The usual suspects

Howland, Lakeview, Newton Falls expected to be among best girls teams in area

The All-American Conference has plenty of talented area teams in girls basketball. Three such clubs are Lakeview, Howland and Newton Falls.

All three amassed at least 20 wins last season and return a good portion of their teams this season.

Newton Falls did lose Trumbull County Coaches Association girls Player of the Year Gabby Kline, who averaged a double-double last season in points and rebounds. This year, the 6-foot-1 post is at Ursuline College.

That doesn’t mean the Tigers, 25-2 last season, are fresh out of offense.

The Tigers have 5-10 junior Izzy Kline, Gabby’s younger sister, as last year’s second-leading scorer (14.7 points per game) and leading rebounder.

“Obviously we counting on her to do a lot of things for us,” Newton Falls coach Mark Baker said.

Kayla Barreca, a 5-10 senior, provides a 1-2 punch with Izzy under the basket. Then, there are four to five senior guards who are in their third year of varsity play.

“We’re certainly excited about the season,” Baker said. “When you bring that many kids back you take for granted that you’re ahead of a lot of people to start with because your kids know a lot of things you’re already doing. It makes things easier to do in practice. You can move forward into finer details a little quicker than when you have a young group.”

He hopes things come together for this team after the first month of the season.

“I want to see them come together as a defensive group,” Baker said. “Offensively we’re doing pretty well right now. Defensively I’d like to see us talk to each other and be able to communicate with each other better on the defensive end of the floor. Talk to each other in the transition game, so we do a better job getting back to our spots on the floor when it’s supposed to be a zone or matching up accordingly when it’s supposed to be a man.

“When it comes to offense, make sure we’re spaced properly — the right amount of distance between us and our fellow teammates. Spacing is offense and offense is spacing.”

It won’t be easy for the Tigers as the AAC Blue Tier has plenty of formidable foes in Champion and Brookfield.

“I don’t know if Brookfield graduated much last year,” Baker said. “They’ve had some outstanding younger kids. Champion might have graduated one or two. They’ve consistently had some outstanding younger grades coming in for the past couple of years. Now those kids are sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“They’re going to be a very difficult team to beat. They’re well coached. Their effort is always outstanding. You’re going to have to be on top of your game to compete with them, let alone beat them on any given night.”

It’s definitely anyone’s guess who takes the AAC Red Tier.

Howland. Canfield. Lakeview, which moved up from the White Tier, switching with Lakeside. Austintown Fitch. All off of those teams could win the tier.

“It’s exciting to go against some of the best D-I programs in the area on a much more routine basis. I’m looking forward to the challenge and I know the girls are as well,” Lakeview coach Jason Senedak said.

Howland is hosting North Canton Hoover next month and traveling to the Massillon Jackson Christmas Tournament to take on the Polar Bears and Stow.

“To play teams night in and night out, it’s hard to get the excitement going, get them to play hard night after night,” Howland coach John Diehl said. “I’m sure we’ll get beat somewhere along the line in the league. I think in the league you could have two, maybe three losses and still win the league. It could be that competitive.

“I want to compete with Hoover, Jackson and Stow. If we can compete with those guys, that will be good.”

The Tigers return Division II Northeast Inland District Player of the Year Sara Price, who recently signed with Ball State University. The 6-1 senior averaged 22 points and 10 rebounds last season.

Tori Rappach, who is at Mount Union, is the school’s all-time leading 3-point scorer. Price is moving to a small forward spot and shooting proficiently from 3.

“Last year we thought between her and Tori, they shot 60 percent of our shots,” Diehl said. “This summer, even in scrimmages, other people are scoring. She’s not forcing as many shots as she has in the past. Things are looking real good, team oriented from the line.”

The Tigers (20-6 last season) return a host of players besides Price, including starting junior point guard Mackenzie Maze (4.1 assists), who started as a sophomore last season.

“I don’t even think about the point guard position anymore,” Diehl said. “She’s gotten that good. She runs the show. She handles the ball. She just knows what’s going on this year. I expect a lot out of her.”

Senedak, who took over for Adam Lewis, knows his district championship team which went 22-3 needs to not rest on being a regional semifinalist.

“Last year being district champs was amazing, but we can’t rest on those laurels,” he said. “We have to keep trying to push forward as a team and as a program. I know that kind of puts a target on our backs. The teams we play are always going to come out and bring their best every night against us. I think as a varsity team we welcome that. We want that because that’s going to force us to get better in the long run as well.”

The Bulldogs lost leading scorer Addie Becker, who is at Capital University.

Lakeview returns first-team D-II district player Annie Pavlansky, a 6-0 junior, and third-teamer Jensen Silbaugh, a 5-9 senior point guard. Also, senior guard Lindsay Carnahan returns.

Senedak was Lakeview’s junior varsity coach the last seven years before taking the varsity assistant job at Austintown Fitch after the end of last season. When the Lakeview job came open in the offseason, Senedak couldn’t say no.

“It’s exciting to see these kids,” he said. “It’s exciting to see them part of something they care about, and I care about as well — just trying to move forward and get better. That’s our goal every day at practice. Throughout every game, it’s going to continue to get better. That’s where our focus is, it’s on coming out and putting forth a good effort night in and night out.”

Lakeview just wants to be a better team each night they take the floor.

“We’re going to try to get better,” Senedak said. “We’re going to continually focus on the things we do well and improve upon those.

“Take those perceived weaknesses and turn them into strengths hopefully we’ll have by the end of the season.”