Last season the 7th Region was one of the toughest regions in the state. With several top prospects returning, this year will be no different. duPont Manual, Sacred Heart and defending state champions Mercy all return talented teams.
duPont Manual returns a slew of talented players, including the region's top prospect, point guard April Wilson. Wilson, a 5-foot-7 junior, has committed to play for Purdue in college. Mercy must replace Therese Montano and Malisa Cruz but coach Mark Evans returns last season's leading scorer Julian Miller. Sacred Heart will look to seniors Maddie Peabody and Morgan Clemons for scoring and leadership.
1. duPont Manual (24-6): Manual finished with an impressive 24-6 record this past season. However, a one point loss to Christian Academy of Louisville in the 7th region championship put a damper on an otherwise outstanding season. Wilson played well last season but she knows there is always room to improve.
"Individually I don't think I played that great last season," Wilson said. "We were trying to get to the state tournament and we all really wanted to get there but we lost by one point to Christian Academy, so it was a bad ending to our season."
Along with Wilson, coach Stacy Pendleton also returns seniors Mechael Guess, Lauren Bodine and junior Kara Wright.
2. Mercy (27-8): The Jaguars got hot at the right time last season. After finishing the month of February with a mediocre 4-3 record, Mercy reeled off seven wins in a row to take the state championship. After an impressive summer, coach Evans has high hopes for this season as well.
"We have high expectations," Evans said. "We had some great players graduate from last year's team but we have a great class behind them. We had a great summer. I felt like we were one of the better teams. We have several good ball handlers and we may be a little quicker defensively. We think we will be in the mix."
Miller averaged 13.1 points per game last season. She will be key to Mercy's success this season but coach Evans also expects senior Laura Farris and sophomore Whitney Hartlage to step their games up.
"Our leading scorer Julian Miller is back," Evans said. "She had a great state tournament. She is going to be a great key. We are still making some decisions about the point guard spot but we have a good sophomore named Whitney Hartlage. She will only get better by experience. She is going to have to step up and play big for us. Lauren Faris will be one of wing players. Her main thing is she has to realize how good she is. She has all the ability in the world."
3. Sacred Heart (17-14): The Valkyries will be a senior laden team. Along with Clemons, who averaged 12.4 points per game last season, and Peabody who averaged 9.8 points, coach Donna Moir also returns seniors Monica McGreal, Hannah Wasshle, Annamarie Campbell and Katie Bishop.
"The key to success will be teamwork, execution of fundamentals and free throw shooting," Moir said. "This group is one of the hardest working groups during my 20 year history. This team has high goals. We want to win the very competitive 7th region and be a leading contender to win the state championship. This group plays excellent defense that will allow it to be competitive against the state's best. A rigorous summer campaign has shown that this team has a huge upside and tremendous potential."
Moir also expects juniors Jade Tubb, Jazmin Smith, Olivia Niehoff and Sandy Gahafer to contribute.
4. Jeffersontown (20-9): The Chargers only lose two seniors from last season's team. Coach John Kyser welcomes back 6-foot-3 senior center Lenette Holt.
5. Ballard (19-12): Coach Steve Kaufman must replace last season's leading scorers Larissa Stafford and Nicole Heitz. He will look to 6-foot-3 senior center Jalen Bodiford for scoring. Bodiford, who holds a scholarship offer from Memphis, averaged 8.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game last season.
6. Christian Academy of Louisville (25-6): Coach Don Rice welcomes back one of the state's top prospects, sophomore China Dow.
7. Assumption (17-11): Last season's leading scorer, Molly Ernst, is gone but coach Ron French returns senior Maggie Hartlage and sophomore Dee Dee Sliter.
8. Eastern (14-14): New coach Jody Charleston welcomes back 10 underclassmen from last season's team.
9. Fern Creek (14-15): The Tigers return Teonia McCune. McCune, a 6-foot-4 center,is one of the top prospects in the state. She averaged 15 points and 15 rebounds per game last season.
10. Moore (15-14): Coach David Meadows must replace last season's leading scorers Ondrea Shaw and Jessica Guy.