Baker’s Breakdown: A Look to Next Season

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Brackets are busy being busted, records go right out the window, and a loss means the end of the road.

Postseason basketball is upon us.

But instead of looking ahead a month or so to the state title games, let’s fast forward 10 months to the dawn of the 2017-2018 campaign.

Each year, schools send seniors off after four years of dedication, and a new band of them fill the void the next year. Faces familiar or otherwise will take the reigns, and a new era begins.

Of course, some of those eras seem newer than others.

Some teams will see a lot of talent go. Let’s examine those teams first.

Vinton County Vikings

The Vikings were a virtually unstoppable force all year long. They ended the regular season with a nearly unblemished resume, losing two road games by a combined nine points, and snagged the number one seed on their respective side of the bracket. With seven seniors and thirteen upperclassmen, it’s hard to deny the role an experienced squad has played in Vinton County’s success. Arguably two of its best playmakers will depart due to graduation. Tristan Bartoe, the fourth member of the 1,000-point club as a Viking, and Derick Jones, a dead-eye shooter who’s lethal off the bounce, will hang it up after this postseason. The two supplied a tough matchup for opponents in every game this season, and relied on junior Naylan Yates to pick up any slack. With two of its big three missing for 2017-2018, Vinton County will need Yates, big man Bryce Damron, and Jacob Speakman, among others, to carry the momentum into the start of next year.

Federal Hocking Lady Lancers

No team’s turnaround can match that of the Lady Lancers. Federal Hocking finished with five wins total a season ago. This season, it’s racked up 12 and counting, even winning four games in a row multiple times during the season. The magic behind the feel-good story came largely in part due to a senior class the includes Destiny Tabler, another do-it-all 1,000-point scorer, Kaylli McPherson, a scrappy guard who can heat up quick, and four other girls who provided an identity to a program that hadn’t won more than six games since 2010. Hannah Dunfee headlines the returning Lady Lancers as they continue to improve and keep up in a loaded Hocking side of the TVC.

Southern Tornadoes

The Tornadoes saw a significant dip in the win column last season, ending the year with just five after eight years with at least 10 wins. Southern contended with Waterford and Trimble until late season losses made it tough for the Tornadoes to claw their way back up the ranks. Tylar Blevins and Blake Johnson led a group of seven seniors into battle on the gridiron and hardwood, and the team’s best one-two punch provided a strong, athletic presence Southern consistently relied on. As of now, Dylan Smith and Jonah Hoback will lead the way as seniors next season as the Tornadoes compete to dethrone the Wildcats or Tomcats, who’ve won the conference each year since 2013.

Waterford Wildcats

While watching Waterford play, it’s easy to see the chemistry the Wildcats share across the board. Each guy plays for the guy beside him, and with six seniors that truly know what it’s like to turn a program around, that part is no surprise. Riding the wave of an unbelievable football season, Waterford went undefeated in conference play and finished atop the Hocking. Names like Jordan Welch, Isaac Huffman, Andrew Thieman, and others have become beloved by the Wildcat faithful, and whether in the starting lineup or off the bench, those guys provided passion, effort, and top-notch play night in and night out. But no worries, Waterford fans, Bryce Hilverding, Travis Pottmeyer, and Cody Harris will be back to bring that same intensity for the 2017-2018 season.

These teams will suffer major hits to the lineup come the end of this postseason, but not all TVC teams are losing so much. In fact, some teams will be in even better shape with the talent they’ll be bringing back.

Athens Lady Bulldogs

Athens had the youngest starting lineup in the TVC, and it wasn’t even close. The Lady Bulldogs started four sophomores and a freshman, and their youth showed as they only won five games. However, that same youth allowed for a good amount of experimenting with the team’s roles, and each girl found her place on the court. Laura Manderick became Athens’ biggest success story, bursting onto the scene right away as its best scorer. Olive Harter, Kaylee Stewart, and Lauren Abdella solidified themselves as reliable role players on either side of the ball. Coach Paul McNeal harped on improvement all season long, and with a year of learning already under their belt, the 2017-2018 season will be a great chance to see what the Lady Bulldogs are made of.

Meigs Lady Marauders

Four seniors will leave the Lady Marauder program after this postseason comes to a close, but the core talent will stick around another year. And the best in that group will be around another year after that. The class of 2019 for Meigs contains the team’s star-power. Kassidy Betzing, a versatile guard who scores from everywhere, Marissa Noble, a reliable wing player who can hit the big shot, and Madison Fields, a quick guard who can also bring it up the floor, give the Lady Marauders options when it comes to offense. Madison Hendricks and Devin Humphries will also provide a veteran presence in their senior year. The most concerning part about four departing seniors for Meigs is the rebounding ability of Allie Hatfield and Danielle Morris, who are frequently rotated at the five spot. For a small team like Meigs, the inside ability is important, but the fact the Lady Marauders will return their top five scorers should supplement for that loss.

Waterford Lady Wildcats

A year removed from a state title, the Lady Wildcats haven’t missed a beat. They went undefeated in conference for the third season in a row. The biggest difference between this season and last has been the leadership from the senior class, includes only Jillian McCutcheon this year. Whereas Dani Drayer led the way in her senior season, all of Waterford’s best players from this year are juniors. Alli Kern and Megan Ball, a dynamic duo that rivals Vinton County’s for the best in the area, are the faces of the program, and Coach Jerry Close utilizes his versatile girls in any way possible to win. Look for the Lady Wildcats to make a deep run this postseason, and with the talent they’ll return for 2017-2018, it wouldn’t surprise many to see them do the same this time next year.