to the table. Bleke (3 ppg) played in all 25 games a year ago so she does have experience to add. Bellmont will bring up three sophomores to make up their depth.
“It seems like our conference and Sectional gets tougher every year, but we hope to compete for both of those. We hope we can build on our momentum from the last few years and continue to improve,” Bellmont coach Andy Heim said.
New Haven Bulldogs
The rebuilding at New Haven is getting closer to finding success despite a 4-18 record a year ago. The Bulldogs are playing tougher and stronger basketball led by Avarcia Nard (11.3 ppg/5.2 rpg) who has been there through all of the lumps they have taken. Nard is a consistent player who really drives how this team goes. Kayla Williams joined the Bulldogs last year as a long, athletic threat, who’s 8.5 rebounds per game was a conference best; she also had a NE8 third-best 12.6 points per contest. They make up two of a seven senior player class and New Haven returns all five starters. Point guard Tamara Wade is going to be a good pace setter.
“Last year was definitely a year of rebuilding and growing, I spent a lot of time creating a foundation and cultivating a culture for a successful program. Rapport building, character building, learning a brand new system and basketball philosophy, as well as unlearning a lot of bad habits and thinking errors— a complete paradigm shift for the girls and I,” New Haven coach MyQueisha Bratton said. “It was tough on all of us, but where there is growth one must experience pain. Unequivocally, none of us enjoyed the pain and discomfort endured during the rebuilding process but that pain will be the very thing that will catapult us to a new level of excellence. I believe that!”
The Lions are still a very young program and are one in the rebuilding mode with just one senior, Jocelyn Roth, returning this coming season. Leah May (5.7 ppg/4 rpg) is going to have a lot of pressure to take over as a wing player and even though she is just a sophomore, her pace of play is solid. Junior Katharine Scrogham (5.4 ppg/3rpg/2.3 apg) is also going to be good returning pace setter and Leo will need to build the program around those two since this is not their last season. Roth (4.7 ppg) is going to be a big part of that too though since she has seen a lot in her time as a Lion. Gabrielle Adams, Haley Schott and Katelyn Fry will all bring back quality experience as well and you have to like having that type of returning depth.
“We look forward to having a group of girls who are coachable, give 100 percent and are ready to improve on last year’s season. We will still be young, but these girls are gearing up to be more competitive this year,” Leo coach Carrie Shappell said.
Seniors Paige Pettis (6.7 ppg/6 rpg) and Sarah Brown (5.6 ppg) will lead the Barons into a new season and they both have a lot of experience as DeKalb too is still in rebuild mode. Pettis is one of the better players in the conference that doesn’t get talked about enough because of their final record last season but she fights hard at the rim and shoot the ball fairly well. When looking into this season and beyond though, DeKalb is going to need to build their identity around sophomores Maddie Hickman and Lillie Cone, who both could help raise the Barons back up the NE8. Hickman (4.4 rpg/2.3 spg) is a super tough defender that can turn defense into instant offense where she shot a team best 56 percent from the field. As Cone’s confidence rises, she could be a very dangerous shooting threat; she hit 32 percent of her three pointers last season.
Maiah Shelton, Norwell
Shelton takes over games when she wants to and is unstoppable at her best in the NE8. This conference is hers to rule if she puts in the effort nightly and she has the motivation to keep Norwell at the top and as the sole conference champion.
Morgan Shifferly, Bellmont
Continuing Bellmont’s winning mentality has to fall on Shifferly, who coach Andy Heim says has become a gym rat. The more time Shifferly spends in the gym, the better the team will be because Bellmont’s other players will buy in to her lead.
Karly Kirkpatrick, East Noble
A tenacious player, Kirkpatrick is who East Noble will hand the ball off to in order to lead the way. She is going to push the pace under a new regime that really wants to fly around the court.
PLAYERS ON THE RISE
Avan Beiswanger, East Noble
She may not get enough credit for how much she contributes to East Noble but Beiswanger is a steady hand who can really spread things out. She is a true matchup issue because of her length and if she can add more toughness to her game, she will be even harder to guard.
Kayla Williams, New Haven
It is unlikely we have seen Williams reach her peak yet and she could be one of the top three players in the Northeast 8 by the end of the season. New Haven needed a lot of things in their rebuild and one of them was a player who could really take over games. If New Haven ends up being a top half team in the NE8 this year, we will look back on Williams’ senior year with a lot of praise.
Hayley Urban, Columbia City
To replace what they lost and launch their new gym successfully, Columbia City will need to lean on Urban. She has the ability move in and out and really change the game in a variety of ways. If Urban can shoot the ball well, it is really going to give the Eagles a threat they may not have otherwise that can score from a lot of different areas on the floor.
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