Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
Believe it or not, we’re a full week into high school basketball season.
It’s a year filled with postponements, cancellations and schedule changes — and there isn’t an end to that in sight just yet — but at least our area’s athletes are getting the chance to compete.
Having said that, we’re bringing back our weekly hoops column. Here’s this week’s Shootaround.
A. After losing a talented senior class that included Taylor Schmidt, Cassie Schaefer, Olivia Smith and Lauren Campbell, there’s no way Notre Dame could repeat as a district champion, right? Right? Wrong. The Titans showed they still have the necessary weaponry to be dangerous again in a season-opening win over South Webster. That starts with guards Ava Hassel and Isabel Cassidy and continues with both Annie Dettwiller and Claire Dettwiller. It also includes youngsters Gracie Ashley and Kamryn Bradford, who will both contribute important minutes this season. Nothing is guaranteed, but when Notre Dame finds its identity, the Titans will be tough to beat … as usual.
B. We know that Unioto’s Isaac Little is going to be as good as ever this season. In fact, many have him written in as the SVC Player of the Year favorite. But if Little gets help all year long like he did in the team’s season-opener, the Shermans could be the favorite to win the SVC title … and yes, that’s a bold statement. Gunnar Greenwalt scored 16, including four 3’s, while Tayvion Galloway, Cameron DeBord, Evan Park and DeSean Branson all helped out in a 58-32 win over McClain. Galloway, just a freshman, and Branson, a junior, are new to the Tanks’ rotation. As they continue to develop, the Shermans will continue to reap the benefits.
C. In the SOC II girls title race, the usual suspects are expected to be at the top of the standings … Wheelersburg and Northwest. But do not write South Webster off. The Jeeps are a team led by All-Ohio guard Bri Claxon, who has plenty of support around her. Coach Ryan Dutiel has weapons aplenty in Faith Maloney, Skylar Zimmerman, Liz Shupert and Bella Claxon. If this team can learn how to put away wins, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with. And yes, if that happens, you could very well see them join both ‘Burg and Northwest at the top of the conference’s standings.
McClain coach Jarrod Haines on the Tigers’ balanced scoring:
“Someone asked me the other day after [Bri] Weller had 18 points, ‘Who do you think will lead you in scoring this year?’ That’s kind of what we’ve got. It can be anybody that steps up. We’re sharing the basketball well. They’re not greedy. They love each other and you can tell. It’s real fun to watch.”
Eastern Brown coach Kevin Pickerill on team’s depth in 45-42 win over Miami Trace:
“Honestly, our big thing was, I was tickled to death with our depth and how our bench played. That’s especially true for Izzy Barber, who sat out a whole year. She came in and gave us valuable minutes. Overall, I knew Miami Trace was going to be very physical. I thought our kids handled it well for the most part. They did a good job of handling pressure late.”
WORTH THE PRICE OF ADMISSION
Last season, Paint Valley finished 6-17. That record will be much improved this winter. Double digit wins. You heard it here first. While Cordell Grubb can pull up from anywhere on the court, sophomore Dax Estep is a name to watch for. Estep didn’t get much playing time as a freshman, but made an immediate impact in his first start this past Friday, scoring 21 points and grabbing a team-high nine rebounds in a 75-38 win over Clay. If he can be a legitimate scoring option all year, alongside Grubb, PV will be dangerous.
Another youngster to watch out for … Adena freshman Emma Garrison. In her first two varsity contests, Garrison has scored 20 points — 12 in a win over Clay and eight in a win over Hillsboro. The Warriors are well-equipped with athletes who can clean the glass and sit down and play defense. Their biggest need is scoring. Garrison provides an immediate boost in that area and makes Adena an interesting choice to compete for an SVC title.
Just when you thought Eastern Brown may take a step back, the Warriors seem to have an even deeper roster this season. While Rylee Leonard looks to lead the team in scoring, the team has multiple options to get the job done. That’s, in part, thanks to the return of guard Bailey Dotson, who missed the second half of last season with an injury. Dotson will take pressure off Leonard this year and provides Eastern Brown with a second capable ball-handler. She brings speed, tenacity and grit to the backcourt. The Warriors will be a tough out for any team. Mark that down.
SHOT OF THE WEEK
VIDEO OF THE WEEK
Paint Valley’s Olivia Smith and Kendall Dye discuss a 52-25 win over Western on Tuesday, a game where Smith broke the school’s single-game rebound record. The junior had 15 points and 25 rebounds.
Westfall’s Gabby Patete admitted that she could play better than she did in the first half of the Mustangs’ season-opening win over Westfall on Friday. So in the second half, she switched into another gear. Patete scored 19 points, exactly half of the team’s total scoring, in a 38-32 victory. She’ll be a name to keep an eye on in Williamsport as she continues to find a rhyhtm.
Minford’s Livi Shonkwiler had a monster game in the Falcons’ opener. In a 51-38 win over Eastern, Shonkwiler posted a double-double with 25 points and 13 steals. That’s simply ridiculous. But it’s also what she does. She’s best in transition, gets to the bucket and consistently clogs passing lanes. She has been, and will be, one of the best all-around players in our area.
WHAT’S ON TAP
As usual, our team will be out and about this week with many interesting games on the schedule. Here’s where you can tentatively find us this week.
Monday, it’s Fairfield at Lynchburg-Clay’s girls while Piketon is Tuesday’s site as the Redstreaks’ boys host Valley. Wednesday and Thursday, we’ll have updates from Hillsboro and Oak Hill as the Indians’ girls host Washington and the Oaks’ girls welcome in Eastern in SOC II action.
We’ll kick off the weekend with coverage from Jackson as the Ironmen host Miami Trace in a conference bout and, on Saturday, we’re bringing a double scoop of coverage starting with Ripley at McClain’s girls, and ending with Northwest at Huntington’s boys.
Notre Dame’s Ava Hassel commits to DePauw University … Eastern Brown starts season with gritty win over Miami Trace … Greenwalt gets hot, leads Unioto to win over McClain … Smith’s record-setting night paces PV