In the 2021-22 season, Columbia City earned its first 20-win season in seven years and earned a share of the Northeast 8 Conference title.
A big chunk of its talented youth is back and are ready to take the conference outright and win its first sectional championship since 2000.
The Eagles are going to be a small team but have a lot of ferocious guards that make every opposing ball handler’s life very difficult. The leader of that aggressive style defense is sophomore Addison Baxter, who led Columbia City in points (11.7), rebounds (5.7), assists (4.5) and steals (4) per game as a freshman. Kyndra Sheets will handle the point guard duties for Columbia City. She averaged 3.5 assists last season while also scoring 10.6 points per game. Sheets is also a menace on the defensive end and is a willing rebounder with 1.9 steals and 4.2 rebounds per contest.
Molly Baker is the inside threat for the Eagles but can also step out and knock down a jump shot. She scored 10.2 points per contest and hauled in 5.5 rebounds per game. Tessa Tonkel gives the Eagles another shooter to go to. She is the team’s leading returning three-point shooter at over 40 percent. Overall, she averaged seven points per game and 1.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game.
The Knights shared the conference title with the Eagles and Huntington North Vikings last season. This year’s roster features no seniors but has a loaded junior class.
Kennedy Fuelling and Makenzie Fuess both return after averaging double figures and making the All-Northeast 8 Conference first team. Fuess was able to do so while coming off the bench.
Fuelling took a huge step from her freshman season to her sophomore year. She was the Knights most consistent player, the team’s leading scorer at 15.3 points per game and a sharpshooter hitting 59 three-pointers
Fuess is also reliable from deep after knocking down 40 triples last year. She’ll have to carry more of the load in all aspects of the game, not just scoring. Annabelle Johnson is the team’s leading returning rebounder as a guard. The junior class also features Lilly Norris and Haley Green, who were key varsity role players last season and are ready to do more.
The Braves will look to challenge the Eagles and Knights for the top spot in the conference with nearly all of its major contributors back from last year. Sydney Keane and Hailey Cole both averaged double figures last season and are a tough dynamic duo to stop. Cole averaged 10.7 points and team-high 6.5 rebounds per game.
Keane will not be the only senior being looked upon to set the tone. Rachel Bleke (3.6 ppg, 6 rpg) and Ellen Scott (5.7 ppg, 1.6 apg) will both be key contributors.
Juniors Macey Spiegel (2.4 ppg), Tessa Spiegel (1.7 ppg) and Arabelle Laurent (0.9) all expected to see their impact increase, and freshman Emily Bleke is back looking to build on her first season in which she averaged 6.1 points and 5.3 rebounds.
The Vikings had an excellent 2021-22 season, and it will be difficult to replicate after the graduation and transfer of some key players. Huntington North will look different but believes its made the necessary changes for the better.
Taylor Double is back for her senior year and will be the go-to leader for the Vikings. She’s the lone senior with significant playing time. Double scored 14 points per game, as well as 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. Sophomore Marissa Trout (6.1 ppg) and junior Gracie Fields (4.2) are the other two returners.
The front line for Huntington North will be inexperienced. Senior Hailey Rains, junior Elle McDonald and sophomore Grace Michel will challenge for minutes at the forward spot. Leah Hertel, Haiden Bailey and Gabby Leichty will look to add to the rotation for the Vikings.
The Barons made significant strides in Noah Stuckey’s second season at the helm. The mix of experience and youth helped DeKalb triple its win total. Ashley Cox had a good freshman year and led the team in scoring at 10.9 points per game and in rebounds with 4.4 per contest.
Lillie Cone returns for her senior season and is the team’s best outside shooter. She shot 38 percent from deep and averaged 9.1 points per game. Classmates Elizabeth Martin and Delaney Cox both return. Martin scored five points and four boards a game, and Cox had 4.6 points and four rebounds per contest last season.
The Lions were much improved last season after a couple of down years and will attempt to not regress after graduating seven seniors. The only two players returning with varsity experience are seniors Leah May and Haylee Schott. May averaged 12 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, and Schott scored 6.1 points per game while grabbing 5.3 boards per contest. Both will take over leadership roles and will try to bring along the underclassmen behind them.
The newcomers fighting for minutes are juniors Kayla Adams, Abby Bovie, Emily Cogdell, Isabelle Collins and Kacie Gibson, as well as sophomore Malina Lape and freshman Leah Shappell.
The Knights struggled last season, especially in conference play. It’s lone NE8 win last year was over winless New Haven. East Noble will look to improve and be more competitive with the return of a few underclassmen that logged a lot of minutes a season ago.
Bree Walmsley, Kya Mosley, Payton Quake and Bailea Bortner are the top returners for the Knights. Walmsley finished with 5.7 points per game, and Mosley averaged 3.6 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. Quake is the leading returning rebounder at 4.1 per game. She also scored 3.5 points per game. Bortner really improved over the course of last season and ended up averaging 6.3 points a contest.
It was a rough 2021-22 campaign for the Bulldogs. They were winless and The Bulldogs were winless last season and really struggled to score points.
Janiya Johnson is the lone junior and is the team’s leading returning score at 8.1 Points per game. She also averaged 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals a game.
New Haven has one senior in Samantha Goodrich, and she had 4.2 rebounds per game.. The rest of the squad is made up of freshman and sophomores, including Snodgrass who led the team in rebounds at 4.7 per contest.
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Columbia City
4. Huntington North
7. East Noble
8. New Haven