CINCINNATI -- Ohio high school girls’ basketball practice officially began last Friday.
Spoiler alert: The Cincinnati area is loaded with talented players and teams once again.
Before games start Nov. 25, let’s take a look at nine area teams to watch.
These teams are from all divisions and make the list based upon last season’s results, personnel returning, area coaches and perspective from the Ohio Girls’ Basketball Report.
1. Mason (26-3 in 2015-16): The Comets were Division I state runners-up in March and despite the graduation of guard Jailyn Mason (Arkansas) and post player Lauren Van Kleunen (Marquette), Mason is stacked with talent again.
Look for sophomore guard Sammie Puisis to make an impact from the perimeter early this season. She is one of the nation’s most talented players in the 2019 class and has multiple scholarship offers including Ohio State, Florida State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Arkansas and others. The Comets also have senior guard Samari Mowbray and junior forward Anna Brinkmann (NKU volleyball commit).
“I think this team will be more athletic and just as long as last year which will allow us to play multiple defenses,” Mason coach Rob Matula said. Mason starts the season against Forest Trail Academy (N.C.) in the “Journey to the Tourney” at Lakota West Nov. 27.
2. Lakota West (26-2): Nine to 10 players are capable starters and can contribute nightly for the Firebirds, who were the Division I regional runner-up to Mason last season.
“A key for us is fighting daily to improve throughout a loaded schedule of non-conference state and nationally ranked teams,” Lakota West coach Andy Fishman said.
Junior guard Abby Prohaska earned plenty of experience playing for the USA Basketball Under-17 World Championship team this past summer.
“She has risen beyond typical training expectations to set a great pace for her teammates,” Fishman said.
Look for senior forward Christine Laritz, junior forward Jasmine Ballew, junior guard Sarah Jones, freshman forward Nevaeh Dean, junior guard Ally Haar, sophomore guard Bryana Henderson and senior guard Juliauna Howard and junior guard Madisyn Oxley to contribute or be in the starting lineup at some point.
3. Mount Notre Dame (19-4): The Cougars also seem to have talented players in all classes. Watch for sophomore forward Julia Hoefling (11.0 points per game) and sophomore guard Gabbie Marshall (11.4 ppg.) -- both of whom should make a significant impact in the GGCL.
Coach Scott Rogers will have his team in the Classic in the Country Challenge in January and you'd better believe it will be ready for the postseason tournament.
"This team is of the most fun groups I've had," Rogers said. "They love coming to practice."
Watch for senior center Maria Pisciotta, senior guard Madison Markum and junior forward Abbie Voss, who had an excellent offseason.
4. McAuley (18-7): The Mohawks return most of their impact players from a district final appearance last season.
“We expect to be able to go deep into the bench this season with experienced players who know what it takes to win,” McAuley coach Dan Wallace said. “The commitment this offseason and impressive team chemistry should help us work through a very tough schedule.”
Watch for 6-2 forward Lexi Chrisman (Rice commit), who had an excellent spring and summer on the offensive end and is playing with a very high motor on the boards. Senior 5-9 guard Caroline Taphorn and junior 5-7 guard Hallie Heidemann will be key.
Rebounding from the guard positions is of utmost importance for McAuley. Watch for 2020 point guard Lexi Fleming, the daughter of La Salle boys coach Dan Fleming.
5. Ursuline (18-8): The Lions return four starters from last winter and the squad has six seniors.
Watch for senior 6-foot-4 forward Maddie Stuhlreyer (Harvard commit) along with senior forward Emma Cain and senior guards Elle Folan, Claudia Johnson and Audrey James.
“The leadership that the seniors have shown up to this point has been phenomenal,” Ursuline coach Keith Starks said. “They’ve taken ownership of this team and we’re hoping it pays dividends as the season moves along.”
6. Glen Este (21-2): This season will be easily the toughest schedule Glen Este has played in Jeff Click’s 20 years as head coach.
But, it’s a challenge the team will embrace. Watch for two returning starters -- 5-10 junior guard Jasmine Hale and 5-11 junior forward Kaylin Burdick. Hale averaged 12.8 points and 3.1 rebounds last season. Burdick averaged 5.7 points and 4.7 rebounds.
“We have the potential to be a very good offensive team,” Click said. This squad must develop defensively and learn to play together quickly. Glen Este plays Hathaway Brown in the “Journey to the Tourney” and travels up to the Classic in the Country among other non-league games.
7. Summit Country Day (20-4): Nine players return for Summit, which should be one of the area favorites in Division III.
The squad will be led by junior point guard Ravin Alexander, a first-team all-state selection who was the Associated Press Southwest District player of the year last season. Alexander averaged 11.2 points, 5.6 assists, 5.0 steals and 3.5 rebounds last season.
Watch for junior guard Alea Harris (honorable mention all-district), senior forward Meghan O’Brien and junior guards Niah Woods and Kiana Allen.
“I love our speed,” Summit coach Beth Simmons said. “We are a very quick team. Our ability to get up and down the floor and pressure on the defensive end will be key components for this upcoming season.”
8. Mariemont (24-2): Mariemont won 10 consecutive games to start last season and won 13 consecutive starting in January until it lost in the tournament in late February.
Two starters return including senior center Rebekah Justice (Iona commit) and guard Carson Fields. Justice averaged 12.2 points and 9.2 rebounds last season. Fields averaged 9.1 points, 2.2 assists and 2.1 steals. Watch for senior small forward Emma Worple, who missed last season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury, and junior guard Ashley Rothert, who was a key reserve last season. Look for Mariemont to be a force in Division II.
9. Badin (14-11): Badin will be a contender in Division III in the Southwest District and longtime coach Tom Sunderman likes the squad he has returning. Watch for sophomore point guard Macy Harper, senior forward Olivia Keene, sophomore post player Emma Broermann (11.1 ppg., 9.0 rpg.), sophomore post player Claire McCurley and senior forward Lauren Krause.
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