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Lady 'Landers under Birchfield look to challenge in Watauga Valley

Jeff Birchfield / Tanner Cook • Nov 22, 2019 at 12:00 PM

It’s North Greene at the top of the league, but Cloudland and Hampton are also in the mix.

Here is a look at some of the league teams.

Coaches’ picks

1. North Greene

2. Cloudland

3. Hampton

4. Unaka

5. University High

6. Sullivan North

Cloudland

The Lady Highlanders lost plenty of production from last year’s team, which finished 26-5 and made the region semifinals. Matt Birchfield, however, in his second stint as Cloudland coach, doesn’t call it a rebuilding year.

One challenge is a lack of height as no player measures over 5-foot-8. The starting lineup consists of Heaven Caraway (5-2, Jr.), Kenzie Birchfield (5-2, Sr.), Gracie Freeman (5-6, Jr.) at guards and Mandy Benfield (5-8, Jr.) and Jasmine Birchfield (5-8, Jr.) in the posts.

Leah Birchfield, Kaylen Fields and Karah Fields are looked at as key reserves. Layken Johnson, Ella Benfield and Ambrien Blair round out the lineup.

Hampton

Youth is the key word for Bud Hazelwood’s squad this season.

The Lady Bulldogs have 12 freshman on the 20-person varsity roster, but they have some key returnees in big spots.

Although Hampton lost a prominent offensive player in Stephanie Campbell, there is some experience left on the roster.

Hazen Brumitt will be looked to as the post player as she constantly improved throughout the year last season.

Hannah Collins was a good secondary option to Campbell and is viewed as one of the leaders for the young team.

Hazelwood says there really is not a set starting five yet and that people could see five freshmen on the floor at one time.

Sullivan North

Led by a pair of seniors in Sahara Bates and Katelyn Rutherford, the Lady Golden Raiders have a roster consisting of mostly underclassmen.

Sophomore Lilly Crawford played well toward the end of the season for Sullivan North and figures to be one of her team’s primary scorers.

There’s not a whole lot of size on the Sullivan North bench, but there is some depth with 11 players listed. However, there are three freshmen that have never seen time on the varsity level — so it will be a learning process.

Unaka

There’s a bounty of coaching experience on the Lady Rangers’ sideline with head coach Kenneth Chambers teaming with Mike Lunsford and Dawn Lowe.

It will be a new-look Lady Rangers, who finished 14-18 last season after falling in the region quarterfinals. Unaka must fill the position of star post player Myah Parlier, lost to graduation.

The starting five will likely consist of Lyndie Ramsey, Jada Whitehead, Zoie Grindstaff, KiKi Forney and Macy Ensor. Lilie Kiser is one of three seniors along with Whitehead and Grindstaff.

Capable players in junior Trinity Houghton and freshmen Mailey Guy and Mackenzie Depew are penciled as key reserves. Sophomores Natalie Stout and Veronica Holly are also expected to see some playing time.

University High

Former Crockett coach Marty Story takes over after serving as an assistant on a Lady Bucs team that finished 15-14 last season. While University High lost a big chunk of scoring from that team, there is some reason for optimism.

If they can slow games down to a half-court game, they have a significant advantage inside with Mauri Johnson (6-2, Sr.) and Catie Leonard (6-0, So.). Delaney Trosin (5-4, So.) will run the offense from the point, while talented freshman Katie Stancil (5-6) starts at shooting guard with Meredith Rice (5-9, So.) on the wing.

Senior Elideth Lopez (5-5) heads the list of reserves. It also includes juniors Ryleigh Owen (5-5), Michaela Summey (6-0), sophomore Elizabeth Sherlin (5-7) and freshman Melina Summey (5-7).

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