by Rob Grubbs
It has been an eventful season of girls hoops. Sandy Creek is dominating Region 5-AAAA and is poised for a deep run in the state tournament. Junior Alice Anne Hudson just became the all-time leader scorer at Starr’s Mill and has her team in first place in Region 3-AAAAA. With over a year of eligibility remaining, she will continue to push that record upward. Two Whitewater Wildcats, Jada Claude, who just committed to Duke, and Courtney Smith, scored their 1,000th point in the same game before Christmas against Douglas County, just to name a few highlights.
Each team has solid senior leadership, Sydney Sims at Fayette County, Kennedi Miller and Rylee Calhoun at McIntosh, Claude and Smith for Whitewater, Alyssa Angelo for the Panthers, and Nina Lum at Sandy Creek, but another story has emerged this season, the number of talented freshman that came ready to play.
McIntosh head coach Rick Fontaine has four on his roster: Carrie Consolino, Keara Collins, Olivia Henders, and Bailey Wagenknecht, and they are all getting significant playing time. The lightning quick Consolino, who has gotten the region’s attention, and steady Collins make up the starting back court, while Henders and Wagenknecht are usually first off the bench. With three seniors in their lineup, it is a little easier to introduce the new players, but impressive nonetheless.
“The four freshmen on our varsity team make a significant impact on our team’s success every game,” said Fontaine, also in his first year coaching the team. “I asked them to gain several years of experience in one season, and they have risen to the challenge.”
At Starr’s Mill, head coach Emily Sweeney lost a talented freshman from last year to transfer, but incoming freshman Jaclyn Hester has picked right up. She is versatile inside and can shoot the three as well. Coach Sweeney knows she has a cornerstone to build around for the next three years.
“Jaclyn has been a great addition to our team,” said Sweeney. “She is a fantastic all-around player. She has a great talent for scoring but also makes a huge impact with her rebounding. She’s already a great player, and as she gets more comfortable in the offense, the sky is the limit.”
Whitewater head coach Rashad Muhyee has been getting more and more off the bench from his three freshman, Charity Cloud, Ellie Chance, and Leah Smith.
“Charity is a true point guard with exciting ballhandling skills, Ellie is the post who is a rebounding machine, and Leah is the shooter that can score from anywhere,” said Muhyee. “I think the future of the program is in good hands. I also think all three girls can play on the next level.”
Rounding out the list of talented freshman are Nkechinyere Okonkwo for the Lady Tigers and Shanaya Hirani and India Holmes with Sandy Creek.
All of this is not lost on the current group of 8th graders who will be joining the high school ranks next year. Whitewater Middle School head coach Deanise Myers, who has state championship hardware from coaching girls soccer in the past at Starr’s Mill, said of her current roster, “A few of my current players played with Ellie, Charity, and Leah last year on the 8th grade team. So they got to see how hard the three of them worked to get where they are today.”
Success breeds more success, which means local high school girls basketball will just keep getting better and better.