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Oakland County 2015-16 preseason top 10 teams WITH PHOTO GALLERY

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The chase to Breslin begins on Monday — and at least three Oakland County teams have to be favored to be represented there in March.

Oakland County had 12 teams win district titles, four win regional crowns, and three teams make it to Michigan State’s Breslin Center for semifinals. Two of those — Birmingham Detroit Country Day and Birmingham Marian — won state titles to add to their long of crowns, but it’s pretty clear only one of them is likely to be back again this spring.

While the Yellowjackets of Country Day are still young and hungry, two-time defending Class A champion Marian lost all five starters from those two title squads — three to graduation, two to transfer — and will likely be in a rebuild mode.

The list of truly elite teams may be shorter this season, with quite a few more teams on the competitive second tier — maybe as many as 10 teams could legitimately slot in from No. 6 to No. 10 on this list — but you never know where the surprise team is going to come from on any given season.

Here’s a look at the teams expected to be the most successful throughout the 2015-16 season:

TOP TEAMS:

1. SOUTHFIELD-LATHRUP (21-2) — The Chargers might spend the whole season ranked No. 1, as they’re the odds-on favorites to win the Class A title this season.

“Pretty much, it’s the same thing as last year: Everyone wants to get to the Breslin. That’s just been the goal since preseason, and now the season’s finally started, that’s our main goal,” junior Deja Church said on the first day of practice.

Marian, the team that ousted the Chargers each of the last two seasons, is likely out of the way, but that might not have even mattered to the Chargers, who are still loaded, boasting three Division I signees — Antoinette Miller (Cincinnati) and twins Taiye and Kehinde Bello (Minnesota) — along with the next Division I star, Church.

2. BIRMINGHAM DETROIT COUNTRY DAY (22-4) — The Yellowjackets won the Class B title last season — maybe a year before everyone expected they’d challenge for one — and return essentially the same cast of players. That group’s led by juniors Destiny Pitts, Tylar Bennett and Sheldon Bochenek, along with sophomores Kaela Webb and Maxine Moore, and should only get better, as they continue to grow together.

The Yellowjackets have won 11 titles, so longtime coach Frank Orlando has some experience preparing a squad to defend a crown.

3. WATERFORD KETTERING (23-2) — Marian played 14 playoff games on its way to two straight Class A titles, and the ONLY opponent to keep it within single digits was Kettering, in last year’s quarterfinal loss (51-42). The Captains have won five straight KLAA North titles (and will be the favorite to make it a half-dozen this year), and are probably the county’s second-best bet to win a Class A title, considering what they return from last year’s quarterfinalist squad.

Senior Haley Tewes (Gannon) leads three returning starters with at least two years of starting experience, along with senior Emily Bernas and junior Lillia Schoof, who had a breakout stretch of games in the tournament run.

Another bonus: If the Captains are going to run into Lathrup in the postseason, it won’t be in regionals, as in years past, but rather not until the semifinals, at the Breslin Center.

4. FARMINGTON HILLS HARRISON (13-9) — The fact that the Hawks couldn’t defend their OAA Red title from two seasons ago was less a sign that 2013-14 was a fluke, but more testament to the vagaries of health in high school athletics. Midseason injuries to two college-bound players — Amber Stephens and Kyla Roland — all but eliminated the Hawks from a chance at a repeat, and sorely tested Harrison’s depth.

While Harrison is adjusting to a new coach in Allen Walker this season, they do have two of their Big Three back for one last go-round, pairing Stephens (Wayne State) in the backcourt with Kristen Nelson (Southern Illinois). If the Hawks get enough of a contribution from the supporting cast, those two could carry them a long way — as they have for the previous three seasons.

5. SOUTHFIELD (18-3) — The Blue Jays were the surprise team of 2015, going unbeaten in the newly-formed OAA Gold to clinch their first league title since 2000. Although they bump up a level to the OAA Blue this season, they should be uniquely qualified to handle that promotion, as the Jays return five starters — Stormeigh Mattison, Kristilynn Defoe, Bailey Hervey, Tyler Washington and D’layna Holliman — from last year, adding a couple of talented freshmen to the mix.

While the Jays are favorites (along with Birmingham Seaholm) to win the Blue title, true postseason success in the final season of the program’s singular existence — next year, it merges with Lathrup — will hinge upon whether or not the Jays can pull off one last win over their cross-town rivals in districts.

6. WATERFORD OUR LADY OF THE LAKES (12-13) — The Lakers certainly aren’t here on the strength of their regular season, when they finished fourth (4-6) in the Catholic League’s East Division, and got bounced in the first round of the league playoff bracket.

Nope, the Lakers are here for what they did after that, making an amazing run all the way to MSU’s Breslin Center, before bowing out in the semifinals.

Even better? All five starters — Alex Troy, Megan Ross, Allison Maiorana, Tiffany Senerius and Lucille Kline — return to this season’s squad, which will be boosted by the addition of sophomore transfers Maddy Oshinsky (Walled Lake Central) and Catherine Weddle (Lakeland) and freshman center Sophia Hadash.

The still-young Lakers (three seniors, one junior) will be tested by a very competitive East Division this winter, but don’t count them out from repeating last year’s postseason run, no matter what the regular-season record looks like.

7. BLOOMFIELD HILLS (12-9) — The BlackHawks finished third in the OAA White last season, but should contend for the league title this season — along with North Farmington (dropped down from Red) and Lake Orion — thanks to two key returnees, and a lot of length around them.

A third-year starter, point guard Katherine Prina holds the school’s career assists record. A lot of those went inside to Amanda Sape — who at 6-foot-3, gives the BlackHawks an advantage few teams can counter. The honorable mention all-stater already holds nearly every school record for blocks and rebounds.

If the rest of the cast can provide enough of a supplement, the BlackHawks could do more than just win the division.

8. ROCHESTER ADAMS (15-7) — The Highlanders lost four-year starters in Amber Jamison (Northwestern) and Raiven Owusu, as well as starting point guard Dazia Dinkins, but return two starters — junior guards Ryian Owusu and Maggie Rogers — to a lineup that will be filled in with seniors. The scoring of the starting five will be supplemented with bench scoring from junior Hannah Simard and Linden transfer Taylor Smith.

It’ll be an uphill climb in the OAA Red again, but this time around, the Highlanders are a little more used to the rigors of the league race.

9. HOLLY (12-10) — While the undersized Bronchos will struggle to rebound, and may be overshadowed in the Flint Metro by a Flushing team that finished last regular season 20-0, Holly still has one of the best backcourts around.

That three-guard group is led by honorable mention all-stater Kaitlyn Smith — maybe the best player nobody talks much about — Paige Reid and Jenna Pepper (who missed half of last season with injury). Pepper and Smith have been starters since their freshman season.

If a pair of sophomore forwards can give the Bronchos some much-needed muscle on the boards, they could be a force.

10. ROCHESTER HILLS LUTHERAN NORTHWEST (15-7) — The Crusaders return three senior starters from last year’s 15-win squad, and are now in their second season under coach Jimmy Mehlberg.

While the solid all-MIAC senior backcourt of Laura Hohnstadt and Abbey Meissner will be key to however the Crusaders do, almost as important will the contributions of Kaily and Molly Grulke. Sophomore Kaily Grulke has grown three inches since last season, and now — at 6-foot-2 — gives Northwest a rarity in Class D hoops, while senior Molly Grulke played just the last 10 games of last season after tearing her ACL at team camp the summer before her junior year.

If a young bench — four sophomores and a senior — can contribute, the Crusaders could find themselves at the top of the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference.

Others to keep an eye on (in alphabetical order): Berkley, Birmingham Seaholm, Clarkston, Farmington Hills Mercy, Lake Orion, Madison Heights Bishop Foley, North Farmington, Waterford Mott, Wixom St. Catherine

MORE PREVIEW STORIES

[OAA RED DIVISION PREVIEW]

[OAA WHITE DIVISION PREVIEW]

[OAA GOLD DIVISION PREVIEW]

[KLAA NORTH DIVISION PREVIEW]

[KLAA CENTRAL/WEST DIVISION PREVIEW]

[FLINT METRO LEAGUE]

[COMPOSITE DAY-BY-DAY SCHEDULE]

Last Updated: 12/12/2015 1:11:56 PM EST


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