Last year's record: 21-7
Coach: Adam Keen
Assistant: Don Berg
Key losses: Amari Griffin, Jamie Akman, Rachel Lee, Paige Weiling
Players to watch: Ashley Carroll, Sr., F (7.8 ppg, 91. rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.0 apg); Meghan Jacobson, Sr.; Katie Howard, Sr.; Danielle Snuckel, So.
Outlook: First-year coach Adam Keen lost four key players including center Amari Griffin, but returns a good nucleus. Carroll, Jacobson, Howard and Snuckel each should have a good season. Beecher could contend for the River Valley Conference title.
Quote: "I am pretty excited to start the season. I have four returning players that all had key roles in the success of last year with the help of some outstanding young athletes." -- Keen
Bloom Township Blazing Trojans
Last year's record: 16-9 (7-3 Southland Athletic Conference)
Coach: Ron Newquist
Assistants: Bobby Joyce, Nikita Odom
Key losses: None.
Players to watch: Bria Gaines, 6-2, Sr., F (27.3 ppg, 16.3 rpg, 4.0 bpg); Kat Strong, 6-0, So. F (11.5 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 8.2 apg); Danielle King, So., G (16.7 ppg, 3.6 spg, 5.5 apg at Rich East).
Outlook: Gaines, The Times Player of the Year, will be the most dominant player in the south suburbs, and this team can make a deep run into the playoffs. Strong will move to forward after running the point as a freshman. King is a transfer from Rich East and her running the show takes Bloom's game up a notch. Newquist toughened the schedule by adding Whitney Young and a trip to St. Louis. It could be an exciting year in Chicago Heights.
Quote: "I am very excited about our team this year. I have an unselfish, team-oriented group of girls. We have a slogan to remind us of our goals: 'We are one.' If we play to our potential and give the 100 percent effort I expect every night, this should be a very exciting and successful season." -- Newquist
Last year's record: 12-13
Coach: Christina Cobbins
Assistant: Durant Freeman
Key losses: Angelik Young
Players to watch: Ashley Henry, Jr. (10.1 ppg, 9.0 rpg); Alexia DeBose, Jr. (6.0 ppg, 5.0 apg, 5.0 rpg); Marsha Howard, So.
Outlook: Former Crete-Monee and Jackson State basketball star Cobbins takes over after serving as an assistant coach. Henry can control the paint and DeBose is a good guard. Howard transferred from Morgan Park. Cobbins said this group is hard-working, as the Warriors try to get the program back to a winning record. They are young and may struggle early.
Quote: “My capacity to learn determines my capacity to lead. If I stop learning, I stopped leading.” -- Cobbins
Last year's record: 23-7 overall (11-3 SWSC Blue)
Coach: Dana Noble
Assistant: Jason Cheeks
Key losses: Charnelle Reed (13.2 ppg, 2.4 apg, 2.4 spg); Amena Brent (7.9 ppg, 9.1 rpg); Danielle Woolfolk (11.2 ppg).
Players to watch: Sydni Johnson, 5-11, Sr. G (7.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg); Lauren Parker, 5-8, Sr. G (7.1 ppg); Jaiveonna Norris, Jr. F (5.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg); Chardae Greenlee, Sr. G; Candace Hicks, Jr. G.
Outlook: The Vikings are looking to improve on their 23-win season and win a sectional title. Howard recruit Johnson and Northern Iowa recruit Parker are the leaders and Norris came on strong last year. Hicks and Greenlee, who transferred back from T.F. North, add to a strong backcourt.
Illiana Christian Vikings
Last year's record: 8-20 (2-10 Metro Suburban Conference)
Coach: Dave Bosman
Assistant: Travis Hoekstra
Key losses: Jaclene Bonnema, Megan Knapper
Top players to watch: Alexa Van Beek, Sr. (4.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg); Elise Veurink, Sr. (1.3 ppg); Kristen Brink, Sr.; Lauren Brink, Sr.
Outlook: The Vikings have four returners from last year's team and lost Knapper and Times Female Athlete of the Year Bonnema to graduation. Van Beek is coming off a wrist injury. It will take some time, but the Vikings will overcome those struggles.
Quote: "This year’s Viking squad consists of a group of girls who are very coachable and have a great work ethic. It may take the girls a little time to learn to work together and jell as a team. However, I predict that, with the attitude and effort of the players on this year’s roster, much improvement will be seen as this season progresses."-- Bosman
Illinois Lutheran Chargers
Last year's record: 5-19 (2-12 River Valley Conference)
Coach: John Dorn
Assistant: Matt Heyn
Key losses: Cynthia Frazier (transferred)
Top players to watch: Caroline Kuether (6.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg); Janelle Heyn (3.0 ppg and 3.0 rpg); Amanda Buzan.
Outlook: The Chargers have seven freshmen and sophomores on the varsity team, so Kuether and Heyn will have to lead. Kuether had 33 blocks last year, and Frazier transferred. Though the Chargers are young, they have experience. They could surprise a few people.
Quote: "The girls are going to give everything they have on the court. I’m looking forward to seeing how we have improved." -- Dorn
Marian Catholic Spartans
Last year's record: 21-12 (7-2 ESCC)
Coach: Annie Byrne
Assistants: Alex Barone, Mari Neberieza
Players to watch: Teniya Page, 5-7, So., G (8.0 ppg, 3.3 apg, 1.5 spg); Ashton Millender, 5-10, Jr., G (12.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg); Meghan Walsh, 6-1, Sr., F (10.7 ppg, 8.1 rpg, 2.2 bpg, 1.2 spg); Kauai Bradley, 6-0, So., F; Melanie Ransom, 6-0, Sr., G.
Outlook: The Spartans return a solid core and will be among the elite in the south suburbs and in Class 4A. Bradley is back after two ACL injuries which ended her season last year. Walsh, a Truman State recruit, is a top inside player and Page will make the show go. She was the first freshman to start at point guard since Times two-time player of the year Kaila Turner (now at Notre Dame) did so in 2005-06. Millender is a captain and the team's returning leading scorer. Ransom transferred from Walther Lutheran and will make an impact.
Quote: "This group is fun to coach and will be fun to watch. They are a talented group of athletes. " -- Byrne
Seton Academy Sting
Last year's record: 23-9
Coach: Kevin Green
Assistant: Everett Bailey
Key losses: Brittany Mitchell, Ariana Jackson.
Players to watch: Ebony Bailey, 5-8, Jr., G (17.4 ppg, 7.0 apg, 4.5 rpg); Desiree Jackson, 5-10, So. (10.0 ppg, 12.2 rpg, 3.2 bpg); Tiffany Ellis, 5-5, Sr., G (7.0 ppg); Mariah Coles, 6-2, Jr. (18.3 ppg at Eisenhower).
Outlook: The Sting move up to Class 2A after making it to the Class 1A DeKalb Supersectional. There is a lot of talent with Bailey leading the way at the point. She and Ellis are a good guard tandem. Jackson and Coles give the Sting a strong inside presence. Seton can make some more noise in the postseason.
Quote: "We have a good team and I feel confident we will do well. I think we have a chance to do just as well or better in (Class 2A) than we did in 1A." -- coach Kevin Green.
St. Francis de Sales Pioneers
Last year's record: 19-11
Coach: Terrence Streater
Assistant: Rich Maggio
Players to watch: Tyler Brown-Henderson, 5-9, Sr., G/F (15.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.1 spg); Isis Mance, 6-0, Sr., F (10.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.6 bpg); Tasia Harris, 5-7, Jr., G (7.8 ppg, 3.6 apg, 2.5 spg, 2.3 rbg).
Outlook: Everyone is back from a team which made it to the Class 2A Chicago Christian Sectional final. Also, Kara Cunningham returns after missing last year with a knee injury. This team is loaded and senior-dominated. Brown-Henderson can shoot, drive, pass and rebound. Mance should dominate underneath and Harris can hit the 3-pointer. It could be an exciting season on South Ewing Avenue and the East Side.
Quote: “Our girls have put in all the work necessary to get to this point. They believe that they can play with any team on any given day. It is going to be a fun year and one to remember for our seniors who stuck with this program from day one, and also for the underclassmen who are now a part of what has become a tradition of strong basketball play from our girls program here at St. Francis de Sales. I look forward to great things from the Pioneers this year.” -- Maggio
Last year's record: 0-23
Coach: Shajaunna Jordan
Players to watch: Oriana Williams 5-2, Sr., G (15.0 ppg, 5 apg, 4.0 spg); Shikria McCoy, 6-2, So., C (8.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 3 bpg).
Outlook: Second-year coach Jordan has a young team, but has a good nucleus in Williams and McCoy. Jordan is trying to bring some stability to a program which has had several coaches in the past few years.
Quote: "This year we will win games against teams that have already marked us as a 'W'. I have the complete and total confidence that these young ladies will produce this year and be very successful." -- Jordan
Last year's record: 9-17
Coach: Erin Wright
Players to watch: Lynda Tolbert, 5-8, Sr., F; Kaliyah Whitted, 5-5, Sr., G; Briana Anthony, 5-5, Fr.,G.
Outlook: Despite three seniors, this is a young team which will need to mature quickly. Tolbert and Whitted are strong players, while freshman Anthony will have to run the show. The Wildcats are one of those teams who should be much improved by February.
Quote: "I have a sophomore and two more freshmen who are playing varsity. We are a real aggressive group and and I think we will improve." -- Wright
T.F. North Meteors
Last year's record: 24-10 (13-0 SSC Blue)
Coach: Chris Pruitt
Assistant: Todd Parker
Key losses: Sabrina Montgomery, Schenia Battle, Sherie Greenlee (graduation), Chardae Greenlee (transferred to Homewood-Flossmoor)
Players to watch: Devin Luster, Sr., G; Chanel Howard, Jr., G; Taisha Johnson, Jr., F; Fagbemi Abimola, Jr., C/F.
Outlook: The Meteors are in a rebuilding under new coach and former University of Wisconsin star Pruitt. She takes over for Tim Zasada, who turned North into a south suburban power. Luster is a good perimeter shooter and Howard will be the point guard, while Abimola should strengthen the inside game. Bianca Ruiz did not have much playing time last year, but will be one of the senior leaders.
Quote: "My responsibility is getting all my players playing for the name on the front of the jersey, not the one on the back. This season we are working on team chemistry. They communicate with each other and they sacrifice personal glory for the common goal." -- Pruitt.
T.F. South Rebels
Last year's record: 15-10
Coach: Steve Breshock
Assistant: Tara Breshock
Key Losses: Ashley Bryant, Erin Ferrell.
Players to watch: Kaitlyn Togtman 5-1, Sr., G (9.0 ppg, 78 pct. free-throw pct.).; Ninah Bertrand, 5-4, Jr., G (7.0 ppg, 2.0 apg); Jessica Majors, 5-8, Sr., F (5.0 ppg).
Outlook: The Rebels are not very big and have several question marks. Bertrand is a good defensive player and Togtman is a great shooter, but with no inside game, opponents will double-team and triple-team her.
Quote: "We have our work cut out for us. I hope we can compete and have a winning season." -- Steve Breshock
Last year's record: 9-18 (7-7 SWSC Red)
Coach: Danielle Jania
Key losses: Melissa Blanco
Players to watch: Arielle Miree, 5-3, Sr., G (12.2 ppg, 2.8 apg); Aliyah Owens, 5-11, Sr., F (8.5 ppg, 5.5 rpg); Tashea Tinglin, 5-5, Sr., G (8.1 ppg, 3.1 spg).
Outlook: Jania has five returning starters, led by Miree, who is a four-year varsity starters. The Thunderbirds will be small and guard-oriented. They will need to execute and keep turnovers to a minimum. This may be the year Thornwood gets back on the basketball map.
Quote: "I am very excited about this upcoming season. Many of these girls have been in the program for four years now, so I am excited to see it all come together. We are going to be a small team, but we are looking to our speed and defense to help us win ball games. The girls work hard and I think that this year they are determined to see their hard work pay off by winning basketball games." -- Jania
NOTE: Luther East and Washington did not provide the requested information for the preview.