Rossford brings back mature squad; 4 starters return to team which finished 1 game behind Lake


With four of five start­ers back in the fold, the Ross­ford Bull­dogs have the ex­pe­ri­ence to chal­lenge Lake’s re­cent league su­prem­acy.

Ross­ford has been pegged as the pre­sea­son fa­vor­ite to win the North­ern Buck­eye Con­fer­ence and end the four-year reign of the Fly­ers. Lake won three straight Subur­ban Lakes League ti­tles be­fore cap­tur­ing the first NBC crown last sea­son.

Ross­ford will be led by re­turn­ing se­nior post player Alaina Mitch­ell, along with ju­nior re­turn­ing start­ers wing Julie Hotz, wing Court­ney Mor­ris, and guard Margo Jack­son.

Coach Kevin Mitch­ell led the Bull­dogs to a sec­ond-place fin­ish (10-4), one game be­hind Lake.

“With four re­turn­ing start­ers and seven let­ter win­ners from a team that fin­ished sec­ond in the NBC last year, we ex­pect to be in the hunt for a league ti­tle this sea­son,” Mitch­ell said.

Alaina Mitch­ell and Hotz both earned All-NBC first team hon­ors. Mitch­ell, the coach’s daugh­ter, av­er­aged 10.0 points and 8.0 re­bounds per game. Hotz tal­lied 12.0 points and grabbed 5.0 re­bounds per game.

Mean­while, Lake lost NBC player of the year Han­nah Cox to grad­u­a­tion along with coach Denny Meyer, who re­signed last March af­ter lead­ing the Fly­ers to four ti­tles and an 81-10 over­all record.

Another long­time and suc­cess­ful coach takes over at Lake. Jim Gra­cyk, who coached the East­wood girls for 17 years (1990-2007) and com­piled a 300-97 record, is now in charge of the Fly­ers pro­gram. Gra­cyk’s teams won 10 SLL ti­tles. He was an as­sis­tant at Northview the last two sea­sons.

Gra­cyk in­her­its three re­turn­ing start­ers, se­nior wing Alyssa Shaf­fer, soph­o­more guard Jor­dyn Tay­lor, and ju­nior wing Sumer Wood­ruff. The Fly­ers are ex­pected to con­tend again.

“We ex­pect to com­pete for a league ti­tle and get out of dis­tricts in the tour­na­ment,” Gra­cyk said.

Wood­more and Elm­wood also look to chal­lenge for the NBC ti­tle.

Wood­more coach Kyle Clair said: “We want to con­tinue our up­ward move­ment in the con­fer­ence and be one of those teams that ev­ery year is in the mix for the league ti­tle.”

Here is a look at the teams in pre­dicted or­der of fin­ish based on a pre­sea­son coaches’ poll:

From left: Rossford basketball players Margo Jackson, Alaina Mitchell, Julie Hotz and Courtney Morris.
From left: Rossford basketball players Margo Jackson, Alaina Mitchell, Julie Hotz and Courtney Morris.


Coach: Kevin Mitch­ell, fourth sea­son

Last sea­son: 13-9 over­all, 10-4 NBC

Top play­ers: Se­niors Alaina Mitch­ell 5-11, P; Jenny Des­tate, 5-4 G; Liz Pa­risi, 5-7, G; Han­nah Mar­c­inek, 5-7, W. Juniors Julie Hotz, 5-9, W; Court­ney Mor­ris, 5-7, W; Margo Jack­son, 5-5, G.

Out­look: Mitch­ell has com­piled a 30-37 record at Lake and is 270-147 over­all in his coach­ing ca­reer.

Alaina Mitch­ell and Hotz bring ex­pe­ri­ence with them along with Mor­ris (6.0 points per game and 4.0 re­bounds per game) and Jack­son (3.0 points and 3.0 re­bounds per con­test).

Coach Mitch­ell said he also likes his team’s depth with Des­tate, Pa­risi, and Mar­c­inek and its quick­ness.

But he said po­ten­tial trou­ble ar­eas in­clude con­sis­tency in re­bound­ing and foul shoot­ing as well as a lack of over­all size.

“We need to get off to a good start to build con­fi­dence,” Mitch­ell said. “How we play on the road will de­ter­mine how suc­cess­ful we will be this sea­son.”


Coach: Jim Gra­cyk, first sea­son

Last sea­son: 16-6, 11-3

Top play­ers: Se­nior Alyssa Shaf­fer, 5-9, W. Juniors Sumer Wood­ruff, 5-8, W; Ana Henne­man, 6-0, P; Sara Dab­ney, 5-10, P. Soph­o­mores Jor­dyn Tay­lor, 5-6, G; Catie Phalen, 5-5, G. Alexis Hansen, 5-7, G.

Out­look: Gra­cyk takes over a Flyer team with three start­ers and four let­ter win­ners com­ing back.

Shaf­fer av­er­aged 6.8 points per game, while Tay­lor posted 8.0 points per game. Wood­ruff (4.5 ppg) and Phalen also saw var­sity ac­tion.

Gra­cyk said the pro­gram’s re­cent his­tory of win­ning gives the play­ers con­fi­dence. He said he has depth at all po­si­tions and he likes his team’s blue col­lar work ethic.

Abil­ity to re­bound and ad­just­ing to a new up-tempo style of play may prove to be stum­bling blocks. He also said he has had some early in­ju­ries to over­come.


Coach: Kyle Clair, fifth sea­son

Last sea­son: 12-10, 9-5

Top play­ers: Se­niors Katy Avers, 5-10, P; Shan­non O’Con­nor, 5-6, G; Leah Bench, 5-6, G. Junior Al­lie Wank, 5-10, F/P. Soph­o­more Mack­en­zie John­son, 5-10, P.

Out­look: Clair has com­piled a ca­reer record of 46-40 at Wood­more.

This sea­son he has two start­ers and five let­ter win­ners back.

Wank was among the NBC re­bound­ing lead­ers (5.6 rpg) and scored 5.9 points per con­test.

Avers chipped in with 2.7 ppg and 4.2 rpg, while John­son con­trib­uted 3.3 ppg and 2.5 rpg.

“We will uti­lize a sys­tem that will in­clude full-court pres­sure on de­fense with the hopes that will ig­nite our of­fense,” Clair said. “We will play up and down the court with pres­sure de­fen­sively and of­fen­sively.”

He also said his team must de­velop some scor­ing. Clair said he hopes the Wild­cats will be able to off­set some of that by get­ting some easy points with their de­fense.

“I like the way we look on pa­per, so now we have to im­prove ev­ery day,” Clair said.


Coach: Doug Rey­nolds, sec­ond sea­son

Last sea­son: 13-9, 8-6

Top play­ers: Se­niors Brit­t­any Gross, 5-9, G; Brit­t­any George, 5-7, G; Tori Hil­lard, 5-10, P; Emily Smith, 5-8, P. Juniors Kris­ten Cur­tis, 5-8, W; Tif­fany Hil­lard, 5-7, W; Marissa Swavel, 5-7, PG.

Out­look: Rey­nolds coached the Roy­als’ boys var­sity team for an eight-year stretch un­til 2008. He took over the girls pro­gram that was 6-16 and 2-12 in 2010-11.

Rey­nolds lost the league’s lead­ing scorer (Si­erra Beck­ford) but Gross av­er­aged 8.4 points per game along with 5.8 re­bounds and 2.7 as­sists. George con­trib­uted 6.5 points, 3.2 re­bounds, and 2.5 as­sists.

Cur­tis (6.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Hil­lard (3.8 ppg and 3.6 rpg), and Swavel (3.5 ppg) all saw sig­nifi­cant play­ing time.

Rey­nolds said he has good depth and team speed with four re­turn­ing let­ter win­ners. “Every night some­one else could be the top scorer. We want to push the ball and play ag­gres­sively full court,” he said.

Beck­ford, who is play­ing at Bluffton, leaves a huge scor­ing void (16.0 ppg). “We also have to im­prove de­fen­sively,” he said.


Coach: Scott Bern­thisel, sixth sea­son

Last sea­son: 12-10, 9-5

Top play­ers: Se­niors Mor­gan McCul­lough, 5-5, G; Jes­sica Rob­erts, 6-0, P. Junior Lind­sey Don­ald, 5-7, G. Soph­o­more Mad­die Asmus, 5-6, PG. Fresh­men Kim For­shey, 5-11, P; Mor­gan Smoyer, 5-10, P.

Out­look: Bern­thisel said his team’s strengths should in­clude its over­all height as well as its knowl­edge and ex­cite­ment for the game.

He said his team is young with only two start­ers and six let­ter win­ners back. He said the Knights will need to find ways to score.

McCul­lough is the top re­turn­ing scorer (7.0 ppg), while Rob­erts added 5.8 points and grabbed 4.0 re­bounds.

Don­ald and Asmus played the ma­jor­ity of min­utes on Otsego's 20-0 ju­nior var­sity team. For­shey and Smoyer should see con­sid­er­able time as a fresh­men. Se­niors Kar­ley Schutz­berg and Court­ney Gar­rett will be re­lied on to fill im­por­tant roles again.


Coach: Mike DeS­tazio, third sea­son

Last sea­son: 9-13, 5-9

Top play­ers: Se­niors Ha­ley Plantz, 5-8, W; Chel­sea Lavelle, 5-6, W; Selina Peer, 5-6, G. Juniors Ci­ara Al­bright, 5-7, G; Katie Jensen, 5-8, W; Brynn Skil­liter, 5-8, P. Fresh­man Ha­ley Pick­ard, 5-6, G.

Out­look: DeS­tazio must re­place three start­ers that com­bined for an av­er­age of 28 points per game. His Comets also do not pos­sess great size so they must be ag­gres­sive on the boards.

He said team chem­is­try is good. He also said the team’s pe­rim­e­ter shoot­ing should be solid.

“We are ca­pa­ble of shoot­ing a lot of three-balls with Al­bright, Plantz, Lavelle and Jensen,” he said. “We also have ver­sa­til­ity in play­ing dif­fer­ent po­si­tions.”

Al­bright ranked sec­ond in the NBC in scor­ing (12.5 ppg) and also grabbed 5.0 re­bounds per game to go along with 60 as­sists to­tal and 74 steals. She earned first team All-NBC hon­ors.

Plantz av­er­aged 7.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and had 39 as­sists and 16 steals. Plantz also nailed 42 3-point­ers.

Jensen had 3.5 re­bounds per game, while Peer and Skil­liter saw ac­tion as well.

“If we con­tinue to im­prove as much as we have since the sum­mer, we could be a very good team by Christ­mas,” said DeS­tazio, who has a 30-16 record at Genoa. “We have im­ple­mented some new things de­fen­sively, and we are hop­ing this will help cre­ate more of­fense for us.”


Coach: Gary Lemle, sec­ond sea­son

Last sea­son: 7-14, 4-10

Top play­ers: Se­niors Di­ana Bush­man, 5-9, G; Press­ley Weaver 5-9, F; Emily Helm, 5-4, PG; Alena Gabel, 5-9, G; Kel­sey Weaver, 5-9, F; Steph­a­nie Dip­p­man, 5-6, F.

Out­look: Lemle coached at Car­di­nal Stritch where he had 96 ca­reer wins be­fore tak­ing over the Eagles pro­gram last year.

He has three re­turn­ing start­ers and six let­ter win­ners.

Bush­man av­er­aged 5.5 points per game, while Weaver chipped in with 4.5 and Gabel with 3.0. Helm and Gabel are co-cap­tains.

Lemle sees his team’s abil­ity to run the floor in tran­si­tion and score as strengths. He also said the Car­di­nals should have ef­fec­tive high-low post scor­ing.

He said his team must im­prove de­fen­sively and be­come bet­ter re­bound­ers.

“I ex­pect the team to build upon the im­prove­ment from last year,” Lemle said.


Coach: Ma­thew Swort­chek, sixth sea­son

Last sea­son: 0-21, 0-14

Top play­ers: Juniors Ki­erra Set­tles 5-7, F; Eliza San­chez, 5-5, G. Soph­o­mores Jada Hamp­ton, 5-8, G/F; Erica Moore, 5-6, G. Fresh­man Alexus Smith 5-7, F.

Out­look: Swort­chek said his team’s youth is both a strength and po­ten­tial weak­ness.

He said he likes his team’s speed and quick­ness. But he said a lack of size is a con­cern.

Among five let­ter win­ners are four re­turn­ing start­ers.

Set­tles (5.4 ppg), Hamp­ton (5.5), and Moore (6.2) all con­trib­uted of­fen­sively. San­chez, Smith, and Tucker also saw var­sity ac­tion.

“We are try­ing to turn a cor­ner this year and be­gin to build back into a com­pet­i­tive bas­ket­ball team,” Swort­chek said. “With no se­niors we are lack­ing vet­eran lead­er­ship. How­ever, the core group of ju­niors and soph­o­mores have been work­ing hard to take big steps to turn around our record from last year and we are see­ing pos­i­tive signs.”