PREBLE COUNTY — Winter sports are set to begin soon, and girls basketball teams around the county will be looking to have successful seasons.
National Trail looking to replace playmakers this year
The Blazers will return two three-year starters – Skylar Ward and Molly Skinner – as they look to contend with the loss of three starting seniors from last year’s 12-10 squad.
Ward was second on team in scoring last year and Trail’s best defensive player, according to coach James Byrd.
Byrd said Skinner will be important on both ends of the floor for the Blazers due to her shooting, rebounding and effort level.
“Our goal is to match last year’s achievements but will require many girls to step into new and different roles,” Byrd said.
Big things will also be expected for J’Da Jackson, second year varsity; Lexi Benedict, third year varsity; Angel Bowers, second year varsity; and Caitlin Gilland, second year varsity.
Byrd said that Mikia Leal, Hannah Cunningham, Rylee Minner, Jenna Petit, Maddie Harrison, and Ashlynne Osborne will all be asked to contribute in different ways.
“We will have to replace a bunch of experience from three and four-year starters departing and loss of play making abilities,” Byrd said.
Preble Shawnee returns five on varsity
The Preble Shawnee Arrows will look to improve upon their 9-14 record last season with all five starting varsity players from last year returning this season.
Senior Jacy Johnson, junior Gracie Lovely, and sophomores Liv Thompson (Second-Team All-SWBL), Harlee Howard, and Campbell Jewell will all take the court.
“[We] return a great core of five varsity players, three of which [were] outstanding freshman,” coach Kevin Schaeffer said. “I expect them to grow tremendously this year and really be a threat on both ends of the court.”
The Arrows also add freshmen Korrie Woodard, Kahlen Kulms, and Bella Agee, all of which Schaeffer figures to play into significant varsity time.
“With a team that is no longer guard heavy, it really opens up the kind of stuff we can do on both sides of the court, especially the offensive end,” he said. “We should be versatile and talented.”
Schaeffer believes his Arrows will compete right at the top of the league.
“With three outstanding scorers returning, great leadership and team chemistry, and a good combination of freshmen who are a perfect fit to what we need, I can’t imagine us being anything except competitive in every game we play,” he said.
Tri-County North wielding full roster this season
After a challenging 2019 season that saw the Panthers go 1-22, Tri-County North and coach Jessica Spitler will look to capitalize on having a full junior varsity and varsity squad to help the program move forward in 2020.
“We will be returning all 9 players from last year,” Spitler said. “With only having a varsity squad the last three years, we are very excited to say that we have 16 girls to complete a JV and Varsity team this season.”
The Panthers will look to seniors Maddy Flory and All-CCC Honorable Mention Lexi DeLong, who led the Panthers in scoring and rebounding, for leadership and experience.
Also returning is junior Jenna Klingenberger and MacKenzie Bacher, who is recovering from an ACL injury last season.
“We will be missing junior MacKenzie Lykins this season due to an injury from the fall, but will be a huge team player as a leader off the court.”
Sophomores returning will be Rilee Terry, a tall post player who saw time on varsity last season, along with Madison Terry and Sierra Baker, and Spitler also looks forward to the contributions of Hannah Webster, and sisters Nicole and Natalie Lefeld.
“With having more numbers in the program from high school down to junior high than I have ever had since I became head coach, our goal this season [is] to improve all records across the board,” Spitler said. “For the varsity ladies, we are looking to compete in games, put us back on the map, and get a few upsets along the way.”
Spitler added that North has a strong coaching staff this season that has worked well with the ladies during the offseason.
“We’re hoping we are on the upside now and continue to build our program,” she said.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles