Kentucky Girls Basketball Season Preview
Kentucky Girls Basketball 22-23 Season Preview
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It is a fact that pre-season polls can be some of the most inaccurate polls to be produced compared to final rankings. Some folks may even say that pre-season rankings are pointless. However, here at Hoops Mafia, our very first pre-season poll has given us plenty of talking points!
On this #MafiaMonday, we will break down the different tiers in the Hoops Mafia Pre-Season Coaches Poll. There will also be a few dark horses mentioned that did not make the poll that our writers find intriguing. Without further ado, let’s talk about levels!
Tier 1 -
Sacred Heart Academy
The Valkyries are the clear No. 1 as we begin the 22-23 season.
The back-to-back State Champions return 71% of their scoring from last year’s team that won every game at the Sweet Sixteen by double-digits. Coach Donna Moir’s roster is again anchored by nationally ranked ‘25 ZaKiyah Johnson, but SHA’s strength in past years has been their depth. This team may have to rely more heavily on their top options, and that should not be a problem with Triniti Ralston, Reagan Bender, and Angelina Pelayo all garnering D1 offers and interest.
Tier 2 -
George Rogers Clark, Mercy Academy, McCracken County, Cooper, Bowling Green
This tier is composed of teams that are talented enough to take over the top spot at some point in the season. These five teams should also be solid favorites to win their region and make a trip to Rupp in March.
George Rogers Clark received one first place vote in the pre-season poll, and we expect them to pick up more as the season progresses as they are led by Cincinnati signee, Brianna Byars, and her sister in the ‘25 class, Ciara Byars.
Mercy simply has a loaded roster. Nationally ranked ‘25 Leah Macy averaged 20 points and 12 rebounds per game last season, and we expect more of the same from her. Alyssa Murphy, Emma Barnett, and Mary Smith also averaged double-digit scoring for the Lady Jags last season. The ability to share the wealth could take Coach Nick Cann’s crew to great heights.
McCracken County is coming off a 31 win season in which they return their major contributors. Their veteran leadership in Seniors Destiny Thomas and Caroline Sivills will be the x-factor that wins them close to 30 games again. The Lady Stangs also have ‘24 guard Claire Johnson who is coming off a strong summer in which she collected a D1 offer, and is expected to make a jump.
Cooper may be the hottest team in the state if momentum carries over from one year to another. The Lady Jaguars were scorching hot in February and March and won 12 consecutive games taking them to the Sweet Sixteen finals last season. Lehigh signee, Whitney Lind, is expected to take another step forward, and could be in the conversation for Miss Basketball when the season winds down.
Bowling Green is the clear favorite to come out of the 4th region for the fourth consecutive season. The Lady Purples boast a starting line-up loaded with veteran talent. We expect BG to play at an even faster pace this season, and that benefits Eastern Kentucky signee, Saniyah Shelton as much as anyone. Northern Kentucky signee Meadow Tisdale should be in the running for Miss Basketball in March, and Tanaya Bailey is one of our favorite unsigned seniors in the state of Kentucky. Coach Calvin Head will have the Lady Purples ready to go no matter who is on their schedule.
Tier 3 -
DuPont Manual, Meade County, Pikeville, Southwestern, Ryle
The third tier really has two sub-tiers, but all 5 teams could be title contenders. Meade County, Pikeville, and Southwestern are favorites to win their region according to our voters, while DuPont Manual and Ryle are considered to be the two best at-large teams.
Meade County went 22-2 over their last 24 games last season with both losses coming to heavy-weight Bullitt East. ‘25 Peyton Bradley will be on a mission to get her team back to Rupp.
Coach Kristy Orem’s Pikeville Lady Panthers absolutely dominated eastern Kentucky last season, and we expect them to do the same this year. ‘24 guards, Trinity Rowe and Kyera Thornsbury are as formidable a backcourt as there is.
Southwestern is the third team in this tier that was voted at the top of their region. The Warriors return four of five starters from their final four run a year ago. A pair of University of the Cumberlands signees, Ayden Smiddy and Payton Acey will provide a wealth of experience alongside ‘25 sharpshooter Kinsley Molden.
DuPont Manual is expecting their senior backcourt in Jakayla Thompson and
Sydne Tolbert to give them a shot at a 7th Region crown. Thompson is signed with the University of Buffalo and is expected to be in the conversation for Miss Basketball.
The Ryle Lady Raiders may have been the biggest underachievers last season according to their standards and the expectations of the rest of the state. This team showed up in our first poll last year as No. 4, and we will not be surprised if they make their way back to that point this year. This is a team that returns 96% of their scoring from last year’s team. Cincinnati signee Abby Holtman shoots 36% from three, and ‘24s Sarah Baker and Quinn Eubank are D1 caliber players as well.
Tier 4 -
Central (Louisville), Henderson County, Bullitt East, Corbin, Russell
Henderson County, Corbin, and Russell were all voted as the favorites in their region by our voters, and our writers agree.
Someone is going to have to beat Henderson County in the 2nd Region and keep them from winning 25+ before they stop being ranked. The Colonels return a large chunk of their core, and they are favorites again led by ‘23 guard Jarie Thomas and her 14.4 points per game.
Corbin has the guards to play with anyone, and that shows in our rankings. ‘24 guards Kallie Housley and Darcie Anderson can absolutely fill it up. The two lead guards averaged 15.4 ppg and 12.1 ppg respectively for the Redhounds.
Coach Mandy Layne’s Russell Red Devils were the favorites in the 16th Region most of the year last year, and we don’t expect anything different this year. We look for ‘24 guard Shaelyn Steele to be on a mission to win the 16th. Do not be shocked if her 21.9 points per game mark jumps even more this year.
Bullitt East may not be the Bullitt East of the last couple years, but they still have enough talent to compete in the 6th with ‘23 Lilly Reid and ‘24s Jada Hughes and
Louisville Central’s time is now. Illinois-Springfield signee, Amaya Asher, is a solid senior leader at the lead guard position, and ‘24 big Destiny Jones is as good as anyone inside. With these two, Central should win 20+ games and finish top three in the 7th Region.
Tier 5 -
Mercer County, Christian Academy of Louisville, Franklin County,
A chunk of this tier is carried by its history. Mercer County, Franklin County, and Boyd County are teams that have had a ton of success in their regions in recent years.
The Titans of Mercer County hit the floor with the best player in the 12th Region each night. Timberlynn Yeast is signed with the University of Buffalo and she physically dominates most nights. Mercer County goes as far as she can carry them.
Franklin County is looking for their fourth consecutive 11th Region title, but they lost 39% of their scoring to graduation. Coach Joey Thacker will be waiting to see which young pups grow into the role of a major contributor.
Boyd County got hot at the right time last year, and were able to avoid Russell and Rowan County in the 16th Region tournament. They took care of business against Ashland Blazer to advance to Rupp. ‘24 Audrey Biggs is out with an injury, but if she is able to return for a late season run, watch out.
Christian Academy of Louisville made one of the spiciest off-season hires in recent memory. Byron Wilkins brings a knowledge of the city of Louisville to the Centurions, and a daughter that may be the top 2026 prospect in the state, Brianna Wilkins. CAL should be one of the more exciting teams to watch this year.
Tier 6 (Dark Horses) -
Rowan County, Ashland Blazer, Bethlehem, Nelson County,
Owensboro Catholic, Anderson County, South Oldham, Lawrence County
The Dark Horses tier consists of mostly teams that are receiving votes.
All of these teams are capable of competing for their region title despite not being ranked. We also think that these are teams that could get hot and find themselves in our rankings at some point.
A Dark Horse team is generally lead by a stud player. Rowan County’s Raven Ford averaged 20.4 points per game last season and definitely qualifies as such. Lawrence County’s Kensley Feltner lead the state in scoring with 26.9 points per game and is capable of beating any time single handedly with those numbers.
Bethlehem, Owensboro Catholic, and Anderson County are all teams that are used to hearing themselves in the conversation of the Top 20 recently, and believe they still have the talent to stay there.
Ashland Blazer, Nelson County, and South Oldham are teams that our writers and voters believe could surprise the masses.