By Josh Brown
MIAMI COUNTY — Every new season has tons of potential storylines to watch for.
This upcoming girls basketball season, though, is packed with interesting plot threads for Miami County’s teams, be it state title aspirations or returning players or the ongoing competition between long-time league rivals. So here are the five first things that come to mind when looking at the beginning of the 2017-18 girls basketball season — which kicks off tonight.
1. Can Tippecanoe win a state title?
The Red Devils may not like the way that question is worded — it will be important for them to focus on each game and not get ahead of themselves. But it’s a question that will undeniably surround the team all season long, to go along with the prerequisite hype and expectations.
Last season, the Devils had only three players with significant varsity experience, and yet they still reached the Division II regional final for the second consecutive season, falling to Alter in both of those games. But four of the five starters and plenty of roleplayers return from that team, now with a full year of experience under their belts and the knowledge that they have the talent to get there. And with the addition of transfer Madison Frederick — a move-in from Arizona that already possesses a state championship and has committed to play Division I college basketball at Iowa State — Tippecanoe solidified itself as the team to beat in the area. The only thing left to be seen is if they can ignore the hype and live up to those lofty expectations.
2. Can Troy’s girls have a winning season?
Last season, the Troy Trojans had a new first-year coach in Aaron Johnson and a collection of young players. And despite an up-and-down season, Troy finished the year 11-13, won a postseason tournament game and advanced to the sectional championship round.
Still, though, the team came up just short of posting its first winning season since the 2012-13 campaign. The win total was the most for a Troy girls team since that year, but the Trojans simply couldn’t reach the .500 mark. This year, though, the majority of those young players return to the lineup, including a pair of post players in Alaura Holycross and Tia Bass and a pair of guards in Kiyha Adkins and Jordan Short. With returning pieces in all of the key places, as well as the new additions to the team, could this be the season Troy gets back to its winning ways?
3. How will Morgan Haney’s return to Miami East go?
Two years ago, Miami East’s Morgan Haney burst onto the scene as a freshman, leading the Vikings in scoring and assists, leading East to a number of signature wins and making the young team one to be feared in the Cross County Conference. But she missed her entire sophomore season with an injury last year, so how will the Vikings fare once she returns this year?
Without Haney, the young Vikings still went 13-12 and reached the Division III sectional final round. Haney’s absence arguably forced a lot of players to grow up faster and gain valuable experience at the varsity level. And with Haney — the kind of player that makes everyone around her better simply with her presence — back on the floor beside those players, the Vikings have even more potential. The only question will be how long it takes the chemistry to develop between everyone and get the entire team gelling.
4. Who will win the CCC?
Haney’s return to the Vikings makes Miami East, which was already a contender for the CCC crown, even more scary. But there’s plenty of players to be afraid of in a league that’s packed with talent from top to bottom.
Newton returns senior Tatum McBride, already the program’s all-time leading scorer. Covington junior Sammi Whiteman — who had memorable head-to-head battles against Haney during her freshman year and McBride each of the past two seasons — also returns to lead the Buccaneers. Defending champion Tri-Village, though still dangerous, graduated a number of key players, including the reigning CCC Player of the Year in Allie Downing, so is this the year that Miami East, Newton or Covington brings the CCC title back to Miami County?
5. Can Troy Christian take the next step?
Last season, in veteran coach Tony Ferraro’s first year with the team, the Troy Christian Eagles accomplished something it had not done in a long time — winning a postseason game.
The Eagles, playing in a loaded Sidney sectional bracket, have struggled to get past the sectional tournament’s opening round row the past decade. But last season, Troy Christian outlasted Botkins, winning by one point to advance to the sectional final round against Jackson Center, who won and eventually reached the state semifinal round. Still, though, it was progress for an Eagle team that, despite not posting a losing record since the 2011-12 season, had stalled out in the postseason. Is this the year that Troy Christian takes the next step, wins that sectional and advances to the district final?
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.