Girls Basketball Preview: Tabb, Warhill Favorites to Win District

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Lafayette's Rachel Lia returns as one of the top players in the Bay Rivers District this year. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Trifone/WYDaily)
Lafayette’s Rachel Lia returns as one of the top players in the Bay Rivers District this year. (Photo courtesy of Nicole Trifone/WYDaily)

After winning the Bay Rivers District last season, Tabb will need to be prepared to withstand other district opponents who have aspirations of dethroning the Tigers.

Tabb and Warhill appear to be the top two teams in the district with each returning a ton of talent. Both teams will be among the most prolific offenses in the district this year and will have some exciting head-to-head matchups during the season.

Lafayette, which kicked off the season last night, and Bruton will likely fit into the next tier of teams, as both also return key players from last season. The Rams and Panthers project to be scrappy teams that cause headaches for top teams like Tabb and Warhill.

Grafton, which finished third in the district last year, will be a wildcard team this season. The Clippers will need to replace nearly all of last year’s offense and will feature many new faces.

It is entirely possible Grafton ends up closer to teams like York, which will likely be in another rebuilding year, and Jamestown than the upper echelon of the district.

Below are previews for every Historic Triangle team competing in the Bay Rivers District ahead of tonight’s first district games.

Group 4A
Grafton

Head Coach: Tommy Bayse
2015 Classification: 4A Conference 18
2014 Record: 19-7
Players to Watch: Haley Cunningham (junior, SG), Mikaela Swann (senior, C), Kierson Tavares (sophomore, PG), Kelsey Hare (sophomore, SG)

Season Outlook: After making the Group 4A East semifinal round last season, Grafton appears headed for a rebuilding season. The Clippers have to replace 75 percent of their scoring from last season and return two players — Cunningham and Swann — who saw significant varsity playing experience last season. Bayse said he expects to have three sophomores and a freshman among his top seven players, so experience and depth will be an issue this season. For Grafton to succeed this year, Cunningham and Swann will need to be leaders on offense and defense. Cunningham, who averaged more than 11 points per game last year, will be Grafton’s go-to scoring threat and will need to be at the top of her game every night. As the team’s starting center, Swann is going to need to protect the paint and will act as the team’s main rebounder.

Lafayette

Head Coach: Dan Downs
2015 Classification: 4A Conference 18
2014 Record: 14-7
Players to Watch: Rachel Lia (junior, G), Kenya Holiday (senior, PG), Raven Blake (senior, C), Jill Curtis (senior, F)

Season Outlook: Lafayette returns perhaps the best backcourt in the Bay Rivers District in Lia and Holiday. Playing off the ball in her first year at Lafayette, Lia averaged nearly 20 points per game, while Holiday averaged almost 12 points per game as the main ball handler. Bringing back Lia and Holiday will almost certainly place Lafayette in the top half of the Bay Rivers District alone. Also returning for the Rams is Blake, a big-bodied center who can dominate the paint. While Blake lacks a shooter’s touch around the rim, her ability to bring down rebounds will be important for Lafayette. The Rams will miss the defensive presence of Grace Macomber and 3-point shooting ability of Megan Wiltshire, but Curtis should help pick up some of that slack this year as another post player. While Lafayette won’t be as deep as last season, the Rams still have the talent to be a force in the district.

Jamestown

Head Coach: Mary Glisan
2015 Classification: 4A Conference 18
2014 Record: 5-16
Players to Watch: Jamiyah Johnson (junior, F), Leondra Graves (senior, F), Juliette Sim (junior, F), Olivia Peterson (senior, G)

Season Outlook: Glisan had one of the youngest teams in the Bay Rivers District last season, but having almost all of that talent back this year bodes well for the Eagles. Leading the way is Johnson, a dominant post player who averaged nearly 20 points per game and 17 rebounds per game last year. Graves and Sim provide more big bodies for Glisan to work with, and the Eagles should have one of the taller starting lineups in the district. Also returning for Jamestown is Peterson, a senior guard who Glisan has praised for her work ethic. Peterson is not a major scoring threat, averaging about six points per game last year, but she will be instrumental in making the Jamestown offense flow smoothly. It’s hard to see a scenario in which the Eagles regress from last year, which could make Jamestown a sneaky team in the Bay Rivers District this season.

Group 3A
Warhill

Head Coach: Bingo Brungot
2015 Classification: 3A Conference 25
2014 Record: 16-6
Players to Watch: Kieran McClure (junior, PG), Olivia Schulz (sophomore G), Keely Rochard (junior, F), Jewel Walters (junior, G)

Season Outlook: Despite losing Conference 25 Player of the Year Kasey Grainer and Alayna Cormier, both of whom are now playing basketball in college, Warhill has to be considered one of the favorites in the Bay Rivers District this year. Warhill’s team this year is still relatively young for how good they project to be this season. McClure, the team’s starting point guard who averaged roughly 12 points per game last season, is only a junior and has plenty of room to still develop as a floor general. Schulz has a standout season as a freshman and averaged nearly nine points per game and six rebounds per game, while Walters was a strong defensive threat for the Lions last year. With Rochard also in the fold this year, Warhill looks to be capable of surpassing last year’s postseason run that ended in the 3A East quarterfinals.

Tabb

Head Coach: Jason Clarke
2015 Classification: 3A Conference 27
2014 Record: 17-6
Players to Watch: Imani McDowell-Jarmon (senior, F), Tamia Smith (junior, PG), Madison Clemons (junior, G), Brianna Harper (sophomore, G)

Season Outlook: The reigning Bay Rivers District champions appear poised to repeat with four returning starters from last season. Led by McDowell-Jarmon, who averaged 11.8 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game last year, the Tigers have an impressive starting lineup this year. Smith returns as the team’s leading scorer from last season having averaged 13.5 points per game, and when paired with Clemons’ 10.1 points per game and Harper’s 11.1 points per game, the Tigers should be one of the more deadly offensive teams this year. A potential wildcard player for Tabb could be 5-foot-10 forward Madison Dadez, an All-Conference volleyball player who did not play basketball last season. The added size of Dadez could round out the best Bay Rivers District team top-to-bottom. Assuming Tabb stays healthy, there is no reason the Tigers should not be able to hang with some of the top 3A East teams.

York

Head Coach: Michelle Wintermantel
2015 Classification: 3A Conference 27
2014 Record: 4-11
Players to Watch: Madison Van Dyke (junior, PG), Stephanie Horner (sophomore, C), Mahlina Shoates (sophomore, G), Haley Winfree (junior, F)

Season Outlook: While this year’s York team features plenty of familiar faces from last year, the number of faces may end up being an issue for the Falcons. While other teams around the district field teams of 12 to 14 players, York will begin its season with just 10 healthy players. This could be especially problematic given the up-tempo offense Wintermantel wants to run. Leading York this year will be Van Dyke, one of the only true ball handlers on the roster. As the starting point guard, Van Dyke will be tasked with facilitating offense and helping feed the ball into low-post players Horner and Winfree. Wintermantel said York should be a scrappy team this year, but admitted the Falcons are likely headed for another rebuilding year.

Group 2A
Bruton

Head Coach: Terrence Green
2015 Classification: 2A Conference 33
2014 Record: 10-15
Players to Watch: Kelsey Sluss (senior, G/F), Naya Samuel (senior, G), Mykael Johnson (junior, G), Gabby Calloway (sophomore, G)

Season Outlook: Having to replace only three seniors from last year’s team that made the Group 2A East quarterfinal round, Bruton seems poised to improve off last year’s success. Leading the way for the Panthers is Sluss, a 5-foot-8 combo guard who averaged 13 points per game and seven rebounds per game last year. A second-team All-Region selection last year, Sluss is a major threat from beyond the 3-point arc and should be the team’s leading scorer. A wildcard for Bruton could be the return of Samuel, who played in five games last year before tearing her ACL. Now healthy, it remains to be seen if Samuel can return to form and be the floor general the Panthers need. While the Panthers appear to have enough senior leadership and returning players to be an improved team, Green said he has concerns at times about the competitiveness from his players. If Green can keep his players hungry for success, Bruton should be in a position to make another postseason run.