Top 10: The 11th Region’s best girls’ basketball teams for 2021-22

·10 min read

The last team not named Franklin County or Scott County to win the 11th Region girls’ basketball tournament and advance to the Sweet 16 was Coach Allison Denton’s Lafayette Generals back in 2014.

The Generals lost to the Flyers in last season’s 11th Region finals. This year, Lafayette has to feel pretty good about its chances to prevent a Franklin County repeat, especially with the Flyers’ Miss Basketball Brooklynn Miles having graduated on to Rocky Top Tennessee and Denton’s team returning four starters, including Tennessee-Martin commit Anaya Brown.

“We feel like that the opportunity is right there for us to take and that’s where we’re focused on every practice,” Denton said. “We could be there. Just like them.”

Still, the region’s coaches responding to our Herald-Leader preseason survey believe Franklin County has what it takes to reach Rupp Arena again.

The Flyers garnered 11 of the 13 No. 1 votes cast with Lafayette getting the other two. There are 19 teams in the 11th Region. Six teams did not respond to our polling question.

“Make no mistake, this is as tough as this region has been in awhile,” Franklin County Coach Joey Thacker said. “With what Lafayette has coming back, Madison Southern has done a terrific job and Tates Creek has numerous starters back and was playing as well as anybody last year.

“There are a lot of different teams out there that have a lot of the same pieces back that we do. I just hope that our kids being there before matters come March.”

The Commodores bring back all five starters to a senior-laden squad that had its postseason cut short by a COVID-19 issue. Creek was forced to forfeit in the region semifinals after a stunning run to the 43rd District title at Lafayette’s expense.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Denton said. “That’s just how our district’s been and our region, too. We know we’re not going to walk away with anything. We’re going to have to work for it.”

Here’s a breakdown of the 11th Region’s best teams for the 2021-22 season and how they rated, according to our Herald-Leader preseason coaches’ survey which asked them to rank their preseason top 10.

1. Franklin County

The Flyers return a lot of experience, led by Patience Laster, a 5-9 senior forward, who ranks as one of the top players in the region and will be a focal point for opposing defenses to make other players prove themselves. She averaged 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds last season.

Nevaeh Carter (6.6 ppg), a 5-6 senior, brings energy and defensive intensity, and 6-4 junior center Jhaven Meade (6.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg) offers a post presence that allows Laster freedom to hurt opposing defenses inside and out.

Jazmin Chambers, a 5-9 junior, comes off a season lost to knee injury and was a major contributor before she went down. Cameryn Ridderikhoff, a 5-8 freshman, shot 48.1 percent from three-point range and hit a clutch one to tie Highlands late in a game last season.

Transfers Dorothy Gorman, a 5-8 senior, and Rachel Shropshire, a 6-1 sophomore, give Thacker the most depth he feels he’s had since 2016.

“We will be quick and can put some size on the floor,” Thacker said. “Our chemistry has been as good as it’s ever been and our kids are battle tested. I hope that pays off.”

2. Lafayette

The Generals made last year’s 11th Region finals without a senior on the roster. Four starters return, including standout senior Anaya Brown, a 6-1 forward committed to Tennessee-Martin, who averaged 17.7 points and 12.3 rebounds last season.

Lauren Walton (11.2 ppg), a 5-6 guard connected on 37.5 percent of her three-point shots a year ago and proved she could score them in bunches as she did when she nailed six of them in the regional first round against Scott County.

Olivia Cathers (8.7 ppg), a 5-11 forward, has some range and led the team in field goal shooting, including making 16 of 40 from three-point range.

Catherine “CJ” Jacobs (4.8 ppg), a 5-1 senior, runs the point. “Her anticipation on defense and her passing are such a benefit to our team,” Denton said. “Don’t let her stature fool you, she is strong.”

“Scoring, rebounding and half-court defense are all strengths of ours,” Denton said. “We have the potential to have four players who score in double figures each game. … They want to step foot in Rupp.”

3. Tates Creek

The Commodores struggled to find a rhythm during a season disrupted by COVID-19 on five separate occasions, including the region tournament.

But for one glorious week, Coach Matt Yates’ 8-12 team hit its stride with a stepped up defensive intensity and a few breakout games from a freshman.

Ashton Harris, now a 5-9 sophomore, emerged as a force during districts, scoring 17 against Paul Laurence Dunbar in the semis and 18 against Lafayette in the finals. She scored another 17 against Scott County in the region tournament.

With Maddie Kauffman’s ability to score firmly established at 15.3 points per game, and fellow seniors Alisce Lyvers, Caty Armishaw and Elyse Baker all near double digits per game, it’s a combination that will make the Commodores a tough out for anyone.

“We should be in the mix to compete for our district and the region,” Yates said. “Our strengths are our experience and time together. We still have to pull it all together and play as a unit to win.”

4. Great Crossing

In year three of the program, Warhawks’ Coach Glenn Wilson believes he has the talent and experience to begin making “a lot of noise in this region.”

Among the returnees is Timothi Williams (15.4 ppg), a 5-8 senior guard and Great Crossing’s leading scorer last season. She’s joined by Rachel Smith, a 5-7 junior, who takes over at point guard, Ava Schureman, a 5-10 sophomore guard/forward who has been the team’s leading rebounder the last two years, and Raegan Barrett, a 6-0 junior forward and starter each season.

“If we can consistently execute offense and play good, solid defense we will be a really good team,” Wilson said. “I am excited about the upcoming season.”

5. Frederick Douglass

The Broncos return their two leading scorers from a team that went 10-14 and reached the 42nd District finals for the first time in the school’s four seasons of existence.

Allison Wallace, a 5-9 senior and West Alabama commit averaged 14 points and grabbed 7.4 rebounds per game while making 35.2 of her three-point shots. Ayanna-Sarai Darrington, a 6-1 sophomore, led the team in rebounds with 9.6 per game and had a 12.7 scoring average.

Second-year Coach Daryl Moberly also brings back varsity experience with Bradley Price, a 5-1 senior, and Kate Baker, a 5-3 freshman. Freshman transfer Niah Rhodes averaged 13.3 points for Woodford County last season.

“The goal is definitely to get back to the district finals and win it this year,” Moberly said. “We fell short of getting what we wanted, but it was still a good season for us. … It was fun to watch the girls work.”

6. Madison Southern

The Eagles must adjust to life without Samantha Cornelison, who graduated as one of the best players in school history, but Coach Josh Curtis said he can put five players on the floor who can all shoot, dribble and pass and eight players out there he could start without a change in the team’s capability.

“We have worked hard to adjust to a system that will benefit this team,” said Curtis, who led Madison Southern to an 18-7 record and 44th District title last season.

Reece Estep, a 6-0 forward, used Senate Bill 128 to return as a junior again this season. She led the team in rebounds with 8.6 per game and averaged 7.4 points.

Morgan Flannery, a 5-5 senior, has started at point the last three years. Curtis hailed Macie Daniels, a 5-11 senior, as “one of the most versatile players on our team.”

“We will struggle to adjust to new mentalities and new roles, at first, and as well as reliable and consistent scorers in the beginning,” Curtis said. “If we can find those things before Christmas then we can have a great season.”

7. Berea

The Pirates return all the major contributors from their 11-10 season last year, and their size, depth and experience should make them a concern in the 44th District in Coach Dammian Stepp’s sixth season.

Leading scorer Madison Howell, a 6-foot senior, averaged 14.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Chesney Lovins, a 5-9 junior, led the team in rebounding at 6.3 per game and averaged 6.8 points. Alexis Newman, a 5-8 senior, averaged 9.5 points per game and served as Berea’s top three-point threat with 47 makes from deep.

8. Madison Central

The Indians skewed young last season in going 11-15 and continue the trend this year, but now they have some experience to go with that youth.

Bailey Hensley, a 5-10 sophomore forward, led the team in scoring (14 ppg) and rebounding (6.8 rpg). “She has a high ceiling and is an incredible athlete in the open court,” said Coach Brad Lovely.

Chloe Freeman, a 5-7 junior guard, nailed the second most threes on the team (15) despite missing half the season due to a shoulder injury. She’s back and should provide a perimeter threat. Point guard Brittany Campbell, a 5-6 freshman, gained valuable experience last season and earned praise from Lovely as a “natural point guard” who is quick with the ball in her hands.

“Our strengths are gonna be our depth, the ability to play multiple positions and our ability to turn teams over,” Lovely said.

9. Lexington Catholic

The Knights (11-7) put a winning team on the floor for the first time in a couple of years led by multi-sport standout Katherine Truitt, a 5-7 junior who took time away from being one of the best soccer defenders in the state to lead LexCath with 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.

Back too, are 5-6 senior point guard Hannah Carlisle (softball) and 5-8 junior forward Olivia Bretz (soccer), who had solid basketball seasons for second-year Coach Donald Tegt. And Tegt adds another softball standout as pitching ace Abby Hammond, a 5-4 freshman, joins the team.

“Our girls did an amazing job this past year of working through the obstacles that COVID brought to all of us and will enter this season with that same mindset,” Tegt said.

10. Scott County

With the return of Kenady Tompkins, a 6-foot, fifth-year senior who did it all last season, averaging a double-double (15.6 ppg, 12.2 rpg), Coach Steve Helton has one of the region’s top players for a bonus year.

Joining her are a pair of double-digit scoring starters — Emma Price (15.6 ppg), a 5-7 senior, and Maleiyah Moore (10.5 ppg), a 5-8 freshman — along with defensive specialist Brianna Penney, a 5-5 sophomore.

“Our core group of players have been in the big games and performed in pressure situations,” Helton said. “We need to shoot the ball better this season from behind the three-point line. … Point guard play will determine a lot about our season.”

Rounding out

The rest of the order of votes: Paul Laurence Dunbar, Henry Clay, Bryan Station, Sayre, Frankfort, Lexington Christian, Western Hills, Model and Frankfort Christian.

2021-22 Season Preview

This is the sixth of eight stories the Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com is publishing in the coming days previewing the 2021-22 high school boys’ and girls’ basketball seasons, which are scheduled to tip off Nov. 29.

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