Outside the Huddle and Bounce are counting down who it feels are the top 50 individual girls basketball players in northeast Indiana heading into the 2022-23 season.
Today, we unveil five of the best in the area at positions No. 45-41.
No. 45: Paige Traxler, Eastside
Lookout for Traxler to be the breakout NECC player of this season, if you don’t want to consider her in that race last season. As a freshman, she really showed she was ready to compete and bridge that difficult gap between middle school basketball and varsity basketball. Her floor vision is strong for being so young and she is able to make plays that accentuate her teammates often while still being a quality shooter. Her numbers from her freshman year won’t wow at 4.8 points and one assist per game, but the way they should rise could. She also shot 63 percent from the free throw line and 33 percent from three point range.
COACH’S QUOTE ON PAIGE TRAXLER
“Paige had a really good freshman campaign for us last year. She gained a lot of experience at the varsity level. Paige is a very good passer especially in transition. We look for her to step up her game this year on both ends of the floor. We also look for her to pick up some of the scoring and assists that we graduated from last year’s team.” – Eastside coach Mike Lortie
No. 44: Evie Bottoms, Homestead
While not being the offensive firecracker last season, Bottom proved that she belonged in the deep Homestead lineup with the toughness she put out on both sides of the floor. Bottoms showcased from very early on in the season that she could be scrappy and create a little bit of chaos for opposing offenses as she ran the floor. Bottoms averaged 2 points and 2.5 assists per game, but her true test of game was defensively. She helped Homestead maintain an uptempo style and as a senior leader, her disruptions to opponent plans will make her someone who the Spartans will need in some crunch times.
COACH’S QUOTE ON EVIE BOTTOMS
“Evie is a scrappy competitor who finds ways to make big plays on defense and has the ability to run the point and knock down open shots when left open.” – Homestead coach Rod Parker
No. 43: Emily Bleke, Bellmont
The all around play of Bleke was a cornerstone for Bellmont last year as the program continued to show strength across all grades. As a freshman, she made major strides in a conference that can get a little rough and tumble. She is physical and doesn’t back down, leading her to be one of the best rebounders at Bellmont and one of the more underrated ones in the NE8 throughout the season. Bleke averaged 6.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game and was named All-NE8 Honorable Mention.
COACH’S QUOTE ON EMILY BLEKE
“Coming into last year, Emily was the best freshman we have had in my time at Bellmont since Grace [Hunter]. That is not taking anything away from all the others, more it shows how talented she is. She can score at all 3 levels, but not only that, she is one of our best rebounders. She is one of, if not our best, all-around players. I could see her being a top player in the area this year and for sure a top player in her grade. She is such a hard nosed kid who I trust in any role.” – Bellmont coach Andy Heim
No. 42: Riley Pepple, Northrop
Pepple certainly had to change her game and her role last season when she moved to the Bruins. She has stayed a quality shooter that can really help to alter games when her shot is on. Last year she took strides in proving that she can defend no matter where she is as she made the transition from the NECC to the SAC. Pepple provides a lot of energy and expectations for her will rise again this season. Last year, she averaged 4.2 points and 1.1 steals per contest while hitting a team third best 21 three pointers.
COACH’S QUOTE ON RILEY PEPPLE
“She is coming into her own after her transition [to Northrop] and looking like the Riley People that has terrorized Northeast Indiana. We look for her to do more than just contribute. Look for a huge season from her.” – Northrop coach Katie Jackson
No. 41: Grace Kreischer, Eastside
Kreischer’s length leads her to be a major problem for opponents and she has grown in that role each season. She led the Blazers in blocks with 17 last season, but her effect on the interior was much bigger than that. Simply put, people didn’t want to attack the basket as much when she was in the game. As Eastside has hung around the top end of the NECC, she has been a secondary threat but could really see that role rise as a senior. Kreischer averaged 9.3 points and. 7.8 rebounds per game with a crucial stat for any post who can draw contact at the rim on offense: she shot 75 percent from the free throw line.
COACH’S QUOTE ON GRACE KREISCHER
“Grace is an athletic big that can post up strong but also can step out to shoot the 3. She is an extremely hard worker on both ends of the floor. She is a very good rebounder on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Grace is a very good defender inside and on the perimeter. Grace is a very underrated player and she is determined to finish her senior year very strong.” – Eastside coach Mike Lortie
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