If Cherry Valley-Springfield is to defend its Tri-Valley League girls basketball title, it will do so with speed, not height.
Gone is graduated 6-foot-1 center Laura Kroon, taking away 10.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game. Coach Amy Garretson will look to build on last year's 19-3 season with a team of shorter players who can play multiple positions.
"We're definitely not the same team we were last year," said Garretson, whose squad won its first league title since Cherry Valley merged with Springfield in the 1987-88 season by beating Morris, 46-35, in the final. "The talent is there but it is in a different way. All my girls are interchangeable, so that's a plus."
If the Patriots are to return to the Section Four Class D championship game, they will have to rely on senior forward and Daily Star First Team All-Star Courtney VanBrink (14.6 points per game, 15.6 rebounds per game) and Daily Star Second Team All-Star Morgan VanAlstine (13 ppg., 10 rpg.), a junior guard. VanBrink was the only Tri-Valley League player to earn Daily Star First Team honors in 2007-08.
"They're very strong again," Garretson said of VanBrink and VanAlstine, who played AAU basketball in the spring to keep their skills sharp. "Having two great players like them on the team makes the other girls look to them too much. I have to make a plan where everyone is stepping up and playing with them. That is my biggest challenge."
Senior Morgan Shuster and sophomore Mallory Garretson also returns to the Patriots (1-1 this season), who have new players Aria Dubben (5-foot-7 freshman), Savannah Crowley (junior), Tiffany Thompson (5-5 junior) and 5-5 junior guard Nadine Guernsey. Garretson averaged 10 points and 10 rebounds last season.
Milford could pose a challenge to CV-S in the East Division.
Junior Chandler Prouty averaged 12 points and 12 rebounds last season to lead the Wildcats to a 13-8 record and sectional quarterfinal appearance. Prouty scored 16 points and had 15 rebounds as the Wildcats gave defending Class D champion Davenport a scare Dec. 8, holding a six-point halftime lead before losing, 49-38. Other key players include senior guard Emily Brigham (6 ppg., 4 apg., 4 spg.) and junior forward Mariah Coville (7 ppg., 8 rpg.).
Schenevus finished 11-9 last season and has split its first four games this winter. The Dragons are led by Jessica Bentley, Chelsea Gantner and Marion Murphy, who scored 17 points in a 38-36 loss to Schoharie in the championship game of the Schenevus Tournament on Dec. 6.
Worcester, which went 3-14 last season, is led by senior forward Kaitlyn Hansen, junior guard Gabby Grantier and senior forward Jordan Beverland. Worcester split its season-opening Schenevus Tournament as Hansen scored 23 points in a 44-30 consolation victory over Windham on Dec. 6.
Edmeston and defending division champion Morris appear to be the top teams in the West.
If that's the case, the Panthers made a statement Dec. 10 by beating the Mustangs, 52-19, to improve to 4-0.
Second-year varsity coach Melanie Mumbulo watched her team go 8-11 last season. Athleticism shouldn't be a problem for the Panthers, who have many of the same players that helped Edmeston to a co-Class D state championship in soccer this fall.
"We're capable of a deep run in sectionals," said Mumbulo, also the soccer coach "If we can make sure we stay ahead of injuries and sickness we should be OK."
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players from last season, including nine seniors in Emily Slentz (point guard), Stefanie Cornnell (guard), Lauren Olsen (forward), Jackie Davis (forward), Brittany Martin (guard/forward), Emily Bliss (guard), Ashley Mumbulo (guard), Alexis Brazee (forward) and Suellyn Tophoven (forward). Junior forward Susanna Johnson and sophomore guard Samantha Martin round out the team.
Morris went 15-6 last season and is off to a 3-3 start thus far.
The Mustangs lost 27.8 points and 22 rebounds per game as its top three players from last season graduated.
"We're pretty much starting over, bringing up a JV team that went 17-2 last season," coach Kerry Mason said. "We lost the Bermuda Triangle (Kayla Forgit, Gretchen Meyer and Kaitlin Meyers) and the key to replacing these scorers lies with this JV team we called up. Usually we have a 6-foot player but this year we don't have that luxury. We're going to have to scratch and claw this season."
Sophomores Erika Anderson (5-8 center), Caty Wetherbee (guard) and senior guard Kayla Card (17 three-pointers last season) figure to lead the Mustangs.
"She is one of the top two shooters in the league," Mason said of Card.
Junior point guard Alyssa Hite, junior Stacia Maricle and senior Chrissy Banks should also contribute for Morris.
"She is an absolute dynamo on the defensive end," Mason said of Banks. "Her motor runs 100 miles per hour for the whole game. She is a really good defender and loves competing."
Gilbertsville-Mount Upton started the season 0-5.
The Raiders (9-10 last season) are led by sophomore guard Tanya Barnes (7 ppg. last season) and senior forward Marissa Finch. Barnes is the team's top offensive threat, having scored 23 points in a loss to Laurens in the Pat Grass Tournament.
Franklin (5-15 last season) is led by senior forward Emalee Crossman, senior guard Emily Martin and senior forward Casey Jo Scaccia. The Purple Devils lost its first two games this season.
Laurens won two of its first three games. Diana Halstead and Jenna Robbins, who were each named to the Pat Grasso Tournament All-Tournament Team, lead the Leopards. Halstead scored nine points to lead Laurens to an early-season 33-28 victory over G-MU on Dec. 9.