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Girls Basketball Preview: Ryle ranked No. 1 with three starters returning from state championship team

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

After signing a letter of intent with the nation’s top-ranked women’s college basketball team last month, Ryle senior point guard Maddie Scherr can focus on the role she’ll play in the Raiders’ bid for a second consecutive state championship this season.

Scherr is one of three returning starters on the Ryle team that was unanimously voted No. 1 in a preseason poll of Northern Kentucky girls basketball coaches conducted by the NKyTribune. 

Ryle senior guard Maddie Scherr

The multi-talented University of Oregon recruit was named most valuable player in last year’s state tournament and finished the season averaging 15.1 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 3.4 steals per game for the 33-5 Raiders.

“She’s very unselfish and sometimes we have to tell her to shoot a little bit more than she does,” said Ryle coach Katie Haitz. “But she does a great job of getting everybody on the team involved and reading defenses to find openings.”

The Raiders also have senior guard Jaiden Douthitt and junior guard Brie Crittendon back in the starting lineup. Crittendon has been getting Division I college offers after averaging 11.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game last season.

Finding replacements for Lauren Schwartz, the program’s all-time leading scorer, and defensive standout Juliet McGregor is the challenge facing Ryle’s coaching staff. Junior forward Austin Johnson was expected to fill one of the vacancies, but a knee injury will likely keep her on the sidelines until late January, according to Haitz.

The other juniors who saw a good bit of action last season are forward Jaden Crist and guard Ashtyn Williams. Freshman guard Abby Holtman, who has already received a Division I scholarship offer from Wright State University, will also be vying for playing time.

“We’ll definitely be running a lot of things through Maddie, of course,” coach Haitz said. “She’s just a great player, and with those other two (returning starters) back with her she’ll have the opportunity to do more.”

Here’s a look at the other girls basketball teams ranked among the top 10 in the Northern Kentucky coaches preseason poll with last season’s records in parentheses:

Morgan Stamper

2. SIMON KENTON (21-12)

The Pioneers have played in the 8th Region championship game seven consecutive years and they’re considered a top contender once again with the top four scorers back from last season.

Senior forward Morgan Stamper averaged a team-high 13.9 points followed by senior guard Maggi Jones at 13.3 on last year’s team. They both started playing varsity basketball in the eighth grade and have already joined the 1,000-point club.

Stamper also pulled down 10.7 rebounds per game to lead the Pioneers in that category for the second straight year. The team’s other returning starter is senior guard Matti Vickers with a 9.1 scoring average.

Sophomore center Sereniti Webb saw action in 31 games last season, averaging 6.2 points and 5.5 rebounds. Coach Jeff Stowers ranks her among the 8th Region’s top 10 players.

Sydney Lockard

3. DIXIE HEIGHTS (22-11)

With four of the top six players returning from last year’s 9th Region runner-up team, the Colonels will be aiming for a third consecutive 20-win season and another shot at the regional title.

The veterans include point guard Sydney Lockard, shooting guards Celia Pelfrey and Laci Reinhart and sophomore forward Madelyn Lawson, who had off-season knee surgery and is expected back in the lineup by January.

Lockard is a capable floor leader who averaged 8.2 points, 4.6 assists and 2.7 steals last season. Pelfrey made 65 3-point goals and already holds the team record with 158 treys in her career.

If coach Joel Stecynski and his staff develop the skills of younger players to offset the graduation of seven seniors on last year’s roster, Dixie Heights is expected to be one among the top contenders in the 9th Region playoffs once again.

Mya Meredith

4. SCOTT (23-11)

The Eagles have two of the 10th Region’s top returning players in 6-foot juniors Mya Meredith and Sofia Allen, a dynamic duo that should make Steve Brown’s first season as Scott’s head coach a successful one.

Meredith was named second-team all-state last season after averaging 25 points and eight rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the field. She has already received scholarship offers from several Division I college programs.

Allen averaged 12.9 points and 5.2 rebounds last season. The Eagles also have two veteran players in junior Gabby Kallmeyer and sophomore Ava Coleman, who both saw action in more than 30 games.

In a preseason poll of 10th Region coaches, Scott was voted No. 2 behind George Rogers Clark, the team that knocked off the Eagles in the last two regional tournaments. They’ll square off on Dec. 14 and find out if the coaches rankings are correct.

5. NOTRE DAME (20-13)

The Notre Dame team that made it to the 9th Region semifinals last March with mostly freshmen and sophomores on the roster will be a “more seasoned and confident group” this season, according to coach Kes Murphy.

The Pandas’ top returning player is sophomore Lacey Bradshaw, who averaged 9.1 points and 5.3 rebounds. The sophomore class also includes guards Marcie Feldman and Kylie Aytes, who provided combined totals of 13.6 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.

The addition of transfer student Sarah Hicks should raise Notre Dame’s talent level. After playing varsity basketball at Walton-Verona as a freshman, she took a year off and played on elite select teams last summer.

6. HIGHLANDS (29-5)

The Bluebirds need a new floor leader following the graduation of point guard Zoie Barth, who finished her high school career among the school’s all-time leaders in points, assists and steals.

The returning players include senior guard Piper Macke and junior forward Rory O’Hara, who both began playing varsity basketball as eighth-graders. Last season, Macke made 50 3-point goals and averaged 9.0 points. O’Hara shot 54 percent from the field and averaged 7.9 points.

Coach Jaime Richey said there will be a lot of opportunities for other players to offset the graduation of three of the top five scorers and rebounders on last year’s team that lost in the 9th Region semifinals.

7. CONNER (29-3)

Michelle Gambrell is the new head coach of the Conner team that lost four seniors who produced nearly 75 percent of the offense last season when the Cougars spent several weeks ranked No. 1 in statewide coaches polls.

The team’s only returning starter is senior center Maddie Drummonds, who averaged 9.3 points and 5.0 rebounds. The Cougars’ other experienced inside player is Tyra Murphy, who averaged 7.0 points and shot 61 percent form the field.

Senior guard Emily Zorich is being tabbed as the team’s new floor leader. The Cougars expect to run a more patient offense than last year when they averaged 66.5 points with an up-tempo style of play.


The Bearcats are the highest ranked small-school team in the local coaches poll for good reason. They have four returning starters who provided 35.7 points and 17.7 rebounds per game on last year’s team.

Haylee Neely is a veteran point guard who averaged 8.3 points and 4.1 assists. Her running mate in the backcourt once again will be senior Addisyn Michael, who provided 5.7 points and 2.3 assists per game.

In the paint, the Bearcats have senior forwards Emma Strunk and Emma Gutman back in the starting lineup. Strunk averaged 13 points and 6.7 rebounds last season while shooting 80 percent from the free throw line.


Nolan Boone begins his head coaching career with a Campbell County team that has a pair of returning double-figure scorers in junior guards Mallory Holbrook (17.5) and Jalyn Jackson (10.8).

Holbrook, who shot 47 percent from the field with 50 3-point goals, was voted one of the top five players in the 10th Region preseason coaches poll. The Camels also have forwards Kylie Koeninger and Hope Russell back in the lineup.

10. BROSSART (20-11)

Junior forward Marie Kiefer heads the list of returning starters on coach Kevin Bundy’s roster. She averaged 14 points and 8.7 rebounds on a team that won the 10th Region All “A” Classic and made it to the post-season regional tournament.

The lone senior on the Mustangs’ roster is forward Lily Cropenbacker, who averaged 6.2 points with a team-high 32 3-point goals. Rosie Jump and Madison Crowe both played in 30 games as freshman last season.


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