MIAMI COUNTY — Corey Steinke returns as Bethel girls basketball coach.
The Bees return a talented group.
The guards, include three four-year letterwinners in Kenna Gray, Olivia Reittinger and Natalie Moorman.
Gray leads the way, averaging 13 points, 9.5 rebounds, five steals and four assists a year ago, while earning All-CCC honors.
Reittinger averaged 12 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists while earning second-team All-CCC honors.
Moorman does a lot of different things for the Bees.
“Natalie (Moorman) does all the little things that make our team go,” Steinke said. “Night in night out, Natalie has to defend the toughest guard on the other team. She is our motor that never stops.
Also at guard will be senior Skylar Johnson.
“Skylar (Johnson) is our other senior guard,” Steinke said. “She was a letterwinner last year and has taken over the point guard position for us. Skylar has a very high basketball IQ and makes passes that sometimes even surprises me.”
Two key post players will be seniors Sam Wiley and Lydia Lowery.
“Sam (Wiley) is a three-year starter for us,” Steinke said. “Sam’s presence on the floor gives the team the ability to pull the opposing teams big out on the perimeter. She is a good shooter but can drive when necessary.
“Lydia (Lowery) is another four-year starter in the post for us. Blocking shots, playing physical and using her length in the paint and on the perimeter is a huge part of our defense make up. Lydia can also score in a variety of ways.”
Bethel has several key newcomers in junior Leah Heffner and sophomore Kerigan Calhoun and Karley Moore.
”Leah (Heffner) brings us a physical taller presence inside the paint,” Steinke said. “Leah can also step up and knock down the open midrange jumper. Kerigan Calhoun and Karley Moore will be a big part of the team this year. They both earned varsity letters as freshman and will be expected to contribute on high levels this year.”
Steinke expects to have success in the CCC.
“We believe we are in the upper tier of the CCC,” he said. “Arcanum and Tri-Village on paper are the front runners for the league title. This year we are “all in”. We have one of the more experienced teams in the league and in the area.
We are not flashy and big but we will play defense and make the opposing team work for hard when they play us. We are hoping to compete for a league title.”
Chris Besecker returns for his third season as Bradford coach.
Bradford finished 14-9 overall and 8-4 in the CCC last season.
The Lady Railroaders will be led by All-CCC guard Austy Miller.
Miller averaged 17. points and 6.5 rebounds a year ago.
There is also a strong supporting cast returning.
The guards include senior four-year starter Emma Canan, junior three-year starter Ryle Canan, senior Abby Gade and junior Abby Fike.
The post players are senior Cassie Mead and sophomore Remi Harleman, who combined to average 15.5 points and 9.9 rebounds a year ago.
Besecker sees Tri-Village, Arcanum and Miami East as the teams to beat.
“We want to improve on last year’s record,” Besecker said. “To do this, we need to be much more efficient on offense. We had several games last year in which we played well enough defensively to win, but struggled on offense.”
Brandon Studebaker returns for his second season as coach.
“While we will be an extremely young team, returning only two starters and four girls with varsity experience from last year, I believe we have the ability to compete with the top teams in the league,” Studebaker said. “We have a tough non-conference schedule to help test us throughout the season, beginning with Versailles in our opening game.”
Covington has already been slowed by COVID-19.
“With the girls having spent last season in our system, we look to build upon that, introducing some new things and adjusting to our personnel this season,” Studebaker said. “In an unusual year an off-season, adversity has already struck, canceling two of our scrimmages and our first three games, leaving us with us with little pre-season preparation for our young players.
“However, we are excited for the season and look forward to getting out on the court.”
Senior Ellie Hedges, junior Claudia Harrington and sophomore Meg Rogers will head up the guard position.
Harrington averaged 13 points and seven rebounds a game last year, Hedges averaged three points per game and Rogers got valuable varsity experience a year ago.
Claire Fraley, a 6-foot junior, will lead the post players after averaging 10 rebounds and seven points a year ago.
Gracie Anderson, a 5-8 freshman and Carlie Besecker, a 5-9 freshman, along with 5-6 junior Parker Metz, round out the roster.
“Gracie (Anderson) will look to be an offensive threat from both the guard and post positions,” Studebaker said. “Carlie (Besecker) will look to be an offensive from the post position, while having the ability to step outside. Parker Metz will round out the varsity roster as an inside threat.”
Studebaker sees Tri-Village as the team to beat in the CCC.
“Tri-Village is likely to remain the team at the top,” he said. “Arcanum can be right there as well. Bradford, Bethel and East will all be in the mix.”
Bruce Vanover returns as coach for the Lady Vikings.
East finished 12-12 overall last year and 6-6 in the CCC.
Some key returners for East are 5-5 junior Paxton Hunley, 5-7 senior Rori Hunley, 5-7 senior Cadence Gross, 5-10 junior Kayley Fetters, 5-9 senior Lauren Wright, 5-6 junior Kyleigh Kirby and 5-10 sophomore Megan McDowell.
Mara Posey, a 5-7 junior, played varsity for Eaton last year.
Among the newcomers are 5-6 freshman Abigail Kadel, 5-6 freshman Maryn Gross, 6-foot freshman Camryn Francis and 5-8 freshman Logan Phillips.
“We like the fact that we are returning seven players from last year’s team, as well as the fact that we have had a move in letter winner (Mara Posey) from Eaton,” Vanover said. “This should help us continue to reach new heights as a program. We are returning a lot of experience and have a great abundance of youth in the the mix as well.
”This group works hard and they are talented, which should provide us depth at every position. We are also blessed to have great leadership on this year’s team, and it all starts with four seniors — Josie Crawford, Cadence Gross, Rori Hunley, and Lauren Wright. They are doing a great job of pulling this team together in an effort to make this another successful season.”
Vanover hopes to carry over momentum from last season.
“Last year’s team won 12 games and finished as sectional runnerups, all while sporting a very young and inexperienced varsity roster,” Vanover said. “Last year team’s competed and lost several close games. Hopefully, they will be able to close out some of those close game this year and improve in the win column.”
The Vikings will face a challenging non-conference schedule, playing Fort Loramie and Mechanicsburg this weekend.
“We have added some very solid non-league games to our schedule this year,” Vanover said. “We will have to be ready to compete from the beginning, and these girls wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Vanover expects the CCC to be very competitive.
”I think the favorites to win the league this year will be Tri Village,” he said. “I also think Arcanum will be battling at the top as well. After that, I think there are a handful of teams that will battle every night. It should be fun to compete in the league this year.”
Ryan Fiely is back for his second season as coach.
Newton has three key returners at guard.
Junior Cam Gleason averaged 8.8 points a year ago.
She will be joined by seniors Tori Benedict and Jaden Stine.
“Tori (Benedict) is coming back form an injury plagued junior season and has had a great offseason and preseason,” Fiely said. “Jaden (Stine) is a great defensive player that is going to apply a lot of pressure to opposing guards.”
A key player in the post is Kate Walters, who averaged 8.1 points and 6.6 rebounds a year ago.
“Kate (Walters) was most improved player throughout the season last year and has continued that through the offseason,” Fiely said. “She just missed out on all conference honors last season.
Newon will have several key newcomers, including senior Sarah Robbins, sophomores Emma Szakal and Mercedes Craig and freshman Reese Hess.
“Sarah (Robbins)is returning to the program after dealing with injuries her previous three seasons,” Fiely said. “Emma Szakal and Mercedes Craig got some varsity minutes but look to take on bigger roles this season. Reese Hess is looking to compete right away.”
Fiely sees Tri-Village and Miami East as the teams to beat in the CCC.
“We want to stay healthy and continue to improve,” Fiely said. “The girls have put the time in to improve their skills and we want that to translate to success on the floor.”