With a good top-half of the league, it will be important for teams to
control their own destiny instead of depending on help from others
Hooray for Hoops!
By Shayne Combs
Finally, basketball is in the air.
A special time for us to share.
Electric atmospheres with pep bands loud,
and student sections in the crowd.

Fall is fine, but it is so well-known.
The titles are dynasties to own.
Like volleyball in Frankfort…simply enough said,
and Unioto golfers finishing way ahead.
Like Hatfield and Ross running way out alone,
It seems like results are set in stone.

Winter has favorites that many will pick,
but it has upsets that make big-dogs sick.
Will Legg and the Streaks become the league’s best?
Will the Lady Tanks stay ahead of the rest?
The two-shade ladies will have a say about this,
and counting out ZT could leave you feeling remiss.

Winter is buzzer-beaters, fast breaks, and more.
It is no-look passes and players diving on the floor.
It is low crossover dribbles to drive to the hole.
It is finishing with contact for an “and-one� goal.
It is standing your ground to take a charge.
It is a role player in the clutch coming up large.
It is an official’s whistle being both good and bad
with one side of the gym happy and the other side mad.
It is continuity on offense and intense pressure on “D.
It is penetrating and kicking for a purely shot three.
It is coaches drawing up a last-second play,
or a great call from Mike on WKKJ.

So just close your eyes and make a basketball wish.
You’ll hear the bouncing ball and the net saying â
For your wait is almost over, the season is here.
Your first trip to the gym is drawing near.
You’d be hard pressed to find a sport I don’t
but the gym in the winter – that’s a gift from
A gift I cherish in a very special way –
Hoop season is here and I say “hooray.�
I start with the final game of the night, because it was where the best
basketball of the evening was played. Unioto won an up-and-down
game that previewed what should be a great match-up during the
regular season. The first thing that caught my attention in this game
was the improvement of Mackenzie Arledge in terms of athleticism. I
love to see good players continue to get better, and this is definitely
the case with the returning Player of the Year. Arledge showed a
great ability to run the floor rim to rim. She also showed an
improved ability to hedge on ball screens which allowed an already
aggressive defense to turn it up even more.

The versatility of Arledge is also going to help on the offensive end.
The size of Arledge and the ability of Janae Driggs to slash to the
goal will combine to consume the focus of opposing defenses. This
opens things up for the other Lady Shermans to enjoy some
mismatches. Unioto’s pair of forwards – Maddie Davis and
Hannah Miller – are both 5’11� and both are very athletic. I
think both Davis and Miller are going to get several opportunities in
the post against smaller defenders to impact games on the offensive
end. As for the other guards, Morgan Gumm brings some experience
to the line-up and does a great job defending on-ball. I also really
like Mallory Retherford off the bench. The sophomore has a high
basketball IQ, and she does a great job of playing team defense and
creating shots for her teammates on the offensive end.

Weakness? My biggest concern from a year ago still remains a year
later. This is Unioto’s inability to shoot the perimeter shot.
Unioto’s defensive pressure and overall talent and athleticism
will take care of most opponents on their schedule; however, against
some of the better teams on their regular season schedule and
especially in the Division II tournament, I think Unioto will face
teams who handle their pressure and play some various zones. On
the nights Unioto can’t get offense in transition, will they be able
to find a way to score in the half court against zones? The answer to
this question could determine if this team is able to go from really
good to great.

As for Adena, the Lady Warriors are much smaller than a year ago,
but you can’t help but love their guard play. Autumn Smith, a
player who in my opinion took Adena to a completely different level
late last season, returns to give Adena probably the league’s
purest ball handler. Smith is joined in the backcourt by sharp-
shooter Brytan Givens. Both of these guards will benefit greatly
because of the all-around talent of Jenny Grigsby. Grigsby, a 5-10
sophomore, has the ability to play both inside and out and few teams
will have the ability to match-up with both her and Smith when
trying to guard Adena man-to-man in the scrimmage area. After this
fine trio, Adena does have some nice guards throughout its rotation,
but you can’t help but notice the lack of size in the line-up. This
would be my biggest concern. In a league where the other top-half
teams have good height and athleticism, the glass and points in the
paint have to be a concern for Coach Jeran Cox. Last year, I thought
Adena was a year away, and they proved during the second half of the
year that I was a half-of-a-year off. I believe they will figure out ways
to negate this issue and become Unioto’s biggest challenger for
this year’s title.

The third game of the night was surprising to me for a couple of
different reasons. First, Piketon is by far the most improved team.
The Redstreaks have all sorts of reasons to be excited about girls’
basketball in the years to come. I love the improvements in the game
of Alex Southworth. The 6-0 junior has the ability to run the point,
but she is now pushing the ball with a lot more aggressiveness. She
not only is creating shots for teammates, but she is far more intent
on scoring the basketball this season. Her willingness to shoot the
perimeter shot is going to really open up the middle for Piketonâ
€™s post players. Tori and Aleah Pelphrey are both capable scorers
on the block. Tori brings experience to a young Piketon team, and
Aleah is a talented 6-0 freshman who can do a lot of things on the
basketball court. In following Aleah a year ago in junior high, I
believe she is only going to get better as the season moves into the
second half of the year.

The 2011 Lady Redstreaks will also feature another freshman in 5-11
Kalen Jenkins. They will look to some other solid role players to
complete Coach Brett Coreno’s rotation. Depth is the one
concern I have with this team. I really like the size, the versatility,
and the overall talent of this starting five, but when matched against
the other top teams in the league, I worry about foul trouble and the
inability to go as deep down the bench as some of the other teams can
do. I’m not saying Piketon can’t knock off the big dogs, but I
think the key for this team to get over the hump is beating who they
are supposed to beat. If they do this both inside and outside the SVC,
I think their win total from 2010 will go up, and a sectional
championship could definitely be a possibility come Late February.

As for Zane Trace, the Lady Pioneers have a talented starting five,
but I couldn’t help but notice a roster of only 11 dressed players
containing six freshmen. Zane Trace has always been a program with
a great depth of athletes, and Coach Joe Dunkle once again has great
athletes this season. My biggest concern will be how quickly their
youth can adjust to the varsity level. Returning players like Sierra
Sigman and Erin Dailey should supply some scoring punch. Jenna
Wiget brings some experience at the point while backcourt mate
Kelsey Dunkle brings great defensive effort and some perimeter
shooting as well. The biggest bright spot I saw Friday for the red,
white, and blue was freshman Haley Carle. Carle should always get a
somewhat easier match-up when playing with Sigman and Dailey,
and if her play in the preview is any indication, I think she can give
ZT some much needed offensive help.

Paint Valley puts an interesting team on the floor in 2011. The Lady
Bearcats are led by senior guard Abbie Walls. Walls has been an all-
league caliber guard the last two seasons, and I look for her to have a
solid senior season. My biggest concern for PV is on the offensive end
after Walls. Senior Dacia Posey and junior Amber Lewis both give
the Paint Valley line-up some experience. Emily Bales was also a
bright spot on the offensive end for the Lady Cats in Friday’s
action. The thing I am intrigued by for Coach Everhart’s squad
this season is their ability to put some really athletic combinations
on the floor. SVC fans know about the ability of Walls, but young
kids like Charlene Stout, Laci Stanforth, and Ally Johnson just to
name a few will give the Bearcats some defensive versatility
depending on the match-up. The thing Paint Valley will need to
overcome from last year is the way they played to their competition.
The Bearcats played some of southern Ohio’s most elite teams
extremely tough as they even pulled some nice upsets; however,
Paint Valley was unable to finish off some close games against some
of the teams in the bottom half of the league. Regardless of what the
regular season holds for the black and gold, I can’t help but think
about PV being Division IV again this year which means a great
opportunity for a postseason run – a run that saw PV go to the
district tournament a year ago.

I couldn’t really get a read on Westfall Friday night because of
the absence of Casie Zimmerman. Zimmerman is a player who is
good enough with the ball to not only create her own shot, but she
can create easy shots for teammates as well. I think Zimmermanâ
€™s ability to do this is going to be important considering Westfall
graduated Makenzie Wippel from last year’s roster.

Lizzie Essman shot the ball well Friday night for the Lady Mustangs.
A few upperclassmen for Westfall such as Alyssa Lamb on the
perimeter and Alex Phillips in the post will be asked to increase
their respective roles this season, and I also think Westfall has a nice
nucleus of freshmen and sophomores who will help Westfall improve
throughout the year.

As mentioned before, I can’t really react to what I saw Friday
because I anticipate Zimmerman will help. I thought Westfall
struggled to get high percentage shots against Paint Valley, but I
think when given some open looks, Westfall has some shooters
capable of producing some offense. The Lady Mustangs will struggle
against the top half of this year’s league, but I see no reason they
can’t go toe-to-toe with the rest of the league and put together a
respectable league finish.

Lastly, the first game Friday night saw two programs in Huntington
and Southeastern trying to mix many new faces together at the
varsity level. For Southeastern, I think they have some nice young
pieces, but I am not sure the extent of some of their injury issues. As
for what I saw on Friday, Erin Uhrig and Lydia Dresbach are two
sophomores who got a taste of varsity basketball a year ago. Uhrig
gives the Lady Panthers some toughness on the defensive end, and
Dresbach is a nice perimeter threat. I also like freshman Kylan
Strausbaugh as she brings a good basketball IQ to the floor giving
Southeastern a lot of intangibles. As for Southeastern in the
standings, it is tough to say until I see how their rotation is going to
fill out. As I mentioned with Westfall, I think it would be unfair to
expect them to run with the top four in this year’s league, but I
feel they are as capable as anyone in the bottom half of posting a
respectable finish.

Huntington, the host of Friday night’s action, lost Madison
Vickers from last year’s team. This is a team in 2011 that is
trying to find some identity. I did think they had a few kids who could
score in the paint such as juniors Paige Danner and Brittny
Tornberg. I feel the thing that Huntington will struggle with is
getting the basketball inside to these threats. The green and white
have a lot of inexperience at the guard positions, and with the
intense pressure that so many teams will apply, I think turnovers and
overall decision-making will be the biggest obstacles for Huntington
to overcome.
Click here to see pictures from Ken
Farrar from Friday night's preview
at Huntington High School!