The 2012-13 girls basketball season is under way and league play in the Portage Trail Conference is set to kick off tonight with a full slate of Metro and County Division contests.
For the initial PTC Girls Basketball Report of the season, I have listed a series of predictions for how the year may unfold.
METRO DIVISION RACE
The Norton Panthers have consistently found themselves at the top of the Metro Division in recent history, serving as title contenders alongside Ravenna, Kent Roosevelt and Field.
In the 2012-13 season, however, the league title might just find a home in Summit County.
With experienced players in guards Cara Cook, Jaclyn Fortner and Brooke Robinson, the Panthers have a trio of players that they trust can lead them to the crown.
Cook, a 5-foot-9 guard, does it all. She can shoot, pass and rebound, while Fortner is a hot shooter from the outside and has already knocked down four 3-pointers in a game this season.
Robinson is returning from a season-ending injury in 2011-12 and has quickly shown she is healthy with 11 points and nine steals during a victory over Barberton.
The Panthers have always been the team that the league's eventual champion had to slug it out with en route to a title. This time around, the rest of the league may fill that role as questions are at the forefront for nearly every other school.
Ravenna must deal with the loss of Player of the Year DiAndra Gibson and high-scoring teammate Malorie Gibson.
The graduation of Daniella Rice, Abby Wemhoff and Christine Keener pulled Kent Roosevelt's core away, while Field's underclassmen are unproven at this juncture of the young season.
COUNTY DIVISION RACE
The Woodridge Bulldogs broke through last season with a division championship and undefeated regular season.
Returning talented players like senior forward Lizzie Wilkinson, along with Morgan Thompson, Kara kelleher and Kapri Watson, the Bulldogs must be considered the favorites to repeat, despite losing 2011-12 Player of the Year She'Keira Brooks to graduation.
Southeast finished second to the Bulldogs in the County Division last season and enter 2012-13 with nine returning letterwinners, including 5-foot-10 Shayna White, who emerged as one of the PTC's best post players last season.
Meanwhile, teams like Windham, Waterloo and Rootstown have enough firepower to overtake the division.
METRO DIVISION PLAYER OF THE YEAR
While Norton likely could close the season with the team hardware, their best player, Cook, is my pick to take home the top individual honor.
Last season's numbers are impressing: 16 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game. Defensively, she is equally strong, averaging 2.2 and 1.0 blocks per game.
Ravenna's Moniqua "Moe Moe" Smith plays with relentless energy and brings a level of excitement to a game that no one can match. Her quickness and aggressive defense make her a candidate for top honors as well.
Kent Roosevelt senior forward Courtney Olesh has the size (6-foot) to be a dominant player and enters the season after averaging 10-plus points per game in 2011-12.
COUNTY DIVISION PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Similar to the Metro Division with the Panthers and Cook, my lock here follows the team title through Woodridge with standout Lizzie Wilkinson.
Wilkinson posted a double-double average last season at 16 points and 12.7 rebounds per game. She also added 3.7 blocks per game.
By season's end, expect the three-year captain Wilkinson to pass the 1,000-point mark for her career and is also likely to become the Bulldogs' all-time leader in rebounds.
Threats to steal the hardware away from Wilkinson are Southeast senior Shayna White (17.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per game), along with Waterloo's Jamie Willis, and Windham's Jessica Isler and Dari Heller.