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Girls Basketball Preview: Campbell County coach says team has what it takes to be ranked No. 1

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By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Campbell County girls’ basketball coach Beau Menefee was glad to hear his team was ranked No. 1 in a preseason poll of Northern Kentucky girls’ basketball coaches. It reinforces what he’s been thinking since the Camels played some of the top teams in the state during summer camps.

Senior guard Taylor Clos averaged 20.5 points per game for Campbell County last season. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

“I kind of feel like we have the experience and we have the mindset to be the No. 1 team,” Menefee said. “Our goals are lofty ones this season. Everybody (on our team) believes we can win our district, everybody believes we can win our region and everybody believes we can win state.”

Campbell County has everybody back from last year’s team that lost in the semifinals of the 10th Region tournament and finished with a 20-13 record. Two of the returning seniors are point guard Taylor Clos and forward Mackenzie Schwarber, who have been playing on the varsity level since they were eighth-graders.

Clos was recruited by Northern Kentucky University and Schwarber will continue her career at Morehead State University. Since this will be their final season as teammates they want to make it a memorable one.

“Taylor leads the team on the court, very vocal and extremely competitive. I believe she is the best point guard in the state,” coach Menefee said. “Mackenzie leads by example and has a motor that does not stop. I believe she is the best defensive player in the state.”

MacKenzie Schwarber

Last season, Clos averaged 20.5 points, 3.6 assists, 2.3 steals for the Camels. Schwarber’s final stat line was 13.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 2.9 steals. The other returning players who saw action in every game last season are senior Chloe Seckman and sophomores Mallory Holbrook and Jalyn Jackson.

The Camels added another veteran to the roster when senior guard Lexie Stapleton transferred from Scott. She averaged 14.7 points and 3.7 rebounds for the Eagles last season.

“Lexie Stapleton has really transformed her body and her quickness,” Menefee said. “She’ll be one of our main scorers along with Taylor driving to the basket.”

The coach said the team’s athleticism and depth has convinced him to try a more up-tempo style of play this season. He plans to apply more full court defensive pressure and score in transition.

“I really changed our style of play to where we’ll really be getting up and down the court quite a bit,” Menefee said. “I think the best shot we have is playing fast. We don’t have a real tall team, but we have a real skilled team.”

Here’s a look at the other teams in the top 12 of the Northern Kentucky preseason coaches poll:

2. SIMON KENTON

The defending 8th Region champions will start the season with their top player on the bench. Senior guard Ally Niece, a first-team all-state selection the last two years, is still recovering from surgery to repair torn ligaments in her left knee and coach Jeff Stowers doesn’t expect her back until after Christmas.

Niece averaged 19.2 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Pioneers last season. Until she returns, the team will be relying on its other three returning starters — senior guard Shelby Harmeyer, senior forward Megan Buckner and sophomore guard Maggie Jones — as team leaders.

Jones will handle the point guard duties and Harmeyer needs to improve on last year’s 10-point scoring average while Niece is out of action. But defense is still the the main thing the Pioneers work on in practice.

“Giving a 100 percent defensive effort on the floor is a successful season for us,” Stowers said. “Points are easy to score, but stopping the other (teams) from scoring and working as a unit on the defensive end is hard work, and that will give you success.”

3. CONNER

Courtney Hurst

The Cougars have three double-figure scorers returning from last year’s 9th Region semifinal team that ended up averaging 62 points per game. But coach Aaron Stamm said he mainly worked on defense in preseason practice so his team doesn’t have to get into a scoring battle with opponents.

The team’s top returning scorer is junior guard Courtney Hurst, who had a 13.9 average and made 80 3-point shots. Stamm said he’s expecting her to take the ball to the basket a little more this season.

Junior forward Maddie Burcham and junior guard Savannah Jordan both averaged 10 points last year. Jordan has played varsity basketball since the eighth grade and has the versatility to play either guard position.

Madi McLemore is the team’s returning point guard. The coach is looking forward to seeing what 6-foot sophomore Maddie Drummonds and senior forward Emily Bleska, who transferred from Cooper, can do for the team.

4. HOLY CROSS

With an experienced guard joining the three starters returning from last year’s 9th Region semifinal team, coach Kes Murphy expects the Indians to be among the leading contenders for the title once again.

The only senior on the roster is guard Bailee Harney, who transferred from Simon Kenton. She will likely step into the floor leader role since three-year starter Aleah Tucker graduated last spring. The team’s returning guards are juniors Trinity McClendon and Olivia Crigler, who averaged 10.3 points last season with nearly 70 percent of her field goals coming from behind the 3-point line.

The Indians also have 6-foot-1 sophomore center Malaysia Chames back in the lineup. She averaged 5.3 points and 3.6 rebounds per game with 21 blocked shots in 29 games. Jada Simpson and Kara Krumpelman are 5-foot-10 forwards that give the team even more height.

5. HOLMES

Tyrah Engelmon

New coach Greg Ash takes over a highly successful Holmes program that won 108 games over the last four seasons and claimed the last two 9th Region championships under his predecessor, Tony Perkins, who retired last spring.

Four returning starters give Ash plenty of talent to work with this season. Three of them — senior forward Tyrah Englemon, senior guard Laila Johnson and junior guard Kamari Graham — had scoring averages between 11 and 13 points per game last season. Englemon was also the team’s leading rebounder with an 8.3 average.

Senior forward Latavia Keith is the Bulldogs’ other returning starter. The leading candidate to fill the vacant point guard position appears to be Johnson. Graham is primarily a shooting guard who buried 81 3-pointers last year.

6. RYLE

The Raiders have one of the area’s best backcourt combinations in junior shooting guard Lauren Schwartz and sophomore point guard Maddie Scherr, who are both being recruited by NCAA Division I college programs.

Last season, Schwartz averaged 17.7 points and 9.9 rebounds to lead the team in both categories. Scherr contributed 14.9 points, 3.5 assists and 3.5 steals per game. Coach Katie Haitz said junior Juliet McGregor, sophomore Jaiden Douthit and freshman Brie Crittendon are guards who also got a lot of playing time last season.

“These five players produced 90 percent of the team’s points,” the coach said. “We are looking forward to playing another tough schedule that will help us prepare for the end of the season (playoffs).”

7. COOPER

The only starters returning from the Jaguars’ 9th Region runner-up team are senior guards Asyah Mitchell and Lexi Held, an all-state candidate recruited by DePaul University

Held averaged 17.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game last season. She has scored more than 1,300 points since she began playing in varsity games as an eighth-grader. Mitchell, another four-year varsity veteran, averaged 10.9 points and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Coach Nicole Levandusky needs to develop a low-post player to replace Hailey Anderson, who was a double-figure scorer in all five of the team’s district and regional games last March.

8. HIGHLANDS

Zoie Barth

The Bluebirds are sure to get the two wins coach Jaime Richey needs to reach 300 in her career, but winning 20 or more games for the sixth consecutive season could be a challenge.

Players who provided more than 50 percent of the team’s scoring last season graduated and seven of the 13 girls on the current roster are sophomores or freshmen with little varsity experience.

The team’s top returning player is junior point guard Zoie Barth, who averaged 14.6 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Senior guard Brooke Dill and junior forward Chloe Jansen are other players who got a significant amount of playing time last season.

9. SCOTT

Scott senior guard Anna Clephane, a Ball State University recruit, was the 10th Region’s leading scorer last season with a 22.7 average and she led the Eagles in rebounding with seven per game. The team’s other returning starter is junior guard Summer Secrist, who averaged 11.3 points and 2.9 rebounds.

Coach Rhonda Klette also has senior forward Kelly Franxman returning, but most of the other players on the roster are sophomores and freshmen with little or no varsity experience.

10. NEWPORT CENTRAL CATHOLIC

With everyone back from last year’s team, coach George Stoll expects the Thoroughbreds to improve on their 12-17 record and return to the 9th Region tournament. The top returning scorer is senior guard Lexy Breen, who averaged 13.3 points with 58 3-point goals. Junior forward Kara Zimmerman was next in line with a 9.6 scoring average.

11. DIXIE HEIGHTS

Coach Joel Steczynski moved freshman Sydney Lockard to point guard to run a balanced offense that will rely on strong inside play by junior Kaylee McGinn and the outside shooting of Grace Perry, Celia Pelfrey and Caroline Buddenberg. Last season, Lockard, McGinn and Buddenberg each averaged seven points per game.

12. ST. HENRY

First-year head coach Steve Brown has a couple of veterans in senior point guard Abby Benson and junior forward Chism Iloegbunam to lead the team. Iloegbunam averaged 10 points and 7.3 rebounds last season. Benson is a tireless defender and good floor leader, according to the coach.

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One Comment

  1. L Smith says:

    Lexi Held Cooper has over 1600 career points

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