|FROM THE PRESS BOX: CRYSTAL BALL FORECASTS SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT LANDSCAPE ON GIRLS HOOP HARDWOODS IN 2018-19 (2018-03-18)
The 2017-18 season on the girls basketball hardwoods was a pretty good one in most regards, with 21 wins in a row to start the season for Waverly, another division title for Sayre, and four of five teams playing in the postseason, including S-VE’s first appearance in 20 years.
The postseason was a different story. While S-VE won its first postseason game in two decades, an unbeaten Waverly team lost in the Class B semifinals for the sixth consecutive season, and Sayre and Athens were one-and-done in the District 4 playoffs.
The crystal ball is a bit murky with the first tip-off still 8 1/2 months away, but the landscape could be quite a bit different in 2018-19.
Athens Lady Wildcats: Athens finished the 2017-18 season with a 17-8 record, and did so squarely on the backs of seniors Emily Lunger, and Kara Chapman, who combined to score 30.7 of the team’s 41.3 points per game.
All the freshman and sophomores who saw a great deal of playing time this season will be a year older in 2018-19, so there is bound to be improvement. And there will obviously be more shots to be had for everyone else, but scoring will be a major concern for the Lady Wildcats.
Junior Sophie Adams is a hard-nosed player who can defend, and rebound, and freshman Kayleigh Miller, and sophomore Haley Barry could step up and help carry some of the scoring load, but they’ll need a lot of help.
Prediction: The Lady Wildcats will be hard-pressed to match this season’s success in 2018-19, and could struggle to reach .500. Coach Kelly Burkhart did the best job of her coaching career this year. She’ll have to be even better next year. ... 2018-19 regular season: 8-14.
Sayre Lady Redskins: Sayre loses a pair of defensive-minded starters in Blair Wampole, and Emily Moore from a 17-7 team, and will likely replace them with a pair of athletic youngsters — freshman Gabbi Randall and sophomore Julia Boyle next year.
Seniors-to-be Camry Lane, and Stephanie Klovekorn will form one of the best 1-2 guard combos in the NTL, and junior-to-be Emily Sutryk should become an even bigger factor on the offensive end.
Coach Eileen Sparduti did a good job in 2017-18, winning her fourth straight division title, on the heels of the program’s first-ever District 4 title, and state playoff win. Next year, the Lady Redskins will be more athletic, but not as big or physical. She will definitely have some fine-tuning to do.
Prediction: Sayre first six will be pretty talented, which will win them a lot of games. If Sparduti can groom a bit of depth, the Lady Redskins will be favored to win their fifth straight division title, and could make another run in the postseason. … 2018-19 Regular season: 18-4.
S-VE Lady Panthers: S-VE loses four starters from its first playoff team in two decades, but the cupboard is not bare.
Sophomores Paige Grube and Tara Perkins, and junior Maddie Sousa will return next season. Grube and Sousa should provide some scoring punch, and Perkins has the potential to be a strong presence in the low post.
Sophomore Ryleigh Clark should step up from the JV ranks and contribute immediately. After that, coach Abby Gentile will need to find some depth from this year’s varsity bench, and JV roster.
Prediction: The Lady Panthers, coming off a 13-7 season, may take a half-step backward in 2018-19, but I think another postseason appearance is likely. … 2018-19 regular season: 11-9.
Tioga Lady Tigers: Tioga graduates six seniors who accounted for 61 percent of the team’s scoring during a 6-13 campaign in 2017-18.
Of the returners, freshman Eve Wood, and sophomore Chloe Bellis, and Giovanna Rossi are potential impact players for the Lady Tigers, and junior Rebekah Richter should help on the offensive end of the floor.
Freshman Olivia Ayres could step right into the varsity line-up and become a big-time scorer, while freshmen Madi Howey, and Ari Manwaring, and a few other JV grads will be expected to contribute quickly.
Prediction: The Lady Tigers will be very young, so there will definitely be some bumps in the road — bad shots, bad decisions, etc., but they’ll also be very athletic, and will present problems for a lot of teams. Scoring could be an issue at times, but don’t be surprised if this team is a little better than most people think. … 2018-19 regular season: 8-11.
Waverly Lady Wolverines: Waverly not only graduates one of the best players in program history in 1,500-point scorer Elle Nittinger, it loses Zoe Mennig, Paige Miller, and three-year starter Marissa Trudeau as well. Those four account for a big chunk of the Lady Wolverines’ rebounding.
Junior Alex Tomasso returns and should step into the role as the go-to girl, while junior Wendi Hammond, a top-notch defender, will likely be looked to for more scoring. The most likely candidate to see a big jump in scoring opportunities is freshman Sidney Tomasso, who can knock down the 3-pointer, but is also capable of faking that shot and hitting a pull-up mid-range jumper or runner.
Waverly will need three or four players from its bench, or from a solid JV team to step up, and contribute if they want to win another IAC South Large School title. They have four or five in their ranks capable of contributing next year.
Prediction: Another unbeaten regular season is highly unlikely, but there’s still a lot of talent on the Waverly roster, so another division title is a definite possibility. ... 2018-19 regular season: 16-4.
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