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Previewing the 2021-22 high school girls basketball season
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Previewing the 2021-22 high school girls basketball season

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James River at L.C. Bird girls basketball game

James River's Arshae Jackson (12), center, controls the ball against L.C. Bird's Aliyah Elliott during the second half of a girls basketball game at L.C. Bird High School in Chesterfield, VA., on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.

The season-opening Top 10

1. James River Rapids

2. Saint Gertrude Gators

3. Monacan Chiefs

4. L.C. Bird Skyhawks

5. Cosby Titans

6. Thomas Dale Knights

7. Highland Springs Springers

8. Patrick Henry Patriots

9. Glen Allen Jaguars

10. Matoaca Warriors

Players to watch

Allyson Booth, Matoaca: Booth averaged 12 ppg and 8 rpg for the Warriors as a sophomore last season and should continue to produce.

Maddi Butler, Mechanicsville: A more experienced group joins Butler in her senior campaign. She already proved herself to be a powerful scorer last season, averaging 17 ppg in 1-8 Mechanicsville’s last run.

Trinity Dale, L.C. Bird: The Skyhawks were the Region 5B champs last season during Dale’s freshman year. She can only be expected to build off her 9 ppg, 4 rpb averages now in her sophomore year.

Lanie Grant, James River: The 5-8 freshman guard is starting the season with an injury, but her impact will be big once she returns to the court. Grant verbally committed to UNC on Thanksgiving out of more than 20 D1 offers.

Faith Henderson, Powhatan: Henderson has been a consistent presence for Powhatan in her four years as a starter. The 5-11 guard led in scoring last season with nearly 19 ppg, while also being a respectable presence in rebounding.

Arshae Jackson, James River: Jackson, a two-time All-Metro honoree, is the Rapids’ top returning scorer, averaging 13 ppg and 6 rpg. The junior guard adds a bit of height to the team at 5-10.

Logan Nuckols, Patrick Henry: Already a force on the court, Nuckols can only be expected to come back stronger after a strong cross country season. The Campbell commit is an All-Metro and all-state honoree who averaged 18 ppg last season.

Caitlyn Rodriguez, Monacan: The junior guard adds height and is bold in the paint. She averaged 7.7 ppg and 4.3 rpg for the Chiefs in their 11-2, regional runner-up run last season.

Sydney Turner, Cosby: The junior guard/forward is one of two returning starters for the 2020 Region 6A champs. She gives some firepower, putting up 15 ppg and 7 rpg.

Erin Woodson, Saint Gertrude: Woodson still has another two seasons ahead of her but has garnered Division I attention. The 5-11 guard averaged 17.3 ppgs and 6 rpg for the 2020 VISAA D1 state championship team.

Also: Amani Kimball-McKavish, Collegiate; Ilah Javellana, Cosby; Claudia Disbrow, Glen Allen; Allie Patterson, King William; Aliyah Elliott, L.C. Bird; Mia Woolfolk, Rayne Wright, Manchester; Danni Marmo, Midlothian; Amirah Washington, Monacan; Jaiden McCoy, New Kent; Kate Samson, Saint Gertrude; Sanai Green, Steward; Tamyah Webb, Thomas Dale

Class 6

Cosby

Coach: Chris Hartman 2020-21: 8-2

Key players: Sydney Turner, 5-8 G/F; Ilah Javellana, 5-5 G; Seimone Newton, 5-10 F; Malia Bullock, 5-3 G

Notable: Cosby is coming off a Region 6A championship. Returning starters Turner and Ilah Javellana lead a deep but young roster; Javellana is the lone senior. Freshman forward Seimone Newton is a talented addition who can be expected to develop with her younger teammates as the season goes.

James River

Coach: Henry Schechter 2020-21: 7-6

Key players: Lanie Grant, 5-8 PG; Arshae Jackson, 5-10 G; Katrina Scholtz, 5-7 G; Ava King, 5-7 F; Kelahni Smith, 5-10 F

Notable: Led by Grant and Jackson, the Rapids are a young but talented crew that have grown together from the middle school level. Sophomore guard Katrina Sholtz returns as a starter and will play a big role.

Manchester

Coach: Rasheed Wright 2020-21: 3-10

Key players: Madison Murphy, 5-8 G/F; Mia Woolfolk, 6-2 F/C; Olivia Wright, 5-7, G/F; Leah Hampton, 5-3 G; Rayne Wright, 5-10 G; D’zhiya Thompson, 5-3 G

Notable: The Lancers expect to take a big step forward this season with a strong core. Senior Madison Murphy is the team’s only returning starter, but Mia Woolfolk and Rayne Wright are expected to be a pair of big-hitting underclassmen.

Thomas Dale

Coach: Leon Gholson 2020-21: 3-1

Key players: Tamyah Webb, 6-0 F; Ayanni Madison, 5-5 G; Janiyah Jackson, 6-0 C; Loren Jackson, 5-6 F; Mycah McDowney, 5-4 G; Hannah Jones, 5-9 F

Notable: Thomas Dale has four returning starters and greater depth than it’s had in recent years, but the team as a whole is young.

Class 5

Clover Hill

Coach: De’Cedric Loveless 2020-21: 2-12

Key players: Kristina Jones, F; Kayla Sledge, F; Mary Coleman, F; Olivia “Livvie” Ebert, F; Mariet Nester, G

Notable: The Cavaliers’ returning class will give the team a boost after a strong offseason. Junior guard Mariet Nester is new but should be a good addition.

Deep Run

Coach: Tom Rawlyk 2019-2020: 13-10

Key players: Isis Keneah, 5-7 G; Aubrey Ellis, 5-6 G; Bree Fulkerson, 5-8 G; Sydney Martin, 5-8 G; Anne Payton Duncan, 5-10 F

Notable: Deep Run is rusty after a year off the court and has only one returning starter; the start of the season may be a little rocky as the team gets its sea legs. Senior guard Isis Keneah brings some experience and scoring.

Douglas Freeman

Coach: Andrea Lampman 2019-2020: 8-13

Key players: Grace Moore, F; Bridget Wilson, G; Lucy Larkin, F; Bridget Amrhein, G; Genevieve Travers, G

Notable: Despite missing last season, Freeman maintains 75% of its scoring and rebounding from its last active team. It is a strong, tall group with chemistry. Junior forward Grace Moore leads the returners with averages of 12.2 ppg and 7.7 rpg.

Glen Allen

Coach: Rick Brennan 2019-2020: 17-6

Key players: Claudia Disbrow, 5-8 G/F; Cierra McGinlay, 5-7 G; Sarah Fellin, 6-0 C; Lindsey Shoulders, 5-9 F; Riley Waite, 5-5 G

Notable: Glen Allen is a tall team that will be looking to mesh senior leaders with young talent. Four freshmen are in the mix for starting positions, and one of them will have to step up as PG after the loss of senior Mia Betts due to an ACL tear.

Highland Springs

Coach: Franklin Harris 2019-2020: 24-2

Key players: Morgan Boyd, 5-8 G/F; Ah’Kiyah Pye, 5-8 G; Lucy Bassett, 5-5 G; Samaya Brown, 5-9 G/F

Notable: A usual powerhouse who were the 2019-20 Class 5 co-state champions, the Springers now field a team with one senior who has played a varsity game. Senior guard Lucy Bassett leads a young group that includes sophomore guards Morgan Boyd and Ah’Kiyah Pye and 6-6 freshman Samara Faulk.

J.R. Tucker

Coach: Mollie Pawlowski 2019-2020: 8-12

Key players: Jasmine Benson, 5-4 G; Nina Tate 5-5 G; Ryan Matheny, 5-8 F; Infiniti Lewis, 5-8 C; Koi Shabazz, 6-0 F

Notable: The Tigers are inexperienced but have talent in their younger classes, including sophomore guard Jasmine Benson. Senior center Infiniti Lewis brings some scoring, averaging 8 points.

L.C. Bird

Coach: Chevette Waller 2020-21: 9-7

Key players: Trinity Dale, 5-6 PG; Jazmeir Brown, 5-5 G; Aliyah Elliott, 5-8 G/F; R’Mia Crutchfield, 6-0 C; Camille Martin, 5-6 F

Notable: The reigning 5B champions are a younger group, but the Skyhawks are deeper in the post, and the speed of its guards should maintain up-tempo play. Sophomores Trinity Dale (9 ppg, 4 rpg) and Aliyah Elliott (10 ppg, 5 rpg) lead the way.

Meadowbrook

Coach: Daniel Connor 2020-21: 9-2

Key players: Naturale Faison, 5-3 G; Tamiia Anglin, 5-5 G; Brianna Johnson, 5-9 F; Amara McElroy, 5-6 F; Kaleah Johnson, 5-3 G

Notable: After losing some big names to graduation, Meadowbrook will require a bit of retooling. It’ll look to have role players fill the void. Speed will have to make up for a lack of size.

Midlothian

Coach: Ashley Brown 2020-21: 9-6

Key players: Danni Marmo, 5-8 G; Lexey Knoll, 5-7 G; Hailey Holcombe, 5-7 G; Skyelar Law, 5-10 F; Ellie Mulligan, 6-1 F; Ellie Herndon, 5-10 F; Edie Sperry, 5-5 G

Notable: Midlothian lost seven seniors from its Region 5C runner-up campaign, but returners Ellie Herdon, Ellie Mulligan and Danni Marmo are expected to step up and fill those roles. Marmo (6.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) started as a freshman last season and should continue to grow from there. The team is quick, capable and eager, but its youth might show a lack of experience as well.

Mills Godwin

Coach: Jim Bettis 2019-2020: 15-8

Key players: Kylee Carrol, G; Tatum Vogt, G; Katelyn Costello, G; Reagan Nemeyer, F; Maggie Hiatt, F

Notable: Like all Colonial District schools, Godwin will have to find itself after a season off. It has two starters coming back and a mix of seniors and young talent.

Prince George

Coach: Kenya Grissett 2019-2020: 4-5

Key players: Tyra Harrell, F; Mariah Washington, G; Logan Rose, F; Marianah Lipkins, G; Jayden Townsend C

Notable: Prince George returns all of its starters from last season and hopes that experience will help the team make a greater push in the postseason. It has two strong athletes in track state champs Mariah Washington and Marianah Lipkins, and, while a freshman, Logan Rose should make an impact.

Class 4

Atlee

Coach: Michael Rawlings 2020-21: 3-7

Key players: Skye Kelvin, 5-9 G/F; Tiana McQuilkin, 5-3 G; Sarah Devlin, 5-10 C; Bailey Bucholz, 5-9 F; Allison Schools, 5-9 G/F

Notable: The Raiders have some sharp shooters, highlighted by junior Skye Kelvin, but they’ll have to build confidence through some uncertainty. Their best ball handlers are both dealing with significant injuries from the summer, and with their returns likely having to wait for next season, Atlee will need a leader to step forward.

Dinwiddie

Coach: Sherelle Green 2020-21: 4-9

Key players: Lauren Parham, PG; Kyzah Robinson, G; Natayla Davis, SG; Madison Batts, SF; Sadie Hudson, C

Notable: It’s a young lineup for Dinwiddie this season, but freshmen Natalya Davis and Madison Batts add shooting power and strength in the paint.

Hanover

Coach: Dave Butler 2020-21: 6-2

Key players: Campbell Doughty, 5-8 G; Kayla Ford, 5-6 G; Jada Oakcrum, 5-10 F; Hali Harris, 5-10 F; Emma Slutzah, 5-6 G; Meredith Atkinson, 5-6 G

Notable: Hanover is an athletic team with decent reach, but with only two returning starters, it’s a younger team with limited experience.

Henrico

Coach: Lawrence Bray

2019-2020: 19-8, Region 5B runner-up

Key players: Alicia Powers, F; Diamond Brown, G; Deondra Liggans, F; McKenzie Wiggins, G; Sanaa Moore, G

Notable: Despite a year off, Henrico maintains a good blend of players. Seniors Diamond Brown, Deondra Liggans and Keisha Thomas add experience. After starting every game as a freshman, Alicia Powers can be expected to have another big season as a junior. Its first-year crop of McKenzie Wiggins, Sanaa Moore and Shayla Wyatt are also expected to develop well.

Matoaca

Coach: Kim Pond 2020-21: 12-2

Key players: Maia Pettaway, 5-7 G; Lauryn George, 5-5 G; Kiana Brown, 5-4 G; Hannah Williams, 5-4 G; Allyson Booth, 5-9 F

Notable: Matoaca is a little on the small side this season, but the players have experience from a successful previous season and the ability to defend and shoot consistently.

Mechanicsville

Coach: Alvin Puller 2020-21: 1-8

Key players: Madi Butler, 6-1 F; Lydia Elkins, 5-8 G; Bennett Carlton, 5-10 G; Ashley Owens, 5-10 F; Kate Carlton, 5-9 F; Lauren Bowman, 5-5 G

Notable: The Mustangs have the strength and ability to play better this season but will need to be confident enough to execute. They’re a longer group, too, led by the 6-1 Butler, both vertically and in scoring.

Monacan

Coach: Larry Starr

2020-21: 11-2, regional runner-up

Key players: Lilly Hoy, 5-5 G; Emily Knabel, 5-11 C; Amirah Washington, 5-5 G; Caitlyn Rodriguez, 5-9 G; Trinity Jones, 5-8 G

Notable: Graduating two all-state players means the Chiefs are young and inexperienced. They have a tough start to the regular season, but learning from those games would build them up to a standard postseason run. There’s also a chance they will be able to add 6-2 forward Linden Madison, who tore her ACL at the start of last year.

Patrick Henry

Coach: Phillip Cobb 2020-21: 9-2

Key players: Logan Nuckols, 5-7 G; Jessica Osuanah, 6-4 C; T’Niyah Baylor, 5-5 G; Julia Dull, 5-6 G; Alicia Artis, 5-6 G

Notable: Nuckols leads a deep, experienced group of Patriots. Their goal is to be stingy in the defensive end and push the ball. They have the talent for a push but will have to be sharp with rebounding.

Powhatan

Coach: Kristy Henderson 2020-21: 5-7

Key players: Faith Henderson, 5-11 G; Kayla Terry, 5-4 PG; Katherine Cerullo, 5-11 F; Erin Almond, 6-0 F; Corynn Lampman, 5-9 G; Meghan Hodge, 5-8 G

Notable: Powhatan has good chemistry, but depth and experience could hinder the Indians. Four-year starters Faith Henderson and Kayla Terry can both contribute and will have to be leaders off the court, as well. Sophomore forward Katherine Cerullo should be expected to build on an impressive freshman campaign, when she averaged a double-double in points and rebounds.

Varina

Coach: Whitney Griffis 2019-2020: 1-19

Key players: Alexis Smith, 5-10 G/F; An’nikah Burton, 5-8 G; M’Kayla Alexander, 5-5 G; Alicia Downey, 5-7 F; Christen Carpenter, F/C 5-10

Notable: The Blue Devils have high expectations for themselves as they return to the court. They’re small in numbers, but four starters are returning with a scrappy, hard-working attitude.

Class 3

Caroline

Coach: Rodney Wilson 2020-21: 0-8

Key players: Janiyah Pickett, 5-7 G/F; Korryn Parker, 5-6 G; Kayla Montgomery, 5-9 G/F; Alexia Gilhuys, G/F 5-9; Grace Shannon, 6-1 C/F; Jada Jeter, 5-8 G/F

Notable: In his first year in the Battlefield District, Wilson said he hopes to make the team more competitive this season and develop with every game. He previously coached at Henrico in 2014-17. It’s a young team with plenty of sophomore influence, but seniors Alexia Gilhuys and Grace Shannon should bring some leadership.

Colonial Heights

Coach: Ashley Watkins 2020-21: 0-10

Key players: Eliza Chiodo, 5-5 G; Dalaina Davis, 5-8 F; Kristina Henry, 5-9 G; Mikki Macklin, 5-10 F; Megan Rosenburg, 5-9 F

Notable: The Colonials are an athletic, defensive group but are on the younger side and do not have much experience at the varsity level. Sophomore guard Kristina Henry should be a strength for them.

Goochland

Coach: James Harris 2020-21: 3-5

Key players: Raynna Tibbs, F; Danielle Shibley, C; Jaylia Mills, PG/SH; CaSontiah Braggs, F; Shaniyah Morris, PG

Notable: Goochland is an older team with eight seniors hoping to build on experience.

Maggie Walker GS

Coach: Speedy Baughman 2020-21: 15-7

Key players: Isabelle Rector, Brynn Diefenderfer, Kaitlyn Campbell, Alice Bowman, Phoebe Johnson

Notable: Maggie Walker enters the season a bit inexperienced after playing only a handful of games in the 2020-21 season. But the team aims to be solid on defense, and four-year starter Kaitlyn Campbell adds toughness.

New Kent

Coach: Neko Burson 2020-21: 9-5

Key players: McKenna Mueller, 5-7 G; Aubrey Hyndshaw, 5-5 G; Jaiden McCoy, 5-7 F; Jakeira Thomas, 5-6 G; Hannah Drewer, 5-10 F

Notable: The Trojans don’t have any of the starters who won them the Region 3A title last season, but McKenna Mueller, Aubrey Hyndshaw and Jainden McCoy are a well-rounded trio that should be able to pull together a good offensive effort.

class 2

King William

Coach: Kerry Johnson 2020-21: 6-2

Key players: Allie Patterson, 5-11 F; Aleya Sayles, 5-8 F; Elle Hubbard, 5-6 G; Kayla Todd 5-3 G; DaeJah Robinson 5-5 G

Notable: With four seniors coming back, King William is hoping that its strength will hold ahead of a shallow bench. Allie Patterson and Elle Hubbard return as starters, with Patterson leading in points and rebounds.

John Marshall

Coach: Virgil Burton 2019-2020: 12-10

Key players: Jaedyn Cook, 6-3 F; MiAngel Harris, 5-4 G; Zuri Hall, 5-7 F; Khamaya Earley, 5-9 F; Yasmin Hall 5-6 G; Ebony Henderson, 5-9 F

Notable: After a close loss in its 2019-20 regional playoff game against Nottoway, John Marshall has set its goal to win a state championship. It’s a strong, fast team that can control the court. Senior forward Ebony Henderson is its lone returning starter.

Thomas Jefferson

Coach: Le’Teshia LeSane 2019-2020: 14-12

Key players: Shamariyah Sinnie, 5-5 G/F; Ceaira Smith, 5-2 G; Savanah Harper, 5-7 F; Paris Greene, 5-6 G/F; Lisa Stamper, 5-8 F/C

Notable: TeeJay doesn’t return any of its starters, but its three returning players still have the hunger of defending regional champs from their last active season. Youth makes it malleable for development but vulnerable to mistakes. Shamariyah Sinnie is the squad’s lone senior and has developed into a significant leader for the team.

Independent

Collegiate

Coach: Rives Fleming 2019-2020: 17-11

Key players: Lily Berger, 5-2 PG; Amani Kimball McKavish, 5-6 G; Audrey Fleming, F; Ellie Smith, G; Kyla Coffey, F; Virginia Ballowe, F

Notable: Collegiate maintains only four players from a league runner-up season in 2019-20. Despite not playing last year, the young group still was able to practice and hopes to now have a strong senior-laden team with good depth. Returning starters, senior guard Amani Kimball McKavish and sophomore point guard Lily Berger, will lead the way.

New Community

Coach: Cameron Battle 2019-2020: 6-9

Key players: Paige Fretwell, PG; Maggie Davis, G; Isabella Puccinelli, F; Tegan Lafiand, F; Ella Riley, C

Notable: This will likely be a development season for New Community — its oldest player is a junior, while its most represented class consists of freshmen. But the team has some defensive hustle to back its growth.

St. Catherine's

Coach: Edmund Sherod 2019-2020: 6-12

Key players: Jaya Powell, 5-7 G; Jordan Mosby, 5-7 G; Laila Britt, 5-6 G; Eliza Cochran, 5-11 C; Sydney McAdoo, 5-11 C

Notable: The Saints will field an athletic, defensive team. They have four returning starters but are a young group without much experience. Only two players on their expected starting lineup are upperclassmen, while guard Laila Britt is only in eighth grade.

Saint Gertrude

Coach: Robyn D’Onofrio

2020-21: 15-3, VISAA D1 champions

Key players: Erin Woodson, 5-11 G; Sam Smith, 5-7 G; Kate Samson, 6-3 F; Cherese Lampkins, 6-0 F; Ava Fulkerson, 5-6 G

Notable: Kate Samson and Woodson are a strong returning duo for a team coming off a state championship season. Samson, a Navy commit, averaged 12.1 ppg and 9.5 rpg. St. Gertrude has a strong focus on the defensive end, speed and a strong post presence.

Steward

Coach: Kara Bacile

2020-21: 6-0, VISAA D2 champions

Key players: Gates Fox, G; Tori West, PG; Sanai Green, G; Ella Grace Saunders, G; Meghan Rotter, F

Notable: After winning back-to-back state championships, Steward graduated six seniors and will be starting two eighth-graders. One of those eighth-graders, Sanai Green, already holds a D1 offer from the University of Richmond. So there will likely be some growing pains as its current lineup develops on the floor, but the Spartans aren’t without some firepower.

Trinity Episcopal

Coach: Adam Lonon 2019-2020: 15-12

Key players: Farrah Berry, 5-5 G; Sophie Dolan, 5-9 G; Addison Wynn, 5-6 G; Vie Updike, 5-2 G; Lily Ferguson, 5-11 F

Notable: The Titans have an entirely new team from their last venture onto the court, with only three upperclassmen and two players with varsity experience in Sophie Dolan and Addison Winn. Dolan, a 5-9 junior guard, played last season with Powhatan and will contribute defensively and in shooting.

— Lily Betts

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