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SWOC GIRLS BASKETBALL: Little Miami, Northwest voted teams to beat

The Southwest Ohio Conference prep girls basketball race this season figures to be interesting.

Northwest got four first-place votes and Little Miami picked up three in the SWOC coaches poll, but Little Miami finished atop the poll by one voting point.

“I take it as a compliment because I think people appreciate what we’ve done over the last couple years,” LM coach Matt Tolliver said. “But I am a little surprised because Northwest brings back more players than us. We lost five really good seniors, but we still have some really good players, so hopefully my kids are up to it.”

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Northwest coach Anthony Johnson said he couldn’t complain about his squad’s No. 2 status.

“We’re thrilled that people are recognizing us this way,” Johnson said. “I don’t think if you go back two years that people were thinking we’d even be in the top half in our league, so we can appreciate that.”

Edgewood, Little Miami and Northwest shared the title last season. EHS was third in this year’s voting, followed (in order) by Ross, Harrison, Talawanda and Mount Healthy.

“I think it’s fair … if you put a lot of stock into preseason polls,” Edgewood coach Greg Brown said. “It’s a good gauge. I think those top two teams are definitely legit contenders, and we’ve got some work to do.”

Senior guard Kaitlyn Simpkins, the Greater Cincinnati leader in assists last year with a 5.6 average, is one of four returning starters for Little Miami. The Panthers also picked up a transfer, junior guard Kelsey Schmidt, for Kings.

Tolliver said his team uses quickness and athleticism to compensate for a lack of size.

“This is probably the most athletic team I’ve had in a while,” Tolliver said. “We can get up and down the court really fast, and we can shoot it. We just play hard. I always tell the kids if you just play hard, a lot of good things will happen.”

Northwest returns six girls who saw time as starters last year. Senior guard Sante’ Williams and senior forward Britnie Grant were double-figure scorers and lead the returnees.

Badin's Emma Adams (12) gets a pass through Ross defenders Korryne Justice (21) and Brooklyn Breaker (22) during Wednesday night's game at Mulcahey Gym in Hamilton. Badin won 59-26. RICK CASSANO/STAFF

Johnson noted the Knights did lose Mya Chapman, the SWOC’s leading rebounder last year, to graduation.

“It’s made us a little quicker,” Johnson said. “We’re up and down the floor a lot more as opposed to last year. And with the experience we have, there’s an air of confidence in knowing you can count on and trust the majority of your teammates.”

Edgewood has one of the SWOC’s bright young talents in sophomore forward Callie Hunt, but she hasn’t played yet this season. She’s due back from a fractured tibia next week.

Brown is also dealing with the loss of senior guard Sam Turner to a knee injury.

“I don’t know what we are yet,” Brown said. “I don’t think the kids know what we are yet.”

Ross has a small, quick team that can get up and down the floor at a quick pace. Sometimes too quick, coach Rodney Parrett said, as turnovers have been a major problem in the early going.

Harrison coach Troy Kinnett is hopeful that this can be a bounce-back season for his Wildcats. They’ve got a lot of quickness, depth and youth. They’ve also added senior center Claire McCurley, a transfer from Badin.

Longtime Mother of Mercy coach Mary Jo Huismann has taken over at Talawanda, where senior Jazz Bennett and junior Kyra Koontz lead the returnees.

The Brave have gotten off to a rocky start with three blowout losses, but Huismann is optimistic about the teams’s prospects moving forward. Junior Sophie Pohlabel is back after sitting out last season with a knee injury.

Mount Healthy will try to compete in the SWOC with a quick unit. The Owls have a lot of young players, but coach Greg Moore said he considers that a strength “as the team continues to learn the game the right way.”

THE PRESEASON POLL

Here’s how the coaches voted in the preseason Southwest Ohio Conference girls basketball poll, with point totals and first-place votes (in parentheses):

1. Little Miami (3) 43

2. Northwest (4) 42

3. Edgewood 38

4. Ross 22

5. Harrison 21

6. Talawanda 20

7. Mount Healthy 10

A LOOK AT THE TEAMS

Here’s a team-by-team preseason look at the SWOC teams, with information provided by the coaches:

1. LITTLE MIAMI PANTHERS

Coach: Matt Tolliver (eighth season)

2017-18 Record: 16-8 overall, 10-2 SWOC (first place, tied)

Returning Starters: Ally Grake (5-4 sophomore guard), Sydney Kuritar (5-7 senior forward), Emily Nugen (5-5 senior guard), Kaitlyn Simpkins (5-5 senior guard)

Top Newcomer: Kelsey Schmidt (5-6 junior guard)

Team Strengths: Shooting, quickness, experience, depth

Area Of Concern: Lack of size

2. NORTHWEST KNIGHTS

Coach: Anthony Johnson (third season)

2017-18 Record: 16-8 overall, 10-2 SWOC (first place, tied)

Returning Starters (all started at various points): Sierra Boyd (5-11 senior forward), Samantha Cain (5-6 senior guard), Aliyah Casson (5-7 junior guard), Britnie Grant (6-1 senior forward), Haylie Russell (5-8 senior guard), Sante’ Williams (5-1 senior guard)

Top Newcomers: Antaniqua Bell (6-1 senior forward), Anye’ Shabazz (5-7 sophomore guard)

Team Strengths: Experience, chemistry

Area Of Concern: Taking one play at a time

3. EDGEWOOD COUGARS

Coach: Greg Brown (13th season)

2017-18 Record: 13-10 overall, 10-2 SWOC (first place, tied)

Returning Starters: Emma Allen (5-6 senior guard), Callie Hunt (6-0 sophomore forward), Zoe Stephen (5-6 junior guard)

Top Newcomers: Avery Stahlheber (5-11 junior forward), Faith Whitt (5-5 junior guard)

Team Strengths: Work ethic, coachable

Area Of Concern: Lack of varsity experience

4. ROSS RAMS

Coach: Rodney Parrett (ninth season)

2017-18 Record: 4-18 overall, 4-8 SWOC (fourth place, tied)

Returning Starters: Brooklyn Breaker (5-6 junior guard), Korryne Justice (5-8 junior guard)

Top Newcomer: Veronica Allen (5-7 freshman guard)

Team Strength: Quickness

Areas Of Concern: Lack of size, turnovers

5. HARRISON WILDCATS

Coach: Troy Kinnett (third season)

2017-18 Record: 5-18 overall, 1-11 SWOC (seventh place)

Returning Starters: Emily Forbeck (5-8 junior guard), Hayley Harmon (5-8 senior guard), McKenzie Mobley (5-7 junior guard), Ava Tombragel (5-7 sophomore guard), Sami Wilkins (5-6 senior guard)

Top Newcomers: Holly Forbeck (5-4 freshman guard), Emily Heimkreiter (5-7 freshman forward), Krissy Kowalski (5-10 freshman forward), Claire McCurley (6-1 senior center), Ella Pittman (5-7 sophomore guard),Ally White (5-3 freshman guard)

Team Strength: Depth

Area Of Concern: Learning curve that comes with varsity inexperience, more than half the roster is new

6. TALAWANDA BRAVES

Coach: Mary Jo Huismann (first season)

2017-18 Record: 9-14 overall, 4-8 SWOC (fourth place, tied)

Returning Starters: Jazz Bennett (5-6 senior guard), Kyra Koontz (5-6 junior forward), Jenna Tegge (5-10 senior center)

Top Newcomer: Sophie Pohlabel (6-0 junior forward)

Team Strengths: Quickness, shooting ability

Area Of Concern: Learning new system

7. MOUNT HEALTHY OWLS

Coach: Greg Moore (sixth season)

2017-18 Record: 9-14 overall, 3-9 SWOC (sixth place)

Returning Starter: Ebony Johnson (5-8 senior forward)

Top Newcomers: Breanna Clemons (5-7 sophomore forward), Noel Weathers (5-10 freshman forward)

Team Strength: Transition game

Areas Of Concern: Lack of size, inexperience, lack of depth, injuries

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