Entering the start of the prep girls basketball season, Spruce Creek and New Smyrna Beach appear to be the top teams around the Volusia/Flagler area.
The Hawks return a plethora of talent, and are strengthened by a pair of productive newcomers. New Smyrna Beach’s starting five remains intact after making the second round of the playoffs last season.
But who else can challenge the Hawks and the Barracudas? Here’s a breakdown of area programs.
COACH: George Butts
2015-16 RECORD: 16-10
PROJECTED STARTERS: G CeCe Bankhead (Sr.), G Shania Pope (Jr.), G Da’Jhai White (So.), G Symara Moore (So.), F La’Cheri Postell (Sr.)
KEY RESERVES: G Zaria Pope (So.), G Jon’Keria Patterson (So.)
OUTLOOK: With 13 more victories, Butts would reach 450 for his 21-year career. Postell led the area in rebounding, averaging 13 per game and setting a school-record with a 25-rebound performance. Sharks should hang around in a competitive, seven-team District 5-7A.
COACH: Rick Perez
2015-16 RECORD: 19-11
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Yasmin Perez (Jr.), F Hope Hodges (Jr.), F Faith Hodges (Jr.), F Mariah Perez (Jr.), C Martisha Nelson (Sr.)
KEY RESERVES: F Mackayla Chenault (So.), G Amber Cunningham (So.)
OUTLOOK: Lions have contended the past three years at the 2A level, but they’ll need the role players to step up around Yasmin Perez. The junior, who recently visited Barry University, averaged 13 points and 10.2 steals per game. Sharp-shooting Hope Hodges is being counted on to pick up the offensive slack.
COACH: Robert Moore
2015-16 RECORD: 14-13
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Nia Moore (Jr.), G Jourdan Williams (Sr.), G Kristina Cartin (Jr.), F Bianca Valderrama (Sr.), F Jaylin Hasting (Fr.)
KEY RESERVES: F Tamara Peterson (Jr.), G Marissa Reulbach (Fr.)
OUTLOOK: Williams, Cartin and Moore return to a DeLand squad which improved last season. However, scoring will be the big question for the Bulldogs. Who can fill the void of Sherae Cherenfant, the area’s scoring champion the previous three seasons with more than 1,700 career points?
COACH: Lissette Holmes
2015-16 RECORD: 11-8
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Geovana Rios (So.), G Minnie Griffin (Fr.), F Demetria Pressley (Fr.), F Brittany Bell (Fr.), C Khalia Griffen (Jr.)
KEY RESERVES: F Celeste Littles (Fr.), G Breanna Hicks (Fr.)
OUTLOOK: Late coaching change for the Wolves as Holmes takes over for Brandon Wingfield. Deltona has four new starters, including three freshmen. Griffen, the lone returner, had 33 points, 19 rebounds and five blocks in the preseason.
COACH: Brad Ridenour
2015-16 RECORD: 20-6
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Madi Camporese (Jr.), G Lexi Duckett (So.), F Taylor Williams (So.), F Madison Patrick (Sr.), C Tiera White (Fr.)
KEY RESERVES: G Gabby Watson (Fr.), F Reece Ward (Sr.), C Haley Stewart (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: There’s a lot to like about the Green Wave, including three impact returning starters (Camporese, Duckett, Patrick). Duckett, who is starting to garner Division I talk, averaged 16 points per game in earning an All-Area third team nomination. White adds a new dimension in the post. The transition to Class 7A could be beneficial, avoiding Lake Highland Prep and Jones.
Flagler Palm Coast
COACH: Javier Bevacqua
2015-16 RECORD: 24-2
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Katanya Grover (So.), G Dyman Howard (So.), G Jimaya Baker (So.), G Kiara Rodriguez (Jr.), F Skye Green (Jr.)
KEY RESERVES: F Lauryn Smith (So.), G Quetrina Brown (Fr.)
OUTLOOK: After a bit of a golden age, featuring three Division I prospects and a Final Four trip two years ago, FPC must start over. Rangy forward Green, who holds offers from Longwood and Air Force, and top defender Baker should embrace bigger roles. Bulldogs aim to make the playoffs for a third consecutive year.
COACH: Holly McIntyre
2015-16 RECORD: 3-8
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Zionna Harris (6th), G Amber McIntyre (Sr.), G Ava Dougherty (8th), F Raychell Jones (Sr.), F Amelia Pataky (Fr.)
KEY RESERVES: G Jada Cooper (Sr.), F A.J. Young (5th), F Shania Moore (7th)
OUTLOOK: The Knights will count on Jones and McIntyre for leadership on an extremely young team. No returner scored more than 5 points per game, though defense and rebounding should be a strong suit.
COACH: Arthur Westbrook
2015-16 RECORD: 20-9
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Elainna Jones (Sr.), G Lee Ann Kent (Jr.), G Dzhariya Hawkins (Jr.), F Jasmine Hadley (Sr.), C Tahara Williams (Sr.)
KEY RESERVES: G Narishya Mango (Sr.), G Leesha Henry (So.), C Ryanna Kilmer (So.)
OUTLOOK: Bucs posted a 20-win season and made the state playoffs for the first time since 2009. Jones should have full command of the offense and will likely score in double figures on most nights. It’s an undersized squad, so Mainland may have to battle on the boards and on defense.
COACH: Dan Toblin
2015-16 RECORD: 3-20
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Jaida Reddin (So.), G Alexis Lipka (So.), G Diamond McGlocking (Fr.), G Arnesia Powell (So.), F Jaiden Small (Jr.)
KEY RESERVES: G Jessica Rodrigues (Jr.), G Zhariah Haire (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: Three starters did not suit up for the Pirates last season; the exceptions being Reddin (3.9 points, 2.3 rebounds per game) and Small (1.9, 4.9). Toblin believes the newcomers will help improve an offense, which averaged 28.7 points per game.
New Smyrna Beach
COACH: Cal Cochran
2015-16 RECORD: 25-4
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Carmella Walker (Sr.), G Sha’Kawanza Brown (Jr.), G Letrell Wilbon (Sr.), G Alyssa Schwartz (Sr.), C Jermera McRae (Sr.)
KEY RESERVES: F Princess Thomas (Sr.), F Anika Lewis (Jr.), G Treyonna Coates (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: Cochran, who coached Daytona State to JUCO prominence through last year, inherits a program with Class 7A Final Four aspirations. All five starters return, along with a bench loaded with role players. Walker (19.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.7 steals per game) might be the early front-runner for Player of the Year.
COACH: John Rogers
2015-16 RECORD: 5-21
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Passion Graham (Jr.), G Sherwaine Rhoden (Jr.), G Jada McDonald (Jr.), F Sierra Giordan (So.), F Kiara DeLeon (Sr.)
KEY RESERVES: G Aliyah Mason (Fr.), G Alayah Pearson (Jr.), F Janelle Robinson (Fr.)
OUTLOOK: Rogers managed to turn Warner Christian around and will try to repeat the feat at Pine Ridge, stepping in for athletic director Brad Montgomery. Lots of new faces for the Panthers, though Graham is the returner projected to make the biggest impact.
COACH: Avery Randolph
2015-16 RECORD: 7-16
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Christen Helem (Jr.), G Shaelyn Commette (Sr.), G Azaline Thompson (Jr.), F Keyona Rivera (Fr.), F Drita Coma (Jr.)
KEY RESERVES: F Malinda Messener (Fr.), G Brooke Hergert (Jr.)
OUTLOOK: Helem, an All-Area honorable mention, has the potential to blossom into one of the area’s most dynamic combo guards. Rivera, a 6-foot freshman, gives the Sandcrabs some much-needed size. This could be one of the area’s most improved teams by season’s end.
COACH: Kelvin Hamm
2015-16 RECORD: 13-14
PROJECTED STARTER: G Danika Hamilton (Jr.), G Jayla Adams (Jr.), G Irelynn Davisson (Sr.), G Yoke Tassent (Jr.), F Keaubree Edwards (Sr.)
KEY RESERVES: G Peryonna Sylvester (Fr.), G Delayna Gillard (Fr.), F Keasia Edwards (So.)
OUTLOOK: After a disappointing 2015-16 campaign, the Hawks are expected to be among the area’s best again. Hamilton (Deltona) and Gillard (Calvary) transferred to Creek after starting elsewhere. Davisson and Keasia Edwards return after suffering significant injuries. Likely district favorites, the Hawks have athleticism, shooting and size in spades.
COACH: Kevin Hiss
2015-16 RECORD: 2-12
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Malia Bunce (So.), G Hannah Dambaugh (So.), G Averi Harcus (8th), F Lexi Friend (Fr.), F Allison Friend (So.)
KEY RESERVES: F Alyssa Smith (So.), F Mia Schell (So.)
OUTLOOK: Wildcats have a nice foundation with which to build with seven underclassmen topping the rotation. The Friend sisters combined to average 20 points per game. Can the young players mature quickly enough to head back to the playoffs for the first time since 1999?
COACH: Karen Neher
2015-16 RECORD: 6-12
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Dahlia Porter (Fr.), G Lindsay Page (So.), F Leann Latorre (Sr.), F Kyana Johnson (Fr.), F Aubrey Myers (Jr.)
KEY RESERVES: F Tiffany Scott (Fr.), F Maria Marrow (Sr.), G Makayla Marrow (Fr.)
OUTLOOK: Latorre rejoins the Eagles after spending the 2015-16 season at Calvary and could be a nightly double-double threat. Leading scorer Porter and top rebounder Johnson also return. This could be an improved team, bolstered by newcomers Page and Myers.
COACH: Sam Story
2015-16 RECORD: 2-24
PROJECTED STARTER: G Najah Gerrald (Sr.), G Karelia Mercado (Sr.), G Alanna Schu (So.), F Amber Stokes (Sr.), C Mary Boerboom (Jr.)
KEY RESERVES: G May Fuentes (Sr.), G Anastasia Pedraza (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: Titans return three key starters from last season, including top scorers Gerrald and Boerboom. However, their average scoring differential was minus-27.3 points. Story expects senior guard Mercado to help the Titans improve their scoring touch, working on her shooting extensively in the offseason.
COACH: Frank Eberheart
2015-16 RECORD: 13-9
PROJECTED STARTERS: G Jaida Purkiss (Sr.), Julie Skipper (Jr.), F Stevie Sasknowski (Sr.), F Joi Koonce (6-0, Fr.), F Ryanne Lewis (Sr.)
KEY RESERVES: Ireanna Hinson (7th), Julia Royer (Fr.)
OUTLOOK: The Eagles posted one of their best seasons in recent memory last winner, winning 13 games. Purkiss, one of the area’s most valuable players, generated 22.5 points, 5.0 assists and 7.7 steals per game. Lewis, also a volleyball star, is one of the top rim-protectors around.