Gatlinburg-Pittman Lady Highlanders
Coach: Katie Parton, 2nd season
Last season: 16-14, 8-4 in 3-AA (3rd in district tournament)
Departed players: Sami John
Returning varsity: Sasha Moore, Karsen Sims, Hunter Price, Micki Werner, Haris Price, Bethany Sutton
Probable starters: Karsen Sims, Haris Price, Micki Werner, Sasha Moore, Dannie Luczak
Key role-players: Bethany Sutton, Hunter Price, Alicia Sumeriski
Why they can win: The Lady Highlanders ended last season on a positive note, finishing third in the District 3-AA tournament. They return all but one player from last year’s squad and add sophomore Dannie Luczak, who was the leading rebounder for 2-AAA Jefferson County last season as a freshman. Luczak’s presence down low — in addition to the all-conference play of Sims and Price — should greatly help a Lady Highlanders team now looked upon as the possible favorite in 3-AA. With excitement surrounding the team and a new venue at GPHS, home court advantage should be near and all-time high for the Lady Highlanders.
Areas of concern: Several coaches have already tabbed the young Lady Highlanders as a possible contender for a state-tournament run, which is a hard expectation for a team with just four upperclassmen to live up to. The Blue and Gold will likely get other team’s best efforts every night. While Luczak is undoubtedly a talent, adding a new player to an already solid lineup can sometimes take time. The Lady Highlanders may not round into the team they can be until the second half of the season.
Coach Parton says: “I think one of our strengths will be we may have more inside game this year. Last year we played four guards, five guards most of the time. We went from having no big girls to a bunch of big girls. That will be something new for other teams (to compete with). We really haven’t one with me here as head coach. We’re looking forward to Dannie (Luczak) playing this year, she gives us a lot of help, and it will help Sasha and Alicia (in the post).”
On her guards’ play: “Haris (Price, a sophomore who started as a freshman) has a year under her belt, more time at the point position, and our other guards are more experienced. Karsen just plays so hard, and she’s so competitive. She and Micki both go out there and give you everything they have.
On pressure of success: “While it’s great they’re picked to do well, “There’s a lot of new girls and we’re still very young. It’s great that we have new people, but that chemistry thing plays a lot. That’s definitely going to be a problem for us (early).”
On the 9th graders: “We have a great group of freshmen. This is the first time I’ve had more than 1-2 freshmen that can contribute on varsity.”
Pigeon Forge Lady Tigers
Coach: Paul Reagan, 4th season
Last season: 20-10, 10-2 in 3-AA (2nd in district tournament)
Departed players: Brittany Wood, Cassidy Martin (moved out of state)
Returning varsity: Mindy Brackins, Mikayla Trombley, Katie Shields, Courtney Leatherwood, Callie Clabo, Rebecca Baker, Clarissa Crowley
Probable starters: Mindy Brackins, Mikayla Trombley, Callie Clabo, Rebecca Baker, Clarissa Crowley
Key role-players: Katie Shields, Courtney Leatherwood, Alyssa Mitchell, Sarah Hill, Natalie Holbert, Riley Jo Maples
Why they can win: As much as any team in Sevier County, the Lady Tigers are used to winning. PF has finished in the top two at the district tournament each of the last four seasons and earned a state tournament berth in 2010-2011. There is a ton of experience on this team, which returns two of its top three scorers. Mikayla Trombley will move from point guard to wing this year, where she can focus more on her scoring, something she does well. Mindy Brackins also can score, and provides good leadership on the floor. Coach Paul Reagan believes this year’s squad will be better defensively than last year’s region semifinal team.
Areas of concern: Cassidy Martin, who was the Lady Tigers leading scorer each of the past two seasons and an all-state selection in 2011, moved out of state with her family prior to the school year. Replacing her scoring and outside shooting touch could prove a challenge. Pigeon Forge, as usual, also lacks a large inside presence, though Brackins — while undersized for a post — fills in very admirably in that spot and provides versatility most posts don’t have.
Coach Reagan says: “We’ve got some experience coming back. I’m extremely excited about our team. I love coaching these girls. They get along really well together, they play hard, and they genuinely like each other. I’ve got seven girls that have played a lot of basketball that I can really trust. In the past it’s been how Mindy (Brackins) goes, we go. I think we’re more diverse now.”
On leadership: “Mindy and Mikayla are definitely our leaders, they’re our two captains right now, and they’re leading the way they should because they’ve been there and done that.”
On replacing lost players: “We lost Cassidy Martin and Brittany Wood. Brittany was like a momma to the team, and we’ve got another girl that’s stepped up into that role — Lydia Cantrell, our manager —she’s like our momma on the team for our girls. Cassidy’s role was scoring, she could flat-out score. We’ve got some other girls that have paid their time, done their due-diligence, and they’re ready to step up.”
On Mikayla Trombley: “Mikayla didn’t have as good a year last year as she could have had because of her nagging injuries. I think she’s finally full speed. Mikayla can play anywhere, 1-through-5.”
On defense: “We weren’t a great defensive team last year. We got a little sloppy. We tried to focus on that end in the summer and early fall. I think our offense will be there.”
Sevier County Bearettes
Coach: Stacy Marine, 7th season SNbS
Last season: 17-16, 7-7 in 2-AAA (4th in district tournament)
Departed players: Carly Pippin, Madison Pickel, Joslin Connatser, Autumn Turner
Returning varsity: Kelsey Wypych, Emily Campbell, Taylor Chapman, Brittany Tarr, Katlyn Davis
Probable starters: Kelsey Wypych, Taylor Chapman, Brittany Tarr, Katlyn Davis, Rachel Cole
Key role-players: Emily Campbell, Rachel Cole, Tricia Hans, Tori McKinney
Why they can win: Seniors Kelsey Wypych and Taylor Chapman both shined at times last season, especially when picking up the slack for injured leading scorers Carly Pippin and Madison Pickel. Brittany Tarr can be a game-changer in the post. She’s got some offensive skills and is a good rebounder. She can be the team’s leading scorer focal point of the offensive game plan.
Areas of concern: Losing two college-level guards, Pippin (on the basketball team at Carson-Newman) and Pickel (running track at C-N), could make scoring the basketball a difficult proposition at times for the Bearettes. Aside from Chapman, Wypych and Tarr, Sevier County has minimal varsity playing experience. Breaking in first-time varsity players as starters is always a difficult task, especially in AAA hoops. Beyond the three seniors, Sevier County is essentially a team of sophomores.
Coach Marine says: “The girls get along great with each other, they’re going hard in practice, but they’ve kept a good spirit. We’re going to go out and play hard. That’s one thing we demand. Go out and play hard and leave it all on the court. Hopefully we’ll get better as the year goes along.”
On his team’s youth: “We’re young. We’ve only got four seniors, only two that have played a tremendous amount of minutes, and the other girls that have played are sophomores. We’re going to have some growing pains. When you’re playing sophomores a tremendous amount of minutes you’re going to see ups and downs. They’re going to have games where they do pretty well, but the consistency is not there. We need those sophomores to be playing like juniors and seniors. The more experience they get, the more they’ll grow. When they start growing, we can be pretty competitive.”
On his small starting lineup: “It’s a small starting lineup, four guards and Brittany, but that’s what works for us right now. We hope Tricia (Hans, who played at SCHS as a freshman before transferring out of state) gets in there and we can work a little high-low, with both Brittany and Tricia working in the post. But they’ve got to get the accustomed to working in the post together a little bit more.”
Seymour Lady Eagles
Coach: Brandi Stallings, 3rd season
Last season: 19-13, 10-4 in 2-AAA (2nd in district tournament)
Departed players: Jordan Ballard, Brittany Seagle
Returning varsity: Kasey Norman, Mariah Flynn, Lexi Justus, Payton King, Victoria Nelson
Probable starters: Kasey Norman, Mariah Flynn, Lexi Justus, Peyton King, Victoria Nelson
Key role-players: Cheyenne King, Maria Widener, Hannah Schrimpsher, Caroline Ford
Why they can win: The Lady Eagles should be very good down low as Flynn, Peyton King and Victoria Nelson all have lots of experience despite their relative youth. All three started last year and can score, rebound and defend the post. Kasey Norman and Lexi Justus are both good players on the perimeter and can shoot and penetrate. Coach Brandi Stallings has made the most of her team’s talent in each of the past two years, and now she appears to have one of the most talented teams in the IMAC, which should make the Lady Eagles a preseason favorite.
Areas of concern: Jordan Ballard and Brittany Seagle are big losses for the Lady Eagles, though Seagle missed most of the 2011-12 season with a knee injury. Ballard was the team’s primary vocal leader on the floor, often leading the team and playing inspired basketball in the most crucial of times. Ballard wasn’t afraid to take a big shot and her aggressiveness as a defender was often huge for the Lady Eagles. Where will this team’s big shots come from? Who will take over as the team’s floor general? Only time will tell.
Coach Stallings says: “Two things that we’ve got in our favor is experience and size. I think we can match up pretty well with most people or cause matchup problems, either way. I’d like to think we are (in the upper half of District 2-AAA). (But) anything goes in the IMAC, you never know who’s going to show up.”
On finding a floor leader: “I’ve just got to get a vocal leader. Losing that in Jordan last year is where we’re going to struggle early. I think it’ll take care of itself. These are good girls that don’t like to hurt anybody’s feelings.”
On freshmen: “Two freshmen (Hannah Schrimpsher, Caroline Ford) in top eight rotation right now. They’ve kind of asserted themselves. They play with a lot of energy, and they’re competing.”