There are some signs that this season could be a changing of the guard in area high school girls basketball.
Some of the area’s top players graduated — like Glens Falls’ Lucy Tougas and North Warren’s Madasyn Bush — or transferred to prep school, like Glens Falls’ Sophie Tougas. That will no doubt change the complexion of both Section II championship teams.
The departure of Sophie Tougas to Brewster Academy in New Hampshire leaves Lake George’s Graceann Bennett, a 6-foot-2 junior, as the area’s premier underclassman talent.
There is a wide-open feel to area leagues this season. Glens Falls went 21-3 last year, but will be hard-pressed to repeat with Scotia, Gloversville and Amsterdam returning solid teams in the Foothills Council. The Foothills has scrapped its North-South division format and will go forward as a 10-team league this season, with each team playing an 18-game league schedule.
In the Adirondack League, Lake George and Warrensburg will remain tough, while Argyle, Hartford and Fort Ann hope to knock North Warren off the top after the Cougars won their first Section II title since 1980. The Adirondack League will continue with the three-division setup it adopted last season, but with Warrensburg and Hadley-Luzerne swapping divisions.
Tamarac, runner-up to Glens Falls in the Class B sectionals, is expected to be the team to beat in the Wasaren League, which has split into two five-team divisions. Greenwich is in a tough Division I with Hoosick Falls, Mechanicville, Stillwater and Tamarac, while Cambridge is in Division II with Hoosic Valley, Saratoga Catholic, Berlin and Waterford.
Glens Falls: With the departure of both Tougas sisters, coach Mark Girard’s Indians will build around senior forward Taylor Scarincio, and juniors Felicity Williams and Anna Bayle will give her help. Sophomore Sovereign Strickland takes over at point guard from Lucy Tougas, Lexi Cutter brings her shooting touch up from JV, and Cambrie Schliff and Callie Woodell should provide rebounding.
Hudson Falls: The Tigers lost some talented guards to graduation, but coach Brianna Dingmon returns veteran seniors like Naesha Kelley and Kierra McCarthy who will have a big impact, especially on defense. Sophomore Brin Inglee leads a group of younger players who will be asked to help Kelley with the scoring load on a team that hopes to be a league contender.
Queensbury: Five players return from last season, but the Spartans remain a young team, as coach Megan Bethel has only two upperclassmen. Queensbury must replace second-team all-star Emma Hayes, but a trio of sophomores — Hope Sullivan, Meghan O’Connor and Hailey Ballard — may be the Spartans’ team leaders. This group has played together for a number of years, and will push the ball as much as possible.
Schuylerville: The Black Horses returned a very experienced squad with eight seniors from a team that finished 4-9 in the Foothills North. Coach Jason Mehan lost three starters to graduation, but returns a group that has played together for years, led by top scorer Emily Vallee and guard Cassie Patrick, both fourth-year varsity players. Fellow senior Caitlin Kelleher should be a top rebounder.
South Glens Falls: The Bulldogs return a balanced lineup loaded with seniors, including guard Mackenzie Collier, who led the team in scoring with 10 points per game last season. Coach Joe Palmer said a different player could be the team’s leading scorer on any given night. South High could be in the thick of the pack.
Argyle: Last year’s Class D runner-up in Section II, Argyle is reloading for a shot at its first sectional title since 2012 with a very experienced and balanced team. The hard-working Scots are led by the senior trio of Sam Humiston, Danielle Sill and Eve Carmody, all fourth-year varsity players who will battle on defense and on the boards. Sophomore Erica Liddle returns as the starting point guard for veteran coach Terry Chamberlain.
Corinth: Dave Montero takes over the Tomahawks this season with the task of rebuilding a team that went 1-18 last year. Corinth will be very young this season, with captain Shelby Allen the only senior and four sophomores starting, including guard Alexa Abbatantuono and center Miranda Dockum. How the Tomahawks handle pressure will determine how well they do.
Fort Ann: New coach Logan Watson takes over a Cardinals team that returns four of five starters from a team that reached the Class D semifinals. Expect more run and gun from Fort Ann, powered by leading scorer Amanda Godfrey and sophomore guard Sarah Paige, who led the team in rebounds, steals, assists and blocked shots last year. Fifth-year veteran Renee Allen, Raegan Thorpe and Kayla Bailey also return for the Cardinals.
Fort Edward: After winning five Section II Class D titles in six seasons, the Flying Forts’ season came to an end in sectionals for the first time since 2012. With no seniors, coach Jason Thomas’ team will be very young this season, but they all saw action last season. Mady Thomas and Caitlyn Mahoney return at the forwards, while Isabelle Gulick, Morgan Fish and freshman Gaby Thomas fill in the guard spots. Expect the Forts to be very competitive this season.
Granville: New coach Adam Langworthy takes over a Golden Horde squad that went 5-15 in its first season in the Adirondack League. Granville has a good mix of veterans and young players that is focused on defense and pushing the pace in transition. Sophomore Kali Iliopulos brings speed, intensity and defensive efficiency to the floor, Brooke Perry returns as the team’s floor leader, and Audra Quick and Alexis Leaman provide a presence in the post.
Hadley-Luzerne: Coach Tyler Byrnes takes over the Eagles’ program as they try to improve on a 3-16 season a year ago. Hadley-Luzerne should have a very quick team with a lineup full of guards that will play pressure defense and transition offense. They will be led by Kassidy Plummer, who can play both post and perimeter, and point guard Caitlyn Fuss.
Hartford: The Tanagers lost leading scorer and rebounder Jessica Getty to graduation, but return a solid nucleus of players with size, a quality shooter in Cailyn Harrington and an experienced ballhandler in Cami Rogers. Veteran coach Wendy Harrington has three 6-footers in senior Alondra Nims, freshman Abigail Monroe and eighth-grader Karlee Nims.
Lake George: The Warriors went 18-5 overall last year, falling in the Class C semifinals, then lost key players like Lacey Cormie and Alauna Wright to graduation. However, 6-2 junior Graceann Bennett will continue to be the focal point for coach Rob Tefft’s club. Surrounding her will be a junior-heavy cast that includes athletic Alysia Kane and Nikki Hladik, and hard-nosed rebounder Samantha Jeckel.
North Warren: The Cougars have a tough act to follow, after going 20-4 and winning the Class D sectional title. They also lost all-star Madasyn Bush, who averaged 25 points per game last year. Veteran coach P.J. Hogan will count on third-year varsity players Sydney Gagnon and Brooke French for offensive production. Gagnon and Alyssa Kramar can run the floor well and Jaclyn Urtz will step into Bush’s role as a tough rebounder and inside scorer.
Salem: The Generals will be a young squad under new coach Keith Beattie, led by seniors Hailey Vincent and Charity Rushinski. Vincent is a quick forward who can score inside and outside, while Rushinski is a tireless worker on both ends of the court. Beattie said despite the team’s overall youth, Salem will play hard and rely on defense and an uptempo style of play.
Warrensburg: The Burghers finished 17-4 and won Division II last season, but step up to Division I this year without six players who graduated. Leading scorer Megan Hughes and point guard Hope Boland return for a Scott Smith-coached team that is relatively young, with interior defender Kayla Raymond the lone senior. Keep an eye on several newcomers up from a strong JV.
Whitehall: The Railroaders have six players returning from a team that won three games last season, but only one is a senior — third-year starter Hannah Bascue, who guards every opponent’s top player. Freshmen Kyrie Smith and Zoe Eggleston return for coach Kathy Putorti, with Eggleston taking over the point guard duties this year. Sophomore Hailey Taylor will be counted on for her shooting touch.
Cambridge: The Indians return most of their starters and will rely on their experience and a spark of youth, led by senior Helen Mooney and freshman Sophie Phillips. Mooney was Cambridge’s leading scorer, while Phillips made an immediate impact after moving up to the varsity midway through the season. Senior guards Bridey Nolan and Grace Snyder are other key veterans for coach Tony Bochette.
Greenwich: The Witches will have less experience this season after losing four-year point guard Sabrina Whitehouse and leading scorer Olivia Barnes to graduation. Coach Jason Slater returns some key veterans — freshman Molly Brophy, now in her third varsity season, and 6-foot junior Emma Brophy are reliable scorers, and seniors Gabbie Wiss and Devin Drew provide leadership. If the team jells, Greenwich could surprise some teams.
Hoosick Falls: Dan Hytko, a longtime coach at Cohoes, takes over a Panthers team that went 18-5 last season, but returns only one starter in 6-foot Logan Thayne. Eliza Whitman is a great shooter and leader, while Noreen McAuliffe, another player with size, is working into a starting role this season.
Hoosic Valley: The Indians remain one of the league’s stronger small-school teams, after finishing runner-up in Section II Class C to Mekeel Christian. Center Alex Rifenburgh is the only returning starter for coach Larny Chapko, and she and guard Lauren Paul are both solid rebounders and scorers. Sophomore Sam Lanoue takes over the point guard spot.
Saratoga Catholic: The Saints are in major rebuilding mode with only two returning players in senior point guard Ani Crocker and Kennedy Murphy. Coach Damian Fantauzzi has an athletic group that he hopes will improve fundamentally as the season goes on.
Stillwater: New coach Matt LeMoyne takes over the Warriors this season with only three returning players from a 9-12 squad last year, but one is freshman Marley Mueller, who will be Stillwater’s primary scoring and rebounding threat. Cassidy Sheehan and lone senior Madison McCoy also return, and Brooke Pickett will run the team from the point.
Bolton: Maddie Pratt, who was the MVAC South MVP last season, returns for her senior year, along with classmate Ashley Connery, who missed her entire junior season with a torn ACL. Coach Luke Schweickert also has a trio of returning freshmen, as scorer Kate Van Auken, tough guard Maria Baker and ferocious defender Chelsea Speranza all played key roles last year.
Indian Lake-Long Lake: New coach Eric McAuliffe said the Orange have a good blend of senior leadership and young talent, with the potential to get contributions from all 11 players. Senior point guard Maria Black returns to lead the team, along with Lillian Dechene and Alex Campbell, a tenacious defender and rebounder.
Johnsburg: The Jaguars return three very solid third-year varsity players in Khaleah Cleveland, Taylor Dwyer and Megan Bacon for first-year coach Randy LaFountain. However, Johnsburg has only eight players on its roster, so three freshmen on the roster will have to step up.
Ticonderoga: The Sentinels will be a young and less-experienced squad after going 8-12, and coach Rick Smith hopes they develop as the season goes on. Forward Emily Pike, who averaged 12 points per game, and guard Sadie St. Andrews return for Ti this season.
Saratoga Springs: The Blue Streaks return the 1-2 scoring punch of Dolly Cairns and Kerry Flaherty — both of whom could notch their 1,000th point this season as underclassmen, and both can score from anywhere on the floor. Coach Robin Chudy also has senior forward Briann Barringer, a tough defender and rebounder who can score inside the paint.