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Top 10 Oakland County girls basketball teams for the 2016-17 season WITH PHOTO GALLERY

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A look at the top 10 Oakland County teams headed into the 2016-2017 girls basketball season:

1. Birmingham Detroit Country Day (24-2) — The 2016-17 season started on March 19, the day after the Yellowjackets lost their bid to repeat as Class B champions. A day earlier, star Destiny Pitts had walked into the postgame press conference, telling her coach, Frank Orlando, that he’d better be planning on walking toward another kind of postgame podium in a year’s time.

“Like I told coach O, when we lost freshman year in quarterfinals, I told him just before we came in here that we were going to be back here next year,” Pitts said that day. “That’s how I personally feel. I told coach O that, and I’m going to promise that, too.”

Considering who the Yellowjackets have on the squad, that’s hardly an idle boast.

After Pitts (18 points, six rebounds), who signed with Minnesota, the Country Day roster is (as it often is) littered with Division I talent. There’s senior center Tylar Bennett (10 points, eight rebounds, four blocks), who’s signed with Clemson, as well as Kaela Webb (12 points, four assists, three steals), who’s committed to Marquette. Maxine Moore is another highly-recruited player, while Jasmine Powell will soon be.

[CLICK HERE FOR OAKLAND COUNTY'S TOP PLAYERS]

2. Birmingham Marian (17-8) — If you missed the fact that the two-time defending champion Mustangs lost eight times last season, well your loss — that was probably your one chance to get them. And it certainly wasn’t much of an opening. In what was a ‘reloading’ year, after losing all five starters to college scholarships or transfer, all the young Mustangs did was go to the regional finals, and lose by a mere 10 to the eventual Class A champion, the closest game Warren Cousino would have until the title contest. (The Mustangs made up for that with a 14-point win over Cousino at the Calihan Challenge.)

Marian returns four of five starters from last year’s team, including sophomore guard Olivia Moore, who stood out as a freshman. Seniors Madeline Laurencelle and Isabel Hayes were both on championship teams, while seniors Maria Kaschalk and Hannah Redoute, and juniors Uche Ike and Lauren Montalbano all got thrown into the fire on varsity last season.

3. Southfield A&T — You never know what’s going to happen when you just toss rivals in together, and expect them to act like teammates, so merged teams are always a tricky proposition. But the Warriors undoubtedly have talent, which is one of the great equalizers. Deja Church, last year’s Michigan co-Player of the Year in Class A, and the county’s Player of the Year, as well, is a University of Michigan signee, while there are at least two other Division I-caliber players down the road, in Alexis Johnson and Cheyenne McEvans.

“The team is adjusting well to the merger and playing well together,” coach Michele Marshall said. “They are a confident group who plays hard on both ends of the floor. This team will be a pleasant surprise in the county, combining two solid teams from last year.”

Johnson, D’Layna Holliman and Tyler Washington all started for the 20-2 Southfield Bluejays last year, while Church was the star of a stacked, 21-5 Southfield-Lathrup squad.

4. Clarkston (15-6) — Very few teams can match up with the size that the Wolves can put on the floor, with honorable mention all-stater Kayla Luchenbach in the middle at 6-foot-2, surrounded by 6-2 Molly Nicholson and 6-0 Maddie Beck. When teams look to lock down Luchenbach, the other two will be hard to stop.

“Teams will find it hard to match up with our height and power inside while coping with the improved shooting from the outside,” Christine Rogers said.

The keys for Clarkston will be keeping opposing defenses from packing it in low with that shooting, as well as the Wolves making sure they can get the ball down low to those three.

Senior Kristen Page, junior Kiana Ayotte and freshman Taylor Heaton will be the ones charged with doing those two things.

5. North Farmington (15-7, 8-2 OAA White) — The Raiders won the OAA White last season, earning the ‘bonus’ of a jump back up to the Red, where they’ll have to contend with the likes of Southfield A&T, Clarkston, Stoney Creek and Rochester Adams. The good news for the Raiders is that — even without the graduated threesome of Alexa Cherney, Alexis Stephens and Karlie Cummins — they still have the talent to make noise in their new division. At 5-foot-11, Kierra Crockett is as athletic as anyone in the area, and led North Farmington in scoring last year (13.7). Kelly Lusk, the primary ballhandler, is the team’s other captain, while seniors Sophie Muller and Sam Randel, and junior Sam Cherney are all in their third varsity seasons. Five more juniors — Madisyn Hoke, Patil Tcholakian, Shannon Newton, Lynn Lerner and Natalie George — all bump up from junior varsity, while Kayla Lawrence, a junior transfer from Farmington Hills Harrison, will be eligible around Martin Luther King Day.

6. Bloomfield Hills (14-7, 7-3 OAA White) — The Black Hawks return all five starters from last year’s squad, which finished second in the OAA White, and allowed just 36 points per game. And that was even with having to play without all-state honorable mention center Amanda Sape for six games, because of a concussion. With North Farmington bumping up to the Red, and the Black Hawks healthy, they should be the favorites to battle for the White title, along with Lake Orion. Sape’s surrounded by plenty of help — the Black Hawks go 10 deep — including all-state honorable mention point guard Katherine Prina, and senior wing Victorie Franklin, along with juniors Sam Patterson and Becca Hancock.

7. Lake Orion (12-9, 6-4 OAA White) — When you start three players as freshmen, as the Lake Orion Dragons did last year, part of the idea is to have them be the long-term building blocks of your program. New coach Kevin Kopec is the beneficiary of the plan that saw Maddie Novak, Tessa Nuss and Sophie Wyborski all start at least some of last season. Novak was an honorable mention all-stater as a freshman, and was the second-leading scorer in Oakland County. Nuss is a defensive stopper, while Wyborski is an inside presence. It’s a young roster, overall, with six sophomores and five juniors — including the other two starters, Cameron Colton and Sydney Strenger — and just one senior, Delaney Bryce.

Last year’s Lake Orion team finished third in the OAA White last year, but should be right on the heels of Bloomfield Hills again this season.

8. Waterford Kettering (17-7, 8-1 KLAA North) — The Captains put their six-year streak of KLAA North titles on the line in the last season of the conference’s existence, and should be favored to win it one last time. A loss to cross-town rival Waterford Mott at the end of the league regular season last year snapped Kettering’s 37-game win streak in KLAA North games (dating back to Jan. 8, 2013), and was just the second divisional loss since the start of the 2010-11 season. While the Captains do have to replace the scoring lost with graduation (Haley Tewes, Emily Bernas) and transfer (Marnae Holland), they do still have a talented core.

Signed with Division II Saginaw Valley, athletic 6-footer Lillia Schoof averaged a near double-double last year (nine points, eight rebounds), while Maddy Kase can clamp down on defense. Senior Alyssa Watts, junior Jayla Williams and sophomore Ashley Watson round out the starting five, while Claire Barghan (6-1) and Marissa Brady (6-2) give the Captains uncommon size off the bench.

9. Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes (20-5, 9-1 CHSL East) — Last year’s Lakes team spent all season trying to prove that their improbable run to Breslin Center in 2014-15 was no fluke. So when they made it to the semifinals for the sixth time in seven years, it really wasn’t that shocking. Nor would it be shocking if the Lakers wind up back at Breslin yet again this year.

The Lakers do lose all-stater Alex Troy, along with Megan Ross and Allison Maiorana — three players who accounted for more than 50 percent of Lakes’ offense — to graduation, but those players are also some of the ones that have helped build Lakes into a small-school basketball powerhouse over the last decade, one that merely regenerates its roster year after year.

Lakes returns its leading scorer, junior Tiffany Senerius, an all-state honorable mention, along with fellow experienced juniors in Kayla Sanders — on the verge of a breakout season, according to coach Steve Robak — and Catherine Weddle, and senior Nicole Willy. Freshman Isabelle Kline will start, while Senerius’ younger sister, Macy, will come off the bench to play at the point.

10. Stoney Creek (16-7, 5-5 OAA Red) — If there’s a team that’s more unerringly consistent, come postseason time, than the Cougars, it’s rare. Stoney Creek has won three straight district titles, and four in five years, making it at least as far as the district finals in seven straight seasons.

Last year’s run ended in the regional semifinals, when they couldn’t handle the size of Fenton inside, and that will be a problem again this season.

For the Cougars, who return nine from last year, it’s Year 2 in coach Kellen James’ pressure defensive system — adopted from his coaching days in the North Farmington programs — which should allow them to offset that lack of size with some quickness.

Senior Morgan Porter returns to run the point, after missing all of last season with an ACL, allowing fellow senior Emily Solek to move off the ball, and concentrate more on scoring. Six-footer Ally Voss is one of the best outside shooters in the area, while Emily Eckhout — who spent her freshman year as the first player off the bench — moves into the starting lineup, along with senior Melissa Ruprich.

OTHER TEAMS TO WATCH:

Walled Lake Western, Novi, Waterford Mott, Hartland, Northville, Royal Oak, Birmingham Groves, Farmington Hills Mercy, Wixom St. Catherine.

Last Updated: 12/8/2016 1:36:09 PM EST


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