The prep girls basketball season begins tonight with the tip-off of the Skeeter Classic at Urbana. Mechanicsburg will play Jonathan Alder at 6 p.m. at Urbana High School, while the host Hillclimbers will follow up with Dunbar at 7:30 p.m. Games will continue on Saturday with the consolation game at 1 p.m. and the championship at 2:30 p.m.
The Hillclimbers are entering 2015-16 play with one of the best backcourts in the area. Hunter Rogan and Katy Curnutte are going to provide experience and talent at the guard positions.
“Basically we’re looking for big things from Katy, and Hunter has all the talent in the world,” UHS Coach Bill Moss said.
The Hillclimbers will also be looking to Natalie Seeberg inside to help fill the void left by the graduation of Braxton Rogan.
“She’s our biggest kid, so we’re going to rely on her for some rebounds,” Moss said.
Rounding out the starting lineup for now will be Madisyn Horn and Deserae Johnson – a pair of athletic wings.
Bridget Ofori, Katie Weinert, Kinleigh White and Alaina Lyons will all contribute.
The recipe for Urbana will be the same as it always is – play fast, play hard and play smart.
“We want to play a great half-court man-to-man defense and hopefully we’ve got some quick kids – a lot of kids that can handle the ball. We’d like to attack the basket and make things happen that way,” Moss said. “If that happens, I think we could surprise some people this year.”
The other local team in the invitational will also be down a star.
Mechanicsburg lost all-everything guard Jamie Dodane to graduation, but the Indians will be back with a bit of experience and the younger Dodane, Mikayla, along with Sydney Hux.
“Those two are looking good. We’re looking for a lot out of them,” M’burg Coach Christie Dodane said. “Those two are going to lead us.”
Joining that duo in the starting lineup will be Shannon Barch, Meagan Hux and Elly Schipfer. Heather Miller, Bella Link and Gabby Terry will all see action.
“We’re young, but I’m pleased with the kids that we have. We’re working hard and playing together,” Coach Dodane said.
The Indians won the Skeeter Classic each of the last three seasons, so they’ll be looking to repeat as champions to get the season started on a high note.
“We have done very well in our scrimmages. You look to win every game. We’re going to give it our best shot,” Dodane said.
Out west at Graham, Coach Steve Flora has his girls focusing primarily on defense – something that he believes in very strongly as a coach.
“That’s where our strengths are – on the defensive end,” Flora said. “We’ve got to be willing to attack from the defensive end and our offense will come.”
The roster will feature Taylor Gibson, Sarah Henry, Megan Lewis, Kayla Tullis, Bethany Horner, Sarah Flora and transfer Kari Smith.
“Most of them played last year, so they’ve got some varsity experience,” Flora said. “For the most part, we’ve just got a solid eight.”
A lack of height could hurt the Falcons, but Flora thinks the squad could be on par with other local teams, provided they rebound well and keep improving.
“We’ve got to fundamentally box out and then attack the ball,” he said. “We’re going to work harder than anyone else and we’re always going to hustle and sprint to the ball.”
At West Liberty-Salem, the Tigers are looking to make another push at an Ohio Heritage Conference title and perhaps a tournament run.
The girls have standout Jamie Peterson returning, but a lot of other familiar faces are coming back with experience, including Madison Oelker, Mikalia McIntosh, Lily Yoder, Ashley Rabenstein, Kiana Reames and Taylor Lauck.
The new underclassmen are solid also, with Laine Godwin, Kenedie Cox, Gabby Hollar, Kelsey Day and Paige Shafer all expected to contribute. Senior Isabella Clark, new to the team, has offered to play junior varsity if needed.
“We can go a lot a deeper than we’ve gone before,” WL-S Coach Dennis McIntosh said. “We’re going to try to play a more up-tempo style of game and see what happens.”
It will start with Peterson, the 6-foot-4 post who runs like a gazelle and scores seemingly at will in the OHC.
“She gets up and down the floor really well for as big as she is,” McIntosh said, adding that she’ll also work at the top of the Tigers’ press sometimes.
All this adds up to a great mix of experience and youth for WL-S, with a bench that goes four or five players deep with little or no decline in production.
“It’s nice to have the luxury to look down the bench and have people where there’s not going to be a big dropoff,” McIntosh said. “We’re not going to hurt each ourselves by substituting. We’re going to still be competitive.”
At Triad, the landscape is entirely different for Coach Jason Malone. The Cardinals are so young some of them may have spit the pacifier out last week.
Senior guard Jenna Ober is back, but she’s surrounded by a couple of inexperienced upperclassmen and a whole mess of freshmen and sophomores.
Not that the diminutive ball handler isn’t ready for it. In fact, she had to shoulder a lot of the load last season due to injuries and players sitting out.
“Jenna, she had to carry the load. And I think she’s comfortable with it,” Malone said. “So far, from what I’ve seen in practice and the scrimmages we’ve had, she seems more confident.”
Alea Ferguson, who got some time playing as a freshman, now has improved to be a solid starter with more confidence and a higher comfort level. She joins Ober in the backcourt.
“I think that those two compliment each other really well,” Malone said.
Lydia Walls, Tori Thomas, Kristin Bailey and Audrey Lightle are all fighting for starting roles.
Filling out the roster will be Kayleigh Boldman, Hannah Walls, Jade Herron, Makenzie Cauley, Kaitlynn Pence and Shelby Sheets.
“We’ve got a lot of youth, a lot of inexperience,” Malone said. “We’re just trying to get those girls acclimated to what we’re doing.
“I like the group we have. They show up every day and they work hard. They have a desire to compete and get better. Those qualities are going to be pretty essential.”
Check urbanacitizen.com for team schedules.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller