Girls Basketball * Paint Valley High School
Preview Paints Picture for Upcoming Season
By Shayne Combs, SVCsportszone.com...Pictures by Tracy Carle
Friday night in Bainbridge, the girls took the floor for one last dress rehearsal before things start counting
next weekend. This year’s preview was a lot like what you see every year. You get several teams
playing several different combinations, and some schools not playing many starters at all.

I thought the hardest thing to sort out was the middle of the pack. Zane Trace, Westfall, and Southeastern
all have some injuries. It is hard to tell at this point, but it appears that some of these injuries are more
severe and others were just minor things that kept players out of a two-quarter exhibition.

The thing that was not hard to figure out was which teams belong at the top of this year’s preseason
talk. First, game two saw Unioto rotate a long list of athletes as multiple kids knocked down perimeter
shots and several others showed a willingness to take the perimeter shot.

I also thought Unioto played well in the post. Senior Hannah Miller brings some experience to the line-up.
She is a solid midrange shooter, and she also passes well from the high post. Tori Cox, just a sophomore,
continues to get better every time I see her play. I thought her rebounding and shot blocking started to
impact games in the second half of last year, and I anticipate her offensive skills are going to start catching
up with the rest of her game this season.

As deep as Unioto is the Lady Shermans do lack size off the bench; however, they have so much guard
play that I really feel their defensive pressure will cover up this slight weakness. Senior Morgan Gumm
returns as a proven perimeter defender and a kid who has a knack for making big plays late in the game.

Gumm is joined by a long list of solid guards. Ashley Flautt is a great athlete who can impact a game in
many ways. Lauren Stout and Natalie Neff looked comfortable shooting the three-point shot Friday night,
and freshman point guard Alexis Overly was quite impressive with her overall court sense and ball skills.

The crazy thing about Unioto’s depth is the fact that two of its best athletes are still out of the lineup.
Mallory Retherford and Erin Bane both had serious off-season knee surgery and both are hoping to return
to the court soon. Retherford is hoping to be ready to go in late November, and for Bane, it looks like
sometime after the holidays.

In the nightcap, Adena took the floor against host Paint Valley. I was very impressed with the Lady
Warriors. Keep in mind; many of Adena’s key players have only been in basketball practice for a few
days. Adena is led by two of the top three players in the league in Jenny Grigsby and Autumn Smith. At 5-
9, Grigsby is a nightmare match-up for the league as she can play multiple positions. She can post the
smaller defender, and she can beat the bigger, slower defender off the dribble. With Smith, she is simply
fantastic with the basketball. She can go right or left, and I love her ability to control the height of her
dribble all while keeping her head up to find open teammates. The biggest question I have about these two
– and really the only question: Can these two consistently play big on the same night. In the past, I have
seen both these players have huge games, but I rarely see it happen together. I feel both these players
have the ability, the versatility, and now even the experience to improve in this area.

Adena also has some other solid pieces in its top six. Natalie Cooper is one of the league’s best all-
around players and Michelle Ackley has experience as well. Perhaps Adena’s need for depth will
start with a couple of post kids that really caught my eye in Friday’s action. Alyssa Kennedy and
Alyssa Dawson both bring something to the table that Adena needs. Kennedy is a tremendous athlete and
Dawson is a post player who has great feet and is very fundamentally sound with her post moves.

As far as the early favorite, it is probably too early to say. Adena probably has more star power in its
starting five; whereas, Unioto is much deeper. I think both teams benefit from the head-to-head match-up
not coming until January. Adena is going to get a chance to get their basketball legs underneath them, and
for Unioto, they are going to have a good chance to get a few key pieces back from injury.

Just behind these two teams, the league is looking at an interesting team in Piketon. The Lady Redstreaks
are led by senior Alex Southworth. Southworth, who recently signed with Ball State, leads a Piketon team
that has shown great improvement over the past three seasons and now tries to become a serious title
contender. Southworth, the league’s top player in my opinion, has had a great career. At 6-0,
Southworth led the league in assists last year while finishing second in rebounding. She also scored over
11 points per game. I believe Southworth’s biggest challenge this year will be changing her personality
somewhat and trying to develop a scorer’s mentality. Don’t get me wrong, Southworth has some
nice pieces around her such as sophomores K.K. Jenkins and Aleah Pelphrey, but I feel Southworth is
going to have to really assert herself on the offensive end for Piketon to challenge the likes of Adena and

Scheduling Note: I had a chance to talk to Adena’s Jeran Cox, Unioto’s Jeff Miller, and
Brett Coreno of Piketon about this year’s race. Fans can hear these comments when
SVCsportszone.com’s podcast -
The Cardo’s Family Fun Center SVC Sports Talk returns as I
will be joined by Eric Snyder as the two of us talk a lot of SVC basketball this winter.

After this top trio, it is an issue that I mentioned in my opening about the next three teams being hard to
rank. Even though I think Westfall and Southeastern are much improved, my gut still says the final top half
spot belongs to Zane Trace. The Lady Pioneers return all-league performer Kelsey Dunkle. They also
have a very athletic Hayley Carle and a welcomed return of Taylor Hatfield to the basketball roster. Zane
Trace also has Joann Saultz and Jillian Pontius, two kids who seem to have a great toughness and
competitiveness that Coach Dunkle likes in his players. This is probably why I like them in this spot. Zane
Trace is tough, athletic, and you know they are going to guard you physically. The big question mark
comes on the offensive end in terms of where the points will come from after Dunkle.

Now, take Zane Trace’s tradition factor out of the equation and just look at this year’s roster,
and perhaps you could make an equally fair argument for Westfall and Southeastern. When healthy,
Westfall has a nice sophomore class in Kayla Tackett, Jess Miller, Miranda Perdue, and Mallorie Wippel
to mix with junior Paige Swaggerty who is coming off a solid sophomore season. I think Westfall is going
to have good enough guard play and enough depth to cause the bottom half teams some problems in their
head-to-head match-ups.

Southeastern is a similar team. They have several nice young pieces such as Kylan Strausbaugh and
Keisha Brown. I also saw some things in Brandi Sarlo’s game Friday night that I like. The injury to
Erin Uhrig definitely hurts this team, but if a few other young kids can step in and produce, Southeastern
has a chance to move up the standings.

The other teams that enter this discussion are Paint Valley and Huntington. For Paint Valley, I was
impressed with their overall toughness in Friday night’s action. Adena was obviously more talented,
but under first-year head coach Joe Holbert the Lady Bearcats really played hard and physical. Paint
Valley has a unique talent in an improving Charlene Stout and sophomore Laci Stanforth and senior
Amber Lewis also return with experience. Junior Ashley Potts is also a returning letter winner from a year
ago, and sophomores Kaylie Armstrong, Nellie Rhoads, and Kamren Bobb as well as senior Cortney
Bethel all provide a lot of the hustle plays that I was describing in the before mentioned toughness.

With Huntington, the green and white is a more athletic team than a year ago. With some athletes out like
Jackie Kellough and Layne Beasley, Steve Bridenbaugh returns to the sidelines to lead the Lady
Huntsmen. Huntington will be able to compete athletically a little better in 2012; however, it will still take
some time to settle into a consistent rotation. Other names include seniors Taylor Blankenship, Brittany
Tornberg, and Jordan Kellough. The Lady Huntsmen also have some nice young pieces in sophomores
Shania Irvin, Lydia Coleman, and Kala Lemaster all have some potential to be good players in the future
for Huntington.

If nothing else, it was nice to just be in the gym Friday night watching basketball. I know many people
would just assume do away with the preview, but it is interesting to see some of the individual
improvements that kids have made. Games start counting next weekend and many teams are in action at
the Paint Valley and Zane Trace Classics. Keep checking back to SVCsportszone.com this week as we
hope to have all the schedules up in the next few days.