1. St. Frances
Coach: Jerome Shelton
Last season: 25-5, No. 1
Postseason: IAAM A Conference champion
Outlook: The Panthers lost three starters from last year's title team, but they bring back two All-Metro players: the area's best inside player in Mia Davis, and one of the best guards in Nia Clouden. Plenty of additions — transfer combo guard Jatarrikah Settle (Riverdale Baptist); forward Kiarrah Jackson, who missed last season with an injury; and a handful of stellar freshmen, who will bolster the Panthers inside and out — make St. Frances a heavy favorite to repeat as A Conference champs.
Coach: Brad Rees
Last season: 21-6, No. 2
Postseason: IAAM A Conference finalist
Outlook: After two years as A Conference champions, the Eagles fell to St. Frances in last season's final. Although they're young, they should give the Panthers the best run for the title. All-Metro guard Taleah Dixon will play a critical leadership role as she returns from an ACL tear. The Eagles lost their top inside threat to graduation, but forward Morgan Jacobs should help fill that void after missing last season with an injury.
3. Old Mill
Coach: Rick Smith
Last season: 24-1, No. 3
Postseason: Class 4A East finalist
Outlook: The Anne Arundel County champions return a lineup of veterans and young talent that should make a strong run at the state title. With 6-1 center Rebecca Lee back after an injury late in the season and senior guard Alyashia Dailey also returning, they could make it three straight seasons without a loss in the county. They've also added point guard Hannah Franklin, a transfer from Pallotti, who is coming back from injury and will join them in January.
Coach: Tasha Townsend
Last season: 24-2, No. 4
Postseason: Class 4A state finalist
Outlook: The Doves are still stinging from last year's 71-55 loss to Walt Whitman in the state final. They rushed their offense then, but Townsend says her players learned their lesson. All but three return for the Baltimore City Division I champions, including second-team All-Metro guard Jasmen Walton. Bigger and even more athletic, they could have an even better chance at wining their first state title since 1995.
Coach: Mike Mohler
Last season: 22-3, No. 6
Postseason: Class 4A North finalist
Outlook: The Baltimore County champions return seven players from a team that fell at Western in the regional championship last season. Led by versatile All-Metro forward-guard Jasmine Dickey, the Comets have a solid inside-outside game and will play a stronger schedule to try to set up a deeper playoff run.
Coach: Scott Robinson
Last season: 22-3, No. 7
Postseason: Class 4A North Section II finalist
Outlook: The Lions return all but two players from their Howard County championship team. Led by senior guard Sam Lewis and junior forward Taylor Addison, they have the experience and height to make a run at another county title and in one of the area's toughest playoff regions, where they lost to Western last season.
7. Seton Keough
Coach: Stephanie Gilmore
Last season: 18-10, No. 5
Postseason: IAAM A Conference semifinalist
Outlook: The Gators will try to bring home one last basketball title before their school closes in June. Last season, they lost six games to conference teams ranked above them and four to teams from out of town. They return a solid core of veterans determined to make a lasting impression.
Coach: Chris Beil
Last season: 23-4, No. 8
Postseason: Class 3A state champion
Outlook: The comeback kids of the playoffs, the Gladiators return their catalyst, guard Jess Foster, and two other starters. They'll have to replace the leadership of three graduated seniors, but with the core of their lineup back and used to giving clutch performances, they should continue to contend.
9. Patterson Mill
Coach: Holly Ismail
Last season: 18-6, No. 15
Postseason: Class 1A North finalist
Outlook: The Huskies return four starters from a team that ran into eventual state champion Forestville, perhaps the best public-school team in the state last season, in the region final. Senior guards Chyna Latimer and Khayla Mitchell anchor a balanced, athletic squad likely to move to the top in Harford County.
10. Roland Park
Coach: Scott Buckley
Last season: 15-8, No. 11
Postseason: IAAM A Conference quarterfinalist
Outlook: The Reds have promise in their young talent, but with freshmen and sophomores making up six of their top eight players, it might take awhile to come together in the area's toughest league. Senior wing Jeydah Johnson and junior guard Aniyah Carpenter will lead the way.
11. Manchester Valley
Coach: Heather DeWees
Last season: 24-2, No. 12
Postseason: Class 1A West finalist
Outlook: In a rare midcycle jump, the Mavericks will be in Class 3A after the school took in many students from the now-closed North Carroll. They return the two-time Carroll County Player of the Year in junior guard Mackenzie DeWees and some new players will help offset the loss of four seniors to graduation.
12. Chesapeake-Anne Arundel
Coach: Maria Gray
Last season: 16-9, not ranked
Postseason: Class 3A East Section II finalist
Outlook: The Cougars have gone from winning one game three years ago to making the section finals last winter, their best season since 2002. Returning their starting five, led by junior guard Brooke Worrell, should have them on the rise in Anne Arundel County.
13. John Carroll
Coach: Craig Simmons
Last season: 7-15, not ranked
Postseason: IAAM A Conference quarterfinalist
Outlook: The Patriots have struggled in the A Conference recently, but with some strong returning players, four transfers and a handful of talented freshman, they're aiming to make a big move. The key will be whether all the pieces can come together.
Coach: Kendall Peace-Able
Last season: 21-6, No. 9
Postseason: Class 3A state finalist
Outlook: The Engineers lost a heartbreaker to Glenelg in the state championship that was much closer than the 48-36 score indicates. Four key players graduated and this team will be young but talented enough to contend in Baltimore City.
15. Long Reach
Coach: Kelli Cofield
Last season: 17-6, not ranked
Postseason: Class 3A East Section I finalist
Outlook: The Lightning emerged as a top-four team in Howard County last winter with wins over Glenelg and Howard. Led by junior guard Kiana Williams, the county Player of the Year, Long Reach aims to continue its rise and make a deeper playoff run.
Institute of Notre Dame (15-10, not ranked); Liberty (16-8, not ranked); Meade (17-5, not ranked); Milford Mill (14-9, not ranked); Notre Dame Prep (17-8, not ranked); New Town (21-3, No. 13); Pallotti (8-11, not ranked)