Despite losses, Kent Island looks like team to beat
A new season brings five new head coaches and a new crop of players into the fray as the Mid-Shore’s high school girls’ basketball teams get underway.
Last season’s North Bayside champion, Kent Island, completed an undefeated regular season and won the Class 2A East Region title before falling in the state semifinals. The Buccaneers topped Queen Anne’s County 69-31 in the region semifinal and defeated Elkton 80-38 in the final.
The Bucs should be solid again despite the loss of Olivia Diphilippo (Shenandoah University) and Mya Robinson (Chesapeake College). They were so dominant last season, their entire roster gained experience playing at the varsity level. High-scoring Se’Ri Miles is back along with a contingent of talented athletes.
Also with plenty of athletes returning, Queen Anne’s should be a top team in the Bayside Conference despite preseason injuries.
The Class 1A picture seems a bit fuzzier with rosters filled with underclassmen, but Cambridge-South Dorchester should again be the team to beat. The Vikings reached the East Region final last season where they fell to Pocomoke.
Here’s a look at this season’s teams:
A former coach at Broadneck and Athletic Director at Anne Arundel Community College, Bruce Springer takes over as head coach after Dennis Wooten stepped down to assist loved ones.
Springer served as an assistant to Wooten the last three seasons.
The Vikings will be led by four-year varsity player senior center Jazhana Butler and three-year varsity player senior guard Ashia Wright. Other starters include junior forward Tiaziah Wright and sophomore guard Abbey Robinson. Sophomore guard Natalya Pritchett should see plenty of playing time.
Springer also said freshmen soccer players Brooke Windsor and Morgan Tracy are expected to contribute. The roster includes four freshmen and three sophomores.
“We lost four seniors last year out of 10 we had on the roster, three of which started, so we’re relatively young,” Springer said. “If they come along quickly, I think we’re going to be pretty good, and if it takes them a while, I think hopefully by the end of the season we’re going to be pretty good, which is really what you shoot for anyhow.”
Head coach Tom Coursey, who succeeds Jackie Pinckens, hopes his sophomoreladen team will rise above their youth.
The Colonels will be led by sophomore guard Ka’Nyha Raikes and sophomore forward Tira Martin. Probable starters are sophomore center Mya Greene, junior forward Zoey Hacker, and sophomore point guard Raven Hammond. Sophomore guard Briana Sims and junior forward Emma Hacker will see plenty of time.
The Colonels are looking forward to the return of injured senior Zay Dobson, the team’s second leading scorer last season to 1,000-point scorer Jazmine Brooks.
“I’m just hoping to be competitive and hopefully we won’t get caught up in being young, that we will just rise to the occasion since this is a lot of the girls that I have back from Miss [Jackie] Pinckens has already seasoned them, bringing them up to help out at the varsity level.”
With 21 years of experience coaching girls’ basketball, including the last two as an assistant coach at Easton, Matt Griffith lead the Warriors this season. He’s expecting player leadership from three returning seniors who are teaming with younger players, including four freshmen.
Projected starters are freshman point guard Miya Jeter, junior guard Ellie Roser, senior forward Emma Skoglund, junior guard Jahnaysha Cornish, and freshman forward Emily Griffith. Players expected to see a lot of action include senior guard Claire Pritchett, freshman forward Abi Detrich, junior forward Jaylen Howie, freshman guard Jamie Sherry, and senior guard Jada Murray.
“Very young, four freshmen on varsity, very athletic, a good group of kids that have got a lot to learn,” Griffith said.
Easton topped North Caroline 68-41 in a section opener last season before losing to Queen Anne’s 56-39 in the region quarterfinals. The Warriors graduated the services of 1,000-point scorer Kaiya Hudson.
“Claire Pritchett, Emma Skoglund, and Ellie Roser are definitely going to be responsible for leading the team on and off the court,” Coach Griffith said. “I think it’s not often that you have four freshmen that make a varsity squad and two of them are starting and the other two are going to get some significant playing time. We’ve got a roster full of lacrosse players, a bunch of athletes, and we have to teach them how to play basketball.”
The Trojans have 10 freshmen, two juniors, and two sophomores on their roster. It’s the first time head coach Carroll Jackson-Smith has not had a senior on her team.
“They’re coming from eighth grade, so there’s a lot that has to be learned,” she said. “I guarantee they will learn a lot, but they’re raw, they’re learning.”
Junior guards Teira Johnson and Seiria Henry are definite starters along with sophomore Kelsey Dumpson. Playing time will be adjusted for the rest of the team as the season progresses.
Jackson-Smith is expecting leadership from Johnson: “She’s been with me since ninth grade; she’s a very strong leader.”