Baltimore Sun girls basketball preview: Storylines, players to watch and the top 15 teams heading into the 2021-22 season

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Here’s what you need to know for the 2021-22 high school girls basketball season in the Baltimore area:

Storylines to watch

Can McDonogh end St. Frances’ reign of five straight Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference titles?


The Eagles enter this season loaded with talent and eager to prove themselves worthy of their first championship since 2015. They’ve beaten the Panthers in two straight matchups after suffering 11 straight losses dating to 2016. Circle Jan. 4 and 19 on your calendars for a pair of regular-season showdowns that are sure to be epic.

Will Howard finish what it started?


The Lions made history in 2019-20, becoming only the fourth Howard County team to complete an unbeaten season. Of course, like all other teams, they never got the chance to play in the state semifinals or finals, and are still in search of their first state title since 1994. Now, four returning players hope to help Howard build on its 25-game winning streak.

Can any teams challenge powers Poly and Western in Baltimore City?

The Engineers finished the 2019-20 season ranked No. 1 and the Doves No. 4, both time and again routing city challengers. The teams have combined for 21 regional titles in the 2000s. Can up-and-coming programs like Forest Park, Coppin Academy and City College end their reign of dominance?

Which player will step up to succeed Angel Reese as All-Metro Player of the Year?

Reese, now a sophomore at Maryland, claimed the honor in both 2018-19 and 2019-20 while leading St. Frances to IAAM A Conference championships. There are several worthy contenders to pick up her mantle, including Old Mill junior Amani Watts, a first-team All-Metro pick as a freshman; McDonogh senior Nekhu Mitchell, a second-team All-Metro pick as a sophomore; and Western senior Ny’ceara Pryor, considered by some to be the best point guard in the Baltimore area.

McDonogh's Nekhu Mitchell, a second-team All-Metro pick as a sophomore, is a contender to be the top player in the IAAM A Conference this season.

Will we get a full, normal season?

In 2020, regional champions were crushed to learn that their seasons would end without the chance to play for state titles. Then, for many teams, 2020-21 was a total loss. Now, even amid the emergence of new coronavirus variants around the globe, area teams are holding out hope they’ll finally get the chance to play complete seasons for the first time in three years. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Players to watch

Da’Brya Clark, Poly, guard, junior


Clark led the Engineers in scoring (11 points per game) two seasons ago as a freshman, putting up 20 in a win over rival Western. The shooting guard also scored a game-high 15 points in a regional final win over Hereford.

Ashley Dickey, Catonsville, guard, senior

The 5-foot-9 senior is one of the top guards in the area after earning first-team All-Baltimore County honors as a sophomore. She is being recruited by eight Division I schools.

Catonsville's Ashley Dickey, right, is one of the top guards in the area after earning first-team All-Baltimore County honors as a sophomore.

Diamoni Dorsey, St. Frances, guard, senior

The 5-7 senior is likely to play a leading role this year after averaging 6.9 points per game as a sophomore and hitting a team-best 44 3-pointers, shooting 41% from beyond the arc.

Jess Littlejohn, Liberty, guard, senior


The four-year starter at point guard has exceptional court vision, leading Carroll County in assists with 6.9 per game last season. She also averaged 8.9 points per game and has committed to continuing her career at Shenandoah University.

Liberty's Jess Littlejohn is a four-year starter at point guard and led Carroll County in assists with 6.9 per game last season.

Nekhu Mitchell, McDonogh, forward, senior

The George Mason commit averaged 13.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game in last year’s shortened campaign, leading the Eagles to an 8-0 record. She also earned second-team All-Metro honors as a sophomore.

Ny’ceara Pryor, Western, guard, senior

Pryor is ranked as the fourth best senior point guard in Maryland and best in the Baltimore area, according to Prep Girls Hoops. She is committed to Sacred Heart University.

Gabby Scott, Howard, forward, senior


The 6-foot Towson commit is a standout shooter and all-around athlete. She averaged 9.6 points per game as a sophomore to help Howard to a 25-0 record.

Howard forward Gabby Scott averaged 9.6 points per game as a sophomore to help Howard to a 25-0 record.

Ah’Naiyah Tillery, Coppin Academy, guard, senior

The 5-7 combo guard was the top player for the Eagles in 2019-20 when they captured their third straight regional title. She averaged 15.5 points per game and is being recruited at the Division II level.

Talia Trotter, Marriotts Ridge, guard, senior

The transfer from Sandy Spring Friends School will be a force in Howard County. The combo guard averaged 26.9 points per game as a sophomore.

Amani Watts, Old Mill, center, junior


Known as “Baby Shaq,” the 6-foot-2 Watts earned first-team All-Metro honors as a freshman by averaging 14.3 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game. She was named Player of the Year in Anne Arundel County.

Old Mil center Amani Watts, also known as “Baby Shaq,” earned first-team All-Metro honors as a freshman by averaging 14.3 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game.

Preseason Top 15 teams

1. McDonogh

Coach: Brad Rees

2019-20 record: 19-7, ranked No. 5

Outlook: Four starters return from a team that went 8-0 in a shortened season last winter. Chief among them are senior forward Nekhu Mitchell (George Mason), who averaged 13.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, and 6-3 senior Delaney Yarborough (Stoneybrook). The Eagles, in search of their first IAAM A Conference title since 2015, will be looking to fill the shoes of point guard Jayla Oden, now playing for Illinois.

2. Poly


Coach: Kendall Peace-Able

2019-20 record: 24-1, No. 1

Outlook: Junior shooting guard Da’Brya Clark (11 points per game) leads a balanced scoring attack that also returns senior guard Kaziah Akinniyi and junior forwards Riley Holliday and Trinity Massenburg. The Engineers, who have claimed region championships eight of the past nine seasons, were on the hunt for their first Class 3A title when the playoffs were cut short in 2020, winning their games by an average of 41 points.

3. Old Mill

Coach: Henry Fuller Jr.

2019-20 record: 22-2, No. 6


Outlook: Boasting perhaps the area’s most talented junior class, the Patriots seem primed for a run at their first state title since 1993. Amani Watts, a 6-2 center who earned first-team All-Metro honors as a freshman, leads the way, along with 5-10 forward Amaya Douglas, point guard Nevaeh Brown and guard NyAsia Futrell. Paired with younger talent getting its first taste of varsity, the group should be one of the most dangerous around.

St. Frances' Daimoni Dorsey, right, is likely to play a leading role this year after averaging 6.9 points per game as a sophomore and hitting a team-best 44 3-pointers, shooting 41% from beyond the arc.

4. St. Frances

Coach: Jerome Shelton

2019-20 record: 25-3, No. 3

Outlook: Good perimeter shooting and depth in the post should go a long way for the Panthers, who have won five straight IAAM A Conference titles. A pair of senior UMES-commits, guard Ja’la Bannerman and forward Dakerian Turner, will pair with senior guard Daimoni Dorsey to give St. Frances a potent lineup, though chemistry could be an issue with only one starter returning.

5. Western


Coach: Tasha Townsend

2019-20 record: 19-4, No. 4

Outlook: After two straight trips to the Class 4A state semifinals, the Doves return a corps group that features a mix of youth, leadership and experience. Senior point guard Ny’ceara Pryor, a Sacred Heart commit, will lead the way while fourth-year senior Gabby Johnson, a combo guard headed for Morgan State, and senior small forward Kortnei McMurray also will make key contributions.

6. Howard

Coach: Scott Robinson

2019-20 record: 25-0, No. 2


Outlook: The four-time defending Howard County champions became just the fourth county team to finish undefeated in 2020. Now, the Lions return four players from that team, led by 6-foot Towson-commit Gabby Scott, who averaged 9.6 points per game as a sophomore. She’s joined in the lineup by 5-10 junior Gabby Kennerly and 5-8 junior Samiyah Nasir, a pair of athletic guards who can both dribble and shoot, as well as 6-1 versatile freshman forward Meghan Yarnevich.

River Hill girls basketball coach Teresa Waters led the Hawks to a 20-5 record in 2019-20.

7. River Hill

Coach: Teresa Waters

2019-20 record: 20-5, No. 7

Outlook: Despite graduating some major contributors, the Hawks should again be among the top teams in Howard County. Senior guards Anhyia Smith, Erin Devine and Kaitlyn Heitzmann are all in their third seasons on varsity, and senior forward Caroline Duffy, one of the nation’s top soccer goalies, is in her second. River Hill finished second in the county and advanced to the Class 3A state quarterfinals in 2020.

8. Pikesville


Coach: Michael Dukes

2019-20 record: 22-4, No. 12

Outlook: The Panthers are young but also deeper than they’ve been at any point since Dukes arrived four years ago. Senior point guard Amiya Frazier is the lone returner from Pikesville’s 2019 Class 1A state championship team, and freshman guard Amori Jarrett and 6-2 sophomore center Tykeisia Hill will be key contributors in a rotation that could go 11 deep.

9. Forest Park

Coach: Jermaine Dunn

2019-20 record: 20-3, No. 13


Outlook: A trio of talented sophomores could start for the Foresters, who advanced to the Class 2A state semifinals in 2020 before the pandemic cut the season short. Sophomores Aliyah Carroll (guard/forward), Chaniya Taylor (guard) and Amora Alston (point guard) all should play major roles alongside returning seniors Danielle Jones (forward), Destiny Holmes (guard) and Olivia McCray (forward). This team will be scrappy but might take some time to jell into a cohesive unit.

10. Roland Park

Coach: Dani Steinbach

2019-20 record: 15-11, No. 9

Outlook: Several strong upperclassmen combined with a handful of exciting newcomers will make the Reds a team to watch. Sophomore Savannah Curry, a 5-11 guard, averaged 9.8 points per game in last year’s abbreviated season, and freshman point guard Kelis Fisher has looked sharp during the preseason. Five seniors also return from a team that finished fourth in the IAAM A Conference in 2020.

11. Hereford


Coach: Dave Schreiner

2019-20 record: 17-5, not ranked

Outlook: Schreiner returns after coaching in Pennsylvania for the past 11 seasons and inherits a team that should be among the best in Baltimore County. Hereford returns senior forwards Kayla Nieberlein and Jordan Peterson, as well as junior guard Lauren Orner, from a team that advanced to the Class 3A North regional final in 2020. Sophomore guards Lauren Kraft and Gabrielle Nieberlein also should make key contributions on a squad with good team speed.

Liberty girls basketball coach Barry Green led the Lions to a 13-0 record during a shortened 2020-21 season.

12. Liberty

Coach: Barry Green

2019-20 record: 17-8, not ranked


Outlook: First-team All-Carroll County point guard Jess Littlejohn (8.9 ppg, 6.9 apg) is back to lead the Lions, who will try to build on last season’s 13-0 record and first county title since 2015. The senior will be joined by junior Jenna Liska, a physical post player, and four-year starting guard Maddi Haggerty, who excels as a shooter and defender. Senior guard Kassie O’Hern (3.2 apg) is a lockdown defender with the speed to ignite a strong transition game.

13. St. Timothy’s

Coach: Vernon Harris

2019-20 record: 14-4, not ranked

Outlook: Three starters return for a team that should challenge in the IAAM’s B1 Conference. Junior guard/forward Aryss Macktoon (12 points, 8 rebounds, 5 steals per game) is one of the conference’s top all-around players, senior Sanai James is a standout point guard who transferred from Catholic and Kira Upton is a sophomore sharpshooter. A pair of talented freshmen, guard Kyla Stack and 6-2 Moriah Hardy, could make immediate contributions.

14. Mount Carmel


Coach: Rob Long

Varsity Highlights


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2019-20 record: 14-14, not ranked

Outlook: The Cougars should be a strong contender in the IAAM’s B1 Conference after going 10-6 last season against a heavy A Conference schedule. They feature talent all over the court, including junior point guard Anylah Davis, who Long calls an “old school court general,” 6-4 junior center Hawa Doumbouya and a pair of senior scoring threats in guard Tsion Smith and guard/forward Ahmirie Hopson.

15. New Town

Coach: Steve Anderson

2019-20 record: 19-5, not ranked


Outlook: Senior point guard Jalane Campbell and senior forward Janiya Burton give the Titans a dynamic one-two with their ability to slash through defenses and nail outside shots. Newcomer Nialah Mingo, a sophomore guard/forward, also is a rising star on a team looking to make it back to the state semifinals for the third time since 2014. New Town will face a daunting schedule that includes powers such as Pikesville, Old Mill and Roland Park.

Other teams considered: Archbishop Spalding (13-13), Coppin Academy (19-4), Fallston (14-9), Meade (19-5), St. Paul’s (23-3)