Coach: Matt Vigil, 1st season
2012-13 record: 4-19 overall (missed Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Jenna Henderson, 5-foot-9, G/F, soph.; Brianna Purnell, 5-3, G, jr.; Shakia Williams, 5-8, F, sr.
2013-14 Outlook: Following one season with Aurora Central athletic director Nate Smith serving as head coach, the Trojans will be run this season by Matt Vigil, who is new to the school, but has plenty of coaching experience at various other stops. Aurora Central is coming off back-to-back four-win seasons — with three of last season’s victories coming in East Metro Athletic Conference play — but Vigil believes that given the graduation at various programs around the league, a win total in the 8-9 range isn’t out of the realm of possibility. The Trojans only have two players with regular varsity experience back, but they are the team’s strongest players from last season in sophomore G/F Jenna Henderson and junior G Brianna Purnell. Henderson played her way onto the All-EMAC first team as a freshman, when she averaged 12.6 points per game by scoring in a variety of ways. The diminutive Purnell tallied 9.2 points per game last season to finish second on the team and is now in her third varsity season. Senior G Shakia Williams didn’t play last season, but should help when she gets back up to the speed of the game.
Coach: Todd Dixon, 2nd season
2012-13 record: 10-14 overall (lost in 1st round of Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Hannah Sparks, 5-foot-7, G, sr.; Lily Hartley, 6-0, C, sr.; Kenzie McLelland, 5-11, G/F, soph.; Anastacia Johnson, 5-8, G, soph.
2013-14 Outlook: In the first season under new coach Todd Dixon, Cherokee Trail managed to get into double figures in the win-loss column at 10-14, but slipped a spot to sixth in the Centennial League standings and again lost in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs. With a year of familiarity under his belt with his personnel, Dixon feels better about his second season at the helm — and the chances to improve the win total given his team suffered five losses of 7 or fewer points in 2011-12 — though he’s had to account for the loss of two starters with significant knee injuries before the season began. The Cougars might be a boost from the injured players in February, but in the meantime, must rely on a mix of a group of returning players and a significant amount of youth. Cherokee Trail does have a strong leader, however, as senior G Hannah Sparks — the team’s leading scorer for each of the past two seasons — is back in the fold. Sparks averaged 10 points per game as a sophomore and upped that to 13.0 per contest last season as she scored often in transition and got to the free throw line three times more than any of her teammates on her way to first team All-Centennial League honors. Senior P Lily Hartley, the team’s leading rebounder (5.2 rpg) and shot blocker (0.3 bpg), also returns, as does sophomore G/F Kenzie McLelland, who did a little bit of everything for the Cougars last season and has size the team lacks as a whole. Dixon expects McLelland and fellow sophomore G Anastacia Johnson to see significantly expanded role this season and help the team try to make up for its injuries by upping the tempo on the offensive and defensive ends of the floor.
Coach: Alex Moore, 2nd season
2012-13 record: 6-17 overall (missed Class 5A state playoffs)
Players to watch: Jamie Stoner, 5-foot-7, G, sr.; Qiqi Brockman, 5-9, F/C, sr.; Jazmin Classen, 5-4, G, sr.; Aubreanna Johnson, 6-3, C, soph.
2013-14 Outlook: Eaglecrest gained ground last season in the first year under new coach Alex Moore, as the Raptors won twice in Centennial League play after coming into the season on a 25-game league losing streak and also finished with twice as many wins as the previous season. Just two more wins in a number of close games could have pushed Eaglecrest into the postseason in Moore’s estimation, but the Raptors came up just short. A talented group of freshmen entered the school this season, with a total of nine spread between the varsity and junior varsity levels, so the future of the program looks bright. For this season, Moore will rely on three seniors — G Jamie Stoner, G Jazmin Classen and F/C Qiqi Brockman — for leadership and to help the younger players grow and improve. Stoner had some explosive scoring efforts last season and earned honorable mention All-Centennial League honors for her performance, with her role expected to expand even more after the graduation of all-league second-teamer Kelly Gillespie. Classen also returns in the backcourt, where she contributed in a variety of categories last season, while Brockman is a key presence on the inside, especially with standout rebounder C Michenzie Pace opting to concentrate on softball this season instead of rejoining the team. Moore is very excited about the expected impact of sophomore C Aubreanna Johnson, an athletic 6-3 player who he believes has the skills to hold her own against some of the Centennial League’s top players in the paint. Johnson’s impact won’t be felt for awhile, however, as she is expected to miss the first six weeks of the season as a broken bone in her hand heels.
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. Facebook: Aurora Prep Sentinel