Girls basketball - Crown Point and East Chicago Central

EC Central's Jerree Evans, left, will be one of the key players for the Cardinals this season.

Clark Pioneers

Coach: Okeisha Howard, first season.

Last season: 2-21 (0-5 Great Lakes Athletic Conference).

2019 postseason: Lost 84-14 to West Side in the Class 4A sectional.

Top returning players: Destiny Johnson, Jr. F; Dominique Woods, So., G;

What you should know

Okiesha Howard takes over as coach after leaving Bowman midseason last year. The Pioneers haven’t posted a double-digit win total since 2016 and haven’t been over .500 in this century.

“Most of my players are a little different from what I had at Bowman, but I have shooters,” Howard said. “It’s been a little bit of an adjustment, but they give 100 percent effort. It’s just about breaking down and teaching fundamentals.”

Junior Destiny Johnson is a presence in the paint. Sophomore Dominique Woods should provide some skill outside it.

“We just have to give them confidence, motivate them. I play against them. I have some coaches that are young and will play against them as well,” Howard said. “You can’t make baby them. You’ve got to give them the real and tell them what it is. It’s just motivating them and teaching them that we’re a family, we’re a team.”

The Pioneers also bring in two transfers in Anya Beal from Morgan Park and Latiana Douglas from Hammond.

“We have a way different mindset than we had last year. We’re ready to get some wins,” Johnson said.

EC Central

Coach: Eric Kundich, 12th season.

Last season: 14-10 (4-1 Great Lakes Athletic Conference).

2019 postseason: Lost 62-32 to Crown Point in the Class 4A sectional.

Top returning players: Taylor Williams, Jr., G (2.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg); Kayla Washington, Sr., G (2 ppg, 1.8 rpg); Jerree Evans, Jr., F (3.3 ppg, 2.7 rpg); Faith Cobb, Jr., G (2.0 ppg).

What you should know

An area power over the last half-decade, EC Central lost about 80 percent of both its scoring and rebounding to graduation.

The Cardinals will try to make some of that scoring up by playing a more full-court game to try to create easy scoring chances. Boxing out and getting after loose balls has been a priority in practice.

“I would think that we’ve always been known for creating offense off our defense,” coach Eric  Kundich said. “It’s going to be a similar theme this year. We just may have to go deeper into our bench and pressure baseline to baseline versus shortening the court like we’ve done in the past with our height.”

Kundich likes his group of freshmen. His group is mostly inexperienced but hesitates to call his team young.

“I think throughout the first month or so, we’re going to experiment with different lineups to see which gives us our best chance at getting some wins in January.”

Gavit Gladiators

Coach: Alana Anderson, fourth season.

Last season: 11-9 (5-1 Great Lakes Athletic Conference).

2019 postseason: Lost 67-38 to Griffith in the Class 3A sectional.

Top returning players: Dominique Johnson, Sr., G (10.6 ppg); Maria Carter, Sr., F (5.5 ppg).

What you should know

Gavit took a jump last season, winning 11 games after earning six combined victories in the previous three years.

The biggest contributor to that was Darlisha Reed, who’s now playing for State Fair Community College in Missouri.

“I think we can maintain what we had last year, maybe not to the same level in the same way but I think that you definitely shouldn’t count us out,” coach Alana Anderson said. “People looked at us before and just thought, ‘Oh, it’s Gavit.’ We have a lot of girls that come in and work hard and what we lack in talent, we make up for in heart.”

Sophomore Aniya Riley transferred in from TF North and will likely see some varsity minutes.

Seniors Dominique Johnson and Maria Carter are the key cogs in the Gladiators’ wheel. Johnson was a double-digit scorer last season. Anderson said Johnson is motivated.

Carter spent a lot of time on her shot in the offseason.

“We have a little bit more chemistry, and I think we can have a successful season,” Johnson said. “We have everything that we need. All we need to do is put it together.”

Hammond Wildcats

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Coach: Eundee Kyles, fifth season.

Last season: 4-9 (1-4 Great Lakes Athletic Conference).

2019 postseason: Lost 86-33 to Griffith in the Class 3A sectional.

Top returning players: Indya Lewis, Sr., G; Selena Francis, Sr., F; Jasmin Williams, Sr., G.

What you should know

IHSAA penalties shortened the 2018-19 season for Hammond. Leading scorer and rebounder Imarea Rivera is gone to graduation.

With the current personnel, Hammond wants to run. Coach Eundee Kyles admits rebounding may be a problem. The size isn’t ideal. But the hope is speed and ball skills allow the Wildcats to push the pace.

The three seniors will be counted on, Kyles said. Freshman point guard Jaida Frazier is an asset, too.

“Once she gets over her nervousness and realizes she’s a freshman in school but not a freshman in basketball, she’ll be alright,” Kyles said. “She’s aggressive, a hustler.”

Frazier will see time at the two spot, as well, Kyles said. Sophomore center Keasia Boone will round out the starting five.

The goal is winning 60 percent of the games, Kyles said.

“We need to get better on defense and believe in ourselves because we can score. We’ll definitely be able to score,” Kyles said.

Morton Governors

Coach: Deandre Williams, second season.

Last season: 3-17 (2-3 Great Lakes Athletic Conference).

2019 postseason: Lost 41-35 to Munster in the Class 4A sectional.

Top returning players: Ce’Etter Stevens, Sr., G; Cymphani Carey, Jr., F; Aqila Coleman, Sr., G.

What you should know

Last season, the Governors were under .500 for the first time since 2014. It was coach Deandre Williams’ first year, and he acknowledges that he’s in the process of creating something more stable long term in Hessville.

“I think in the past we just had talent, but we need to build through our feeder system and hopefully it transfers up from there,” Williams said. “Unless we’re blessed with a transfer, we’ve got to just keep working in the summer and just building.”

That process has already started. Junior forward Samya Gardner transferred from TF North and should slide right into a starting role. There are a few freshmen who will contribute, at some point.

“I’m not really focused on the wins and the losses right now. I just want them to be competitive,” Williams said. “Hard work doesn’t always get you wins, but it puts you in a position to win.”

Emphasis is being put on defending for the length of the court and conditioning.

“We’re really trying to redeem ourselves this year,” senior Ce’Etter Stevens said. “We’re good at defending. We really don’t like the other team scoring so we’re really going to defend this year.”

West Side Cougars

Coach: Shanee’ Butler, second season

Last season: 20-8 (4-1 Great Lakes Athletic Conference).

2019 postseason: Lost 67-34 to Northwestern in the Class 4A regional.

Top returning players: Tiara Payne, Sr., F (4.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Markisha Pritchett, Sr., G (2.6 ppg)

What you should know

Dash Shaw transferred to Crown Point and took her 24.3 points per game with her. Trinity Barnes transferred to Lighthouse and took her 13.9 points per game with her.

The roster looks very different from last year’s sectional championship one. The Cougars are going to have to make up a lot of scoring and overcome a lack of experience.

“Our girls have put in a lot of work. I’m impressed by the work our juniors have put in. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised to see the improvements,” coach Shanee’ Butler said. “I know Dash (Shaw) carried a lot of load, but even when she was here I was trying to get girls out of the mindset of just depending on her.”

Everybody will need to step up. Butler knows no single player will replace what was lost. She hopes multiple players can average double figures in points.

Senior Tiara Payne, a strong defender, had a larger role in the offense as a sophomore and will be looked to again.

“She shied away from the ball (last year). I told her this summer ‘You’ve got to produce some offense if you want to go to the next level,’” Butler said.

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