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Previewing the 2021 high school girls basketball season

Previewing the 2021 high school girls basketball season

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Despite constant unknowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, more than half of the Richmond area’s public and private girls basketball teams are either set to tip off their seasons in the near future, or have already started playing. Here’s a glance at the prominent local teams slated to compete, with a summary of who’s playing, who’s not, and the individuals to keep an eye on:

Who’s planning to play or already playing: public — Chesterfield schools (Thomas Dale, Matoaca, Meadowbrook, L.C. Bird, Clover Hill, Cosby, James River, Manchester, Midlothian, Monacan); Hanover schools (Atlee, Hanover, Mechanicsville, Patrick Henry), which will only play each other during the regular season; Colonial Heights, Dinwiddie, Hopewell, Petersburg, Prince George, Powhatan, Goochland, Maggie Walker Governor’s School, King William, New Kent; private — Saint Gertrude, Blessed Sacrament Huguenot, Richmond Christian, Steward, Central Virginia Homeschool.

Who might play: Members of the LIS — Collegiate, St. Catherine’s, Trinity Episcopal and Veritas — are holding off on competition in hopes that they can play later if the situation improves.

Who’s not: Henrico schools (Henrico, Highland Springs, Varina, Deep Run, Douglas Freeman, Glen Allen, Mills Godwin, Hermitage, J.R. Tucker); Richmond schools (Armstrong, Huguenot, Thomas Jefferson, John Marshall, George Wythe); New Community, Life Christian.

PLAYERS TO WATCH (via stream)

Jordan Hodges, Monacan: As a junior captain, Hodges led the Chiefs to a 25-2 record and the Class 4 state co-championship. Her 138 assists rank fourth in school history, and Hodges scored her 1,000th point for the program during a 32-point outburst against Cosby last season. Now a senior, the two-time All-Metro guard announced her commitment to Liberty last April.

Sherese Pittman, Steward: A 6-1 senior wing/forward, Pittman was named VISAA Division II player of the year and led the Spartans to a state title. She averaged 16.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 2.9 steals and 2.5 blocks while shooting 50% from the field and recording a double-double in 22 of 28 games. Pittman announced in April she will stay in state and play college ball at James Madison.

Maya Ellis, Meadowbrook: A 5-8 senior guard/forward, Ellis averaged 26.6 points and 6.7 rebounds while leading the Monarchs to a 15-9 record. The second-team All-Metro pick had multiple 30-plus point games. Coach Daniel Connor said Ellis has the ability to score from the perimeter and inside, and is working on playing within the Monarchs’ system as opposing defenses key off on her more often.

Arshae Jackson, James River: A 5-10 sophomore guard/forward, Jackson averaged 10.4 points and 6 rebounds for the regional champion Rapids. A top recruit in the Class of 2023, coach Henry Schechter said Jackson is receiving interest from a number of D-I programs.

Kate Samson, Saint Gertrude: A 6-4 junior forward, Samson averaged 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds as a sophomore. The all-LIS honoree announced her commitment to the Naval Academy in December.

Alexis Warren, Cosby: Warren is committed to play at UVA-Wise, where she’ll provide the Cavaliers a polished scoring presence down low. A 6-foot center, Warren averaged 13 points and 11 rebounds last season en route to second-team all-region honors.

Sydney Clayton, Monacan: Clayton averaged a double-double (10.3 points, 10.5 rebounds) en route to first-team all-state honors last year as a junior. She and Hodges form perhaps the area’s most formidable inside-out duo.

Faith Henderson, Powhatan: A versatile, 5-10 junior guard, Henderson averaged 15.3 points and 10.5 rebounds as a sophomore and made second-team all-region.

Logan Nuckols, Patrick Henry: Nuckols, a 5-7 junior guard, averaged 18 points and 3 rebounds on her way to a first-team all-region selection. She’ll look to improve on that scoring output as the focal point of the Patriots’ attack.

TEAM OUTLOOKS

PRIVATE

Saint Gertrude: The all-LIS tandem of senior guard Nan Kerner (13 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Samson feature for a Gators team that went 19-6 en route to an LIS regular-season co-championship. Junior forward Cherese Lampkins (6-foot-1), sophomore guard Erin Woodson and junior point guard Kayla Ford will all play key roles.

Steward: The Spartans return all five starters from their 23-8 VISAA Division II state championship team. Pittman is the star here, but senior Ameerah “Mimi” Traynham averaged 14 points and 4.2 rebounds, and the experienced point guard will continue to serve as floor general for Steward and third-year head coach Kara Bacile. Sophomore guard Gates Fox averaged 7.8 points and 3.6 rebounds. Senior forwards Saara Qureshi (5-9, 7.3 rpg) and Nicole Odibo (5-9, 5.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg) provide depth and experience down low.

PUBLIC

Clover Hill: The Cavaliers made a coaching change, and first-year coach De’Cedric Loveless will begin his tenure with a bevy of experience at his disposal. Clover Hill returns five starting upperclassmen — senior guards Alyssa Shazer, Angel Crowder and Keniya Loving, and junior forwards Kayla Sledge and Kristina Jones.

Goochland: Senior point guard Gabrielle Ragone leads a Bulldogs program that returns three starters from a 16-7 team. Fellow senior Taylor Whitfield and sophomore Erla Thorkelsdottir provide versatility on the wings, and junior Emmy Paulin will pair with Ragone in the backcourt. Senior forward Shaylah Duff and senior guard Megan Bowers are a couple of new faces who could make an impact.

James River: Jackson headlines for a Rapids team that graduated five players from its 2019-20 regional champion group that went 24-3. But coach Henry Schechter said this year’s team may be a better perimeter shooting group, and between Jackson and 5-10 senior forward Najla Adeyola (6.4 ppg, 6 rpg), they don’t lack star power. Senior forward Sophia Graziano, senior guard Jenna Reick and freshman guard Katrina Scholtz are slated to start alongside the lead duo.

L.C. Bird: Senior guard Alexis Miller leads a Skyhawks program coming off a 16-8 year. A mixture of youth and experience defines this group, with senior forward Kendal Trinidad and junior guard Jazmier Brown joining Miller to form a strong upperclassman core. A pair of freshman guards, Trinity Dale and Aliyah Elliot, will be asked to step into prominent roles.

Manchester: An associate head coach last year, Rasheed Wright enters his first season in charge of the Lancers looking to replace five graduated seniors. Manchester may want for depth, but a solid returning core that includes senior forward Abbey Terret (8.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg), senior point guard Erica Worthington (6.2 ppg), junior wing Madison Murphy (10.7 ppg) and sophomore guard Arianna Payne (7.1 ppg) provides experience and leadership.

Matoaca: Depth and versatility are the strengths of a guard-heavy Warriors roster facing significant turnover from last year’s 20-3 team. First-year coach Kim Pond must replace four graduated starters. Junior guards Maia Pettaway (7.5 ppg) and Hannah Williams (3.7 ppg) are the leading returning scorers, and senior forward Jada Robinson provides a strong rebounding presence.

Meadowbrook: Ellis stars for a Monarchs team that’s a tad undersized, but makes up for it with experience and versatility. Senior forward Trinity Price (11.7 ppg, 9.3 rpg) will play Robin to Ellis’ Batman. Senior guard Tiona Moore and junior guard Tamiia Anglin could take on increased roles for a Meadowbrook program with aspirations of improving on a 15-9 mark behind one of the best pure scorers in the area.

Midlothian: Four returning seniors — point guard Madison Fath (10.5 ppg), guards Abbie Campbell (11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Jenna Shadders, and forward Lauren Harrell (7.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg)— lead a Trojans team that reached the regional semifinal and went 15-9. Coach Adam Layton expects junior forward Ellie Herndon, sophomore forward Ellie Mulligan and freshman guard Danni Marmo to take on increased roles.

Monacan: Hodges and Clayton are the headliners here, but the Chiefs also have depth as coach Larry Starr enters his 16th year in charge coming off a 25-2 campaign. Junior Linden Madison, a 6-2 forward, will take on a significant role. Guards Jada Norma, a senior, and Lilly Hoy, a junior, are slated to step into bigger roles. Emily Knabel, a 5-10 junior forward, and Caitlyn Rodriguez, a sophomore guard, could also figure prominently.

Powhatan: Henderson is one of three junior guards that form the Indians’ core. Kayla Terry (10.1 ppg, 3 apg) and Logan Anthony are the others. Terry and Henderson will both be third-year starters. Terry was an honorable-mention all-region selection. Jillian Ratliff is the only senior on a young Indians roster. A pair of 5-10 underclassmen — sophomore Erin Almond and freshman Katherine Cerrullo — will add strength and scoring.

Cosby: Six seniors, including Warren, headline a formidable and experienced Cosby roster. Warren is a dominant post presence. Junior Ilah Javellana (11 ppg), another second-team all-region player, is a knock-down shooter. Senior Isabel Tillett, a 5-10 forward, provides versatility. Sophomore wing Sydney Turner is primed to take on a larger role.

Patrick Henry: An experienced foundation made up of four returning starting upperclassmen, including Nuckols, defines the Patriots’ roster. Senior forward Ava Smith (11 ppg, 5 rpg), junior guard T’Niyah Baylor (7 ppg) and 6-4 junior center Jessica Osuanah (8 ppg, 7 rpg) form a cohesive core for PH to build around.

New Kent: Junior guard McKenna Mueller leads an athletic, detail-oriented Trojans group coming off an 18-9 season. Three fellow juniors — 5-9 forward Jaiden McCoy, 5-10 forward Hannah Drewer and guard Jakeira Thomas — round out the starting five, in addition to sophomore guard Aubrey Hyndshaw.

Blessed Sacrament Huguenot: Sophomore forward Madlelyn Mitchell (12 ppg, 6 rpg) and freshman point guard Hailey Holcombe (9 ppg, 3 rpg) headline for a Knights side that went 15-8 last season. BSH will start four underclassmen, and team success may depend on how quickly and effectively senior forward Alyssa Shively, freshman guard Charlie Potter and sophomore center Berkley Roudabush can aid Mitchell and Holcombe.

Richmond Christian: The Eagles went 21-5 last year, but lost seven players for various reasons and this year feature a brand new team of exclusively underclassmen. Berkley Pittman, a 5-10 sophomore forward, and Molly King, a 5-9 sophomore wing, provide the size. Freshman wing Riley Koscinski could play a versatile role. And three guards — sophomores Ana Hobson and Elissa Johnson and freshman Jada Miller — will work the perimeter.

Trinity Episcopal: Senior forward Alyssa Chapman (10 ppg, 8 rpg), who committed to Radford, joins fellow seniors Tiffani Bartee (10 ppg, 5 rpg), a guard, and Hayley Blair (6 ppg), a forward, in a core of senior leadership upon which the Titans will hang their hat. Delaney Snyder (8 ppg, 8 rpg), a 6-4 junior forward, is an imposing scoring and rebounding threat in the paint. Freshman forward Mia Woolfolk sustained a season-ending injury in the preseason, and Trinity’s bench may be stretched thin as a result. Sophomore guards Olivia Wright and Sophie Dolan could be asked to make up for the lost minutes.

St. Catherine’s: Edmund Sherod enters his 16th year in charge of a Saints program that will lean on the experience and leadership of four returning upperclassmen — junior guards Jaya Powell (6 ppg) and Sally Herrington (5 ppg, 4 rpg) and senior forwards Alexa Macaulay (9 ppg, 8 rpg) and Forester Worrell (6 ppg, 6 rpg). Some young pieces, like sophomore guard Sam Urbine and 6-foot eighth-grader Eliza Cochran, will be relied upon to make meaningful contributions.

Collegiate: All-LIS guard Amani Kimball-McKavish paces a Cougars program looking to replace a lot of production. The graduation of all-LIS honorees Abby Freeman and Chandler Eddleton leaves Collegiate with just four returners, one senior and seven underclassmen. Freshman point guard Lily Berger, junior guard Ellie Smith and sophomore forward Virginia Ballowe could step into key roles in coach Rives Fleming’s 24th year at the helm.

Veritas: Senior, 6-foot point-forward Lydia Worden (11.6 ppg), an all-LIS selection, is the fulcrum of an otherwise young, inexperienced Lions program. Junior guard Bella Griffin will be tasked with providing leadership as well. Three sophomores — center Bev Siewers, forward Lillie Kate Dreux and guard Grace Sheppard — will take on starting roles.

Fast facts

Regular season: 14 games (the Virginia High School League cut the schedule to 60% of normal); private schools can schedule as many games as they want, although some are playing only league games.

State playoffs: Semifinals Feb. 16, finals Feb. 20-22. Only the region champ qualifies. For private schools, the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association is giving teams an open invitation to participate instead of qualifying. The tournament runs Feb. 23-27.

Streaming: With a limit of 25 spectators or none at all, many schools plan to stream their games. Providers vary by school, and include NFHS Network and Hudl.

ZJoachim@timesdispatch.com

(804) 649-6555

Twitter: @ZachJoachim

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