The top spots in the Central Buckeye Conference and Ohio Heritage Conference figure to have a usual-suspects feel this girls basketball season.
No OHC coach will argue that Greeneview is the team to beat again. The Rams rolled through the league unbeaten last year, and there doesn’t appear to be a team to stop them from doing it again.
“Greeneview is head and shoulders above everyone else at this point,” said Triad coach Jason Malone.
The biggest reason is guard Ashton Lovely, the best player in the area. She is taking her deep 3-point range and slick passing to Cincinnati next year to join former Tecumseh star Bianca Quisenberry. Lovely averaged 20 points a game last year (25 the year before) and will score her 1,500th point early this season.
The Rams start the season without senior point guard Natasha Siebenaler. She tore the ACL in her right knee playing soccer in June. Head coach Gregg Haines hopes to have her back in late December.
With a four-guard lineup, the Rams want to reach the Division III district tournament for the first time in more than 30 years. Haines has taken the Rams to a scrimmage session with higher-division teams and has beefed up his non-conference schedule with teams like Xenia, Springboro, Fayetteville, Greenon, Clinton-Massie and Miami Trace.
“Win the league’s our first goal, get a district title under our belt’s the second goal, and we’d love to go to state too,” Haines said.
After Greeneview, the rest of the league is young or inexperienced or both.
CBC Kenton Trail: The top of the division will be contested, as usual, by Kenton Ridge, Tecumseh and Tippecanoe. The Cougars have several veteran players returning.
“Our top five or six players are just about as good as anybody’s around,” Cougars coach Ed Foulk said. “We’ll do our best to be back up at the top again.”
Tecumseh lost Quisenberry, but young players like Lindsey Nartker and Danielle Franklin and senior Mallory Rice mean the Arrows aren’t likely to fall too far from the 10-0 league record of a year ago.
CBC Mad River: Greenon has been at the top of the division for two years. Gary Falkenbach expects his team to fight for that spot again with a running game and strong defense. Graham, which was at the top for three years before faltering last year, should be on the way back up, says coach Bruce Vanover, and contend with Urbana among others.
“I think you’ve definitely got to put us up there,” Falkenbach said. “Ben Logan, Indian Lake, Graham, Urbana — all of us are pretty comparable.”
New coaches: Four new coaches are on the sidelines, but only Kari Kitchen of Southeastern has previous head coaching experience. She was at Northeastern for five seasons through 2009-10 when she was named the state coach of the year in Division IV. She has been a volunteer assistant at her alma mater the past two seasons.
The others are head coaches for the first time and take over struggling programs.
Matt Johnson was the girls varsity assistant last year for a Springfield team that won one game. He is starting with a young Wildcats team with six players with varsity experience.
Aaron Stewart takes over at Northwestern after coaching at lower levels and in AAU. He has a young team coming off a seven-win season that he says shows promise of competing better in the CBC Mad River.
Blake Garberich has coached high-school track and middle-school basketball and football in the Shawnee system. He takes over the Braves after a four-win season and welcomes back Morgan Spitzer from a knee injury.