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2017-18 girls basketball poll preseason Top 15

1. St. Frances

Coach: Jerome Shelton

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Last season: 31-1, No. 1

Postseason: IAAM A Conference champion

Outlook: The Panthers ended their best season in program history last winter with a runner-up finish at the Dick's Sporting Goods High School National Tournament. Although they fell in overtime in the semifinals, that didn’t diminish a 30-0 record to that point and the 10th A Conference championship in program history. Player of the Year Mia Davis is gone and leaves big shoes to fill in the post, but 6-foot-3 All-Metro forward Angel Reese is already a force inside while All-Metro guard Nia Clouden leads a strong backcourt.

2. McDonogh

Coach: Brad Rees

Last season: 26-4, No. 2

Postseason: IAAM A Conference finalist

Outlook: The Eagles return a cast of exceptional guards from a team that lost only to St. Frances last season, including a 56-47 setback in the A Conference final. Two starters are gone, but the returning players have a lot of experience. Kayla Liles, an All-Metro pick last season, Aleah Nelson, Jessica Booth and Taleah Dixon are multitalented guards and forward AJ Davis is strong in the paint, but they will also need contributions from the bench.

3. Roland Park

Coach: Scott Buckley

Last season: 18-7, No. 4

Postseason: IAAM A Conference semifinalist

Outlook: The Reds return nine of their top 10 players, including four starters, and add a strong transfer. Another guard-oriented team with Aniyah Carpenter and Ja’Niah Henson back, the Reds also have one of the area’s top inside players in All-Metro forward Mir McLean. The Reds were young last season and a year of experience will help after finishing third to St. Frances and McDonogh, the only local teams they lost to.

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4. Howard

Coach: Scott Robinson

Last season: 22-2, No. 5

Postseason: Class 4A North region finalist

Outlook: All-Metro forward Taylor Addison is one of just two starters returning for the Lions, but the defending Howard County champions have the talent to fill the holes. In March, state champion Catonsville ended their season with a 51-46 win in the regional final. To stay on top in the county, they will have to come together by the new year. They face Long Reach, the only county team that beat them last season, just after the Christmas break.

5. Catonsville

Coach: Mike Mohler

Last season: 26-2, No. 3

Postseason: Class 4A state champion

Outlook: Coming off their first state championship, the Comets return four starters, but they have a big hole to fill in the middle with Jen Gast, 6-2, now at UMBC. Still, those four starters could lead them to another stellar season, including All-Metro forward Jasmine Dickey, who scored 30 points in the state final, and guard Jameila Barrett, who had 26 in the semifinal.

6. Western

Coach: Tasha Townsend

Last season: 18-4, No. 6

Postseason: Class 4A North section finalist

Outlook: After reaching the state final in 2016, the Doves fell to Howard in a region that also includes defending state champion Catonsville. They return four starters, including All-Metro forward-guard Jasmen Walton, and they add stellar shooting guard Makenzie Pollard, a second-team All-Metro selection last year at Milford Mill, as well as a couple of strong freshmen.

7. Old Mill

Coach: Rick Smith

Last season: 21-3, No. 10

Postseason: Class 4A East section finalist

Outlook: The Patriots lost a lot of talent to graduation, but they should rebound with the return of center Sydney Faulcon and guard Hannah Franklin, who missed the beginning of last season with an injury. With considerable turnover among players and coaches around Anne Arundel County, the Patriots could be in a tight race for the title.

8. Institute of Notre Dame

Coach: Robert DuBose

Last season: 15-6, not ranked

Postseason: IAAM B Conference semifinalists

Outlook: The Penguins bring back all but one starter from a team that went 11-1 in the conference regular season, falling only to eventual champ St. John’s before Mount de Sales knocked them out in the tournament. Adding second-team All-Metro guard Eniyah Russell, a transfer from Coppin Academy, fills a hole for a team that should give the Vikings a run for the title.

9. John Carroll

Coach: Craig Simmons

Last season: 10-12, not ranked

Postseason: IAAM A Conference quarterfinalist

Outlook: The Patriots aim to make a move in the A Conference this winter with all five starters returning. Last year, they struggled with injuries, including their top player, Kansas State-bound guard Savannah Simmons. They’re well ahead of last year’s pace with more continuity and could easily improve on last season’s record if they stay healthy.

10. Long Reach

Coach: Kelli Cofield

Last season: 19-6, not ranked

Postseason: Class 3A East region finalist

Outlook: The Lightning defeated Howard late last season and then fell to Atholton in the regional final. They return an impressive backcourt with second-team All-Metro guard Kiana Williams and the Swann twins, Lyric and Jaelyn. Although they lack height, they have cohesion with five players who’ve been together for three years.

11. Mount de Sales

Coach: Trish Armstrong

Last season: 20-6, No. 15

Postseason: IAAM B Conference finalist

Outlook: The Sailors return all five starters and most of their bench while adding strong transfers to a team that fell to St. John’s, 45-39, in the conference final. With more depth and speed, they have all the tools on offense to challenge for the title in what appears to be a strong B Conference.

12. South River

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Coach: Mike Zivic

Last season: 13-12, not ranked

Postseason: Class 4A East section semifinalist

Outlook: After a couple of down years, the Seahawks aim to get back into the Anne Arundel County race with a balance of experience and talented youngsters. They have a lot of depth in the backcourt and should have a solid inside-outside game.

13. Manchester Valley

Coach: Heather DeWees

Last season: 24-1, No. 11

Postseason: Class 3A West region finalist

Outlook: The Mavericks return just two starters, but one of them is three-time Carroll County Player of the Year Mackenzie DeWees, a second-team All-Metro guard who averaged 25.9 points. They have talented young players, but might need time to mesh.

14. New Town

Coach: Richard Hibbert

Last season: 23-5, No. 9

Postseason: Class 2A state champions

Outlook: The Titans graduated seven from last year’s team that also won the Baltimore County championship over eventual Class 4A state champion Catonsville. They’re younger now, but have a strong inside game.

15. Poly

Coach: Kendall Peace-Able

Last season: 16-8, not ranked

Postseason: Class 3A North section semifinalist

Outlook: State finalists in 2016, the Engineers showed their youth last season with six freshmen. Now, although they’re still young, they have more experience to go with their speed and depth.

Others considered: Atholton (20-6, No. 13), Chesapeake-BC (14-6), City (16-7), Coppin Academy (29-8), Mount Hebron (14-10), Pikesville (4-16).

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