The Indiana Basketball Coaches Association preseason girls Top 20 was released Sunday night, and the No. 1-ranked team was a familiar one.
Columbus North, which has spent most of the past four seasons in the top four in the all-class poll, is coming off a 27-2 record and a Class 4A state runner-up finish. The previous year, the Bull Dogs went 28-1 and won the 4A state title.
“The preseason poll is often a reflection of the previous season,” North coach Pat McKee said. “I doubt everyone widely knows about our injury situation. If they did, we wouldn’t have that ranking.”
That injury situation could cause the Bull Dogs some problems at least for the first month of the season. Ashlyn Huffman, a 5-foot-5 senior point guard, is out with a torn ACL, as are 6-0 junior Kat Norman and 5-7 junior Kelsey Patberg.
Huffman hopes to be back by December, while Norman hopes to be back by January. Patberg, who tore her ACL during soccer season, likely will miss most, if not all, of the basketball season.
“The biggest issue right now might be a lack of depth, especially experienced depth,” McKee said. “It could be that we’ll be better in the long run for this. If the younger players come in and perform well, they will gain experience. Then, when the injured players come back, we’ll have even more depth.”
Two players who have been on the court for the first couple weeks of practice are 5-9 senior Maliah Howard-Bass and 6-4 senior Imani Guy. Howard-Bass led North with 18.6 points a game and added 5.0 rebounds and 2.8 steals, while Guy averaged 9.3 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Both Howard-Bass, who has committed to Ball State, and Guy, a Southern Indiana recruit, were Indiana Junior All-Stars this summer.
“Both of them have looked good in practice over the last week,” McKee said. “We have two very good players to start with.”
Huffman, who averaged 9.3 points and a team-high 4.6 assists, also was a Junior All-Star. Replacing her at the point will be 5-6 junior Kenzie Patberg, who saw extensive action after Huffman injured her other knee in the regional.
Battling for the other two starting spots are 5-11 freshman Tessa Lomax, 5-10 sophomore Nadia Lomax (2.7 ppg), 5-10 junior Jenna Borger (2.0 ppg) and 5-9 junior Liz Tynan (1.6 ppg).
Jahna Smiley, a 5-11 junior, and 5-9 sophomore Agustina Fainguersch likely will split time between varsity and junior varsity. Four freshmen — 5-6 Annie Anderson, 5-7 Kaylyn Bates, 5-7 Chelsi Giesige and 5-8 Sierra Norman — also will push for varsity time.
“If we work hard, we could be pretty good,” McKee said. “If we just think we can show up and win because we’ve won in the past, we’re going to get beat. But we’re trying to be real optimistic. We think we can be really good.”
The Bull Dogs will face a tough November schedule while they await the return of Huffman. They open Nov. 8 at home against New Albany, then travel to Martinsville and Franklin Central before hosting Lawrence North.
During Thanksgiving weekend, Columbus North plays in suburban Cincinnati against Lakota West, which is hosting the Queen City Classic.
“Our early schedule is pretty hard,” McKee said. “New Albany is a very athletic team. Martinsville has a girl committed to Purdue and has two or three other good players. Franklin Central has a really good point guard. Lawrence North is always good, and Lakota West has a player that’s touted at the national level. We’re going to be looking at how we play more than anything else.”
The 2016-17 Columbus North girls basketball schedule:
Nov. 8;New Albany;7:30 p.m.
Nov. 11;at Martinsville;7:30 p.m.
Nov. 18;at Franklin Central;7:30 p.m.
Nov. 19;Lawrence North;2:30 p.m.
Nov. 26;at Lakota West (Ohio);7 p.m.
Dec. 3;at Terre Haute South;2:30 p.m.
Dec. 6;Greenwood;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 8;East Central;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 13;at Seymour;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 15;at Columbus East;7:30 p.m.
Dec. 17;Terre Haute North;2:30 p.m.
Dec. 22;North Invitational;6 p.m.
Dec. 23;North Invitational;11:30 a.m.
Jan. 3;at Jennings County;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 5;Southport;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 7;at Perry Meridian;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 10;at Franklin;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 14;at Bloomington South;2:30 p.m.
Jan. 20;Bloomington North;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 21;at Louisville Mercy;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 24;Whiteland;7:30 p.m.
Jan. 26;at Roncalli;7:30 p.m.