Top 10: 2022-23’s best 11th Region girls’ basketball teams


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2022-23 High School Basketball Preview

The Herald-Leader/Kentucky.com is publishing season preview stories leading up to the start of the 2022-23 high school basketball season on Monday, Nov. 28. You can read everything we’ve published to this point by clicking on this drop-down list. All of the stories are also available in our print and e-editions.

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Coach Joey Thacker’s Franklin County Flyers have won six of the last eight 11th Region girls’ basketball championships, including the last three in a row.

And even with the turnover that is the constant nature of high school sports, it should come as no surprise that Thacker’s peers believe Franklin County to be the top team in the 11th Region again this season.

The Flyers received 12 No. 1 votes out of the 14 cast by the region’s coaches in our @HLpreps preseason survey. Madison Southern got the other two. But Thacker knows no one’s ceding any trophies to his team just yet.

“Sometimes people put you at the top of the ladder because they’d like to kick the bottom of it out from under you,” Thacker joked.

Despite Madison Southern’s two No. 1 votes, Frederick Douglass is the coaches’ pick as the 11th’s second-best team.

“I like the chemistry this year with our girls. The energy’s different,” Douglass Coach Daryl Moberly said. “I think we all have the same goal. I’m expecting a productive season this year.”

And Moberly has lined up a schedule to match those expectations. It includes Herald-Leader preseason No. 2 George Rogers Clark out of the 10th Region, Central and Assumption out of the always tough 7th Region, and No. 21 Notre Dame, 2019 state champion No. 11 Ryle and defending region champion No. 4 Cooper out of the 9th.

In addition to the tough games they’ll face across the region and in the 42nd District, that’s a gauntlet, but Moberly wants his team at that level.

“We’re trying to play some of the best teams out there,” Moberly said, adding their success will be about “competing. I feel if we stay consistent doing that, we can come out on top and really make some noise this year.”

Here’s a rundown of the 11th Region’s best teams for the 2022-23 season in order of how they were rated in our survey with last year’s record and a brief summary. Coaches were asked to “rank the top 10 teams” in the region.

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Franklin County players high-five their student section after winning the 11th Region Tournament championship last season. Michael Clubb

1. Franklin County (28-8)

Coach Joey Thacker believes his players feel a personal responsibility to remain competitive year after year. Over the last few years the Flyers have graduated Miss Basketball Brooklynn Miles, now at Tennessee, and Patience Laster, one of the region’s most imposing post players ever.

“Sometimes, the batch that are behind those that are just leaving want to prove that they can do it just as good or better,” Thacker said.

Thacker also credits a strong middle school program for Franklin County’s ability to keep dominating the 41st District and 11th Region.

“Our sophomore group is really, really strong. They were state runner-up in middle school a couple of different times at different grade levels,” Thacker said. “We played three or four freshmen last year on the varsity.”

That group includes Leia Hogan at point guard, and 6-1 forward Julianna Frazee who averaged 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds alongside the now-graduated Laster, who averaged a double-double.

Franklin County also has length with returning starters Jazmin Chambers, a 6-0 senior guard, Rachel Shropshire, a 6-2 junior wing, and Jhaven Meade, a 6-4 senior center. Thacker believes Meade can have a breakout season.

“I don’t know that I’ve had a kid come as far in six months as Jhaven Meade. She is absolutely playing her best basketball at the best time for her career,” Thacker said. “I think she’s more patient. Her footwork is better and she’s probably our best defender.”

2. Frederick Douglass (19-9)

Douglass was upset by a resurgent Henry Clay team in the 42nd District Tournament last season, but boasts one of the state’s top sophomores in 5-6 guard Niah Rhodes, who led the team in scoring with 16 points per game and ranked sixth statewide in made three-pointers per game.

Then there’s 6-2 center Ayanna Darrington, who averaged a double-double last season with 15 points and 12.8 rebounds, making her one of the best rebounding players in the state. The Broncos’ other returning starter, Kate Baker, a 5-3 sophomore, averaged seven points per game as the team’s primary ball-handler.

This year, they’ll be joined by senior East Jessamine transfer Jermyra Christian, a 5-9 guard who averaged 22.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game for the Jaguars.

3. Madison Southern (22-12)

The Eagles suffered a significant blow this preseason when senior forward Reece Estep sustained another ACL tear on her surgically repaired right knee. She posted the news on her Twitter account Sunday.

Estep’s presence would have helped, but the two-time defending 44th District champs remain a contender thanks to a strong senior class and the dynamic play of freshman guard Hadley French, who led the team with 11.1 points per game as an eighth-grader. Starters Tara Wooten and Bella Moberly, both seniors, also return.

“We like to think we have the makeup of a team that can make a run due to our experience that we return,” Coach Josh Curtis said, adding that the Eagles have “a good mix of youth that has made it to the regional semifinal the last two years.”

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Coach Ashley Garrard led Henry Clay to the 42nd District Tournament championship last season and has several major contributors from that squad back this season. Pablo Alcala Pablo Alcala

4. Henry Clay (18-13)

The Blue Devils, defending 42nd District champions, hope to make up for their lack of size with their ability to shoot from the perimeter at every position, Coach Ashley Garrard said.

Alli Stone (13.9 ppg), a 5-8 junior, was the team’s leading scorer a year ago. She’s joined by returning starters Lydia VanMetre (6.5 ppg) and point guard Ariyana Sutton (7 ppg). Garrard looks for juniors Timarri Miller, Elizabeth Nelson and Emily Johnson to increase their roles.

“This year should be a fun year,” Garrard said. “Our style of play will have to adjust to being a team that gets up and down the floor, and we will continue to play our exceptional defense.”

5. Lafayette (26-7)

The loss of four seniors, including region player of the year Anaya Brown, from a 43rd District championship team that finished region runner-up each of the last two years, means opportunities for a young team.

The Generals will be led by sophomore Savannah Simpson (8.6 ppg), a 6-0 forward, and their lone senior, Gracyn Grantz (7.2 ppg), who plans to continue her playing career at Maryville College.

“The players are skilled, and all have great potential,” Coach Allison Tate Denton said. “The challenge is going to be making five players look like one person on the court. They don’t know each other, yet, so it is going to take time.”

Coach’s daughter Anna Clay Denton, who also plays softball and golf, takes over point guard duties as a freshman.

6. Madison Central (12-13)

The Indians return four starters for new coach Scott True, who spent the last few seasons as a Franklin County assistant and was previously head coach at Lexington Catholic.

Among them are 5-9 junior Bailey Hensley, who averaged a double-double last season (17.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg) as their leading scorer. She’s joined by sophomores Brittany Campbell (9.4 ppg) and Nataya Strader (6.2 ppg) and junior Eden Carter (7.3 ppg).

“We are young but have some depth which will help us against a brutal schedule,” True said. “We will look to score in transition and create offense with our defense.”

7. Great Crossing (14-15)

Coach Matt Walls takes over after three seasons as the Warhawks boys’ junior varsity coach and has four returning starters who will be learning a new system.

Leading returning scorer Rachel Smith (11.2), a 5-7 senior, and leading rebounder Ava Schureman (7.2 rpg), a 5-9 junior, are back with Raegan Barrett (7.3 ppg), a 5-10 senior, and Olivia Tierney (9 ppg), a 5-7 junior.

“It will probably take us the first part of the season to really get into what our identity will be both on offense and defense,” Walls said.

8. Lexington Catholic (12-16)

Knights senior Katherine Truitt (18 ppg, 8.9 rpg), a 5-10 guard, could legitimately win region player of the year honors in both soccer and basketball this season and is part of an experienced and athletic lineup for Coach Lee Tegt.

She’s joined by fellow senior soccer standouts Mary Martin Hampton, who returns to the court at point guard after a season away, and Olivia Bretz, a Central Michigan soccer commit who missed part of last season with an ankle injury.

The two-sport trend continues for last season’s 43rd District runners-up with softball standouts Lucy Nash (4.8 ppg), a 5-8 senior, and Lydia Kennedy (7 ppg), a 5-9 junior, who were both part of LexCath’s state runner-up last season.

9. Bryan Station (12-14)

Second-year coach Serena Sandusky expects a step forward this season from the 42nd District runner-up that returns much of its roster, including starters Jailenn Green (9.4 ppg), a 5-8 sophomore, Kailyn Gentry (8.1 ppg), a 5-10 junior, and Emily “EG” Gomez (5.8 ppg), a 5-6 senior point guard.

“There’s no longer an excuse that we are young,” Sandusky said. “Yes, we have freshmen and sophomores that will play significant minutes, but those kids have experience from tournament atmospheres from a season ago.”

10. Berea (24-8)

Coach Dammian Stepp lost six seniors from a very successful team last season that dealt with a season-ending injury to its leading scorer along the way.

Chesney Lovins (9.2 ppg), a 5-9 senior, along with junior guards and primary ball-handlers Abigail Beard (5.2 ppg) and Maddy King (4.3 ppg) are the top returners.

“I expect ups and downs as we find our identity individually and as a team,” Stepp said. “We hope to win a fifth straight All “A” Classic region title and compete for a 44th District championship in the postseason.”

ROUNDING OUT

Other teams in order of votes: Tates Creek, Scott County, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Model, Sayre, Lexington Christian, Frankfort, Western Hills and Frankfort Christian.

METHODOLOGY

The 11th Region’s 19 coaches were asked to rank the 10 best teams in the 11th Region. The list reflects the rating of the 14 coaches who responded to the “top 10 team” question in the survey.

2022-23 SEASON PREVIEW

This is the eighth of eight stories the Herald-Leader and Kentucky.com is publishing previewing the 2022-23 high school boys’ and girls’ basketball seasons, which were scheduled to tip off Nov. 28.

This story was originally published November 28, 2022 12:40 PM.





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