‘The expectations are higher for us this year so we have to play harder. But I think we’re going to be pretty good.’Madison coach Willie Humes, shown celebrating a regional championship last season. (Courier file photos)
‘The expectations are higher for us this year so we have to play harder. But I think we’re going to be pretty good.’

Madison coach Willie Humes, shown celebrating a regional championship last season. (Courier file photos)
Four different teams with four different storylines will hit the floor later this week when the Indiana high school girls basketball season kicks off in the area.

Madison, Shawe, Southwestern and Switzerland County all play season openers this week. Southwestern travels to Charlestown on Thursday, Madison plays at Switzerland County on Friday, and Shawe hosts New Washington on Saturday.

Each has its own narrative to write for the 2012-13 season. Madison considers itself a legitimate state championship contender, Southwestern has a new coach that will be trying to retain the Lady Rebels' high standards, Shawe has a new coach that is trying to rebuild a broken program, and Switzerland County is embarking on the road back to the top.

All of those storylines will get their first reads when the ball is thrown up for real.

Of the four teams, Madison is arguably the most interesting to watch. The Lady Cubs went 18-8 and reached the Class 3A Final Four a year ago and despite losing their leading scorer, the feeling around Salm Gymnasium is that this could be a special season.

"We weren't sure of what to expect last year. This year I'm expecting more but teams are going to want to beat us bad this year," said Madison coach Willie Humes, who is beginning his second season at the helm. "The expectations are higher for us this year so we have to play harder. But I think we're going to be pretty good."

Kelsey Block led the area in scoring at 15.8 points per game last year and was named the Madison Courier's Player of the Year. Block is now off to college but the Cubs return three of their top six scorers and a ton of young talent.

Leading the way for Madison will be junior Whitney Wynn and sophomore Olivia Crozier. Wynn came off the bench to average nine points a game last season - second on the team - and she saved her best games for the tournament.

Humes said he plans to bring Wynn off the bench again this year but not because she isn't worthy of starting. Rather, Wynn gives Madison that hammer off the bench that few teams will be able to match.

"She's instant offense. She can drive the ball to the hole, she can shoot 15-foot jumpers, she can shoot threes and she's a good passer," Humes said. "With that combination it's hard to guard her. She's a burst of energy. She can average 12 to 15 points easily."

Crozier, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, has already verbally committed to Evansville. She averaged only 5.4 points per game as a freshman last year but Humes expects much more from her this season.

"I'm looking for high things from her this year," Humes said. "We're going to give her the ball and let her go at it."

Of course the Cubs are hardly a two-player team and that's why they are so dangerous. Senior Hannah Cain averaged 8.1 points per game last year and is a deadly outside shooter while forwards Cadie Povaleri, Macky Hecox and Ireland Falconberry give the team a strong defensive presence.

Senior Hannah Bickers and junior Alex Thurnall are both good shooters off the bench, junior point guard Delanie Jones brings a bit of swagger to the team and 6-foot-3 sophomore center Emily Holland provides additional size.

Madison also has an outstanding cadre of young players, some of which will struggle to see playing time because of the strong varsity carryovers. But the cupboard is hardly bare.

"The key for us will be to manage those expectations," Humes said. "We can be a very good team, but we need to still work hard each day."

Of the other three local teams, only Southwestern has the talent to compete with Madison this year.

The Lady Rebels went 16-8 a year ago and return all-area performer Sydnie McKinley as well as a strong senior group.

"We are expecting an exciting season for our Lady Rebels," said first-year coach Kenny Garrett, who takes over for the departed Rhonda Smith. "We will have lots of depth this season playing at least eight or nine girls, so being tired should never be an excuse for us."

McKinley averaged 12.0 points per game last season and showed explosive potential to score from anywhere on the floor. Fellow senior Morgan Mahoney only averaged 5.8 points per game last year but she is a strong rebounder, a savvy player inside and should be poised for a strong season.

"We are returning two veterans from last season in Morgan Mahoney and Sydnie McKinley who were top players in the area and conference in scoring and rebounding," Garrett said. "We do not have a lot of size but hopefully our quickness will make up for the lack of size."

Seniors Cheyenne McKinley, Savannah Hubbard and Kamille Brawner are also expected to play huge roles on the team and Garrett expects to get a lot out of juniors Cass Lawson, Austin Courtney and Sam Ison along with sophomore Debbie Hardy.

"We will try to play up-tempo but if we have to slow it down I think we have the personnel," Garrett said. "Our goals are simple: Win the ORVC and the sectional and be as competitive as possible versus non-conference opponents."

Camille Deuser graduated from Southwestern and spent the last three years as an assistant at her alma mater before taking over the reigns at county rival Shawe Memorial this season.

Deuser faces an uphill task in her first season. Chloe Storm scored 50 percent of the Hilltoppers' points last season and is the team's top returning scorer, junior Taylor Grote, averaged just under four points per game.

But Deuser is confident that she can rebuild the Shawe program. Although she only has 10 players, she likes what she has seen so far.

"Taylor Grote is our lone junior and we will be relying on her to be a leader and guide the younger players," Deuser said. "We get great leadership out of our sophomore class, especially Stephanie Snodgrass, who is being asked to learn several different positions. I am also excited about freshman Sarelia Rios-Garcia's speed and athleticism. She will be a great addition along with our entire freshmen class, who will all be valuable contributors with our other returning sophomores."

Deuser has spent much of the preseason teaching her young players the basics of the game and is not putting too much pressure on winning right away.

"The team as a whole has shown a tremendous work ethic and eagerness to learn an entirely new system," Deuser said. "In the first weeks of practice, they have improved by leaps and bounds. We know it will be hard work, but we are learning a lot of fundamentals.

"We will be relying on our defense to help us have a competitive season," Deuser added. "Our main goal is to build a foundation of basic skills that will help us in the future. The coaching staff and myself are building excitement around the girls program and we hope to build on it as the season progresses."

Ashley Chase faced a problem similar to Deuser last year at Switzerland County. The former Lady Pacer star took over for long-time coach Wayne Ellegood and was faced with an incredibly young roster after leading scorer Kelly Kincaid was hampered by a knee injury.

The Pacers got better as the season wore on and Chase hopes the experience gained during that 3-19 season a year ago pays off this season.

"The preseason has been very productive. The girls have been pushing each other and that's what we need," Chase said. "I have a team that is buying into our philosophy and that's big. Our goal this year is to make a statement and remind everyone who we are."

Sophomore Eve Galbreath ended up averaging 9.1 points per game last season and the strong forward will be counted uon to have a big season this year.

"Eve Galbreath was only a freshmen last year, but on our team will be considered a veteran and an offensive force to be reckoned with," Chase said. "Shelby O'Neal is a senior this year and will be tough around the basket both on offense and defense. (Captains) Bre Ricketts and Mercedes Parham are juniors this year and both have grown considerably since last season. They have stepped into those leadership roles nicely and really help bring the team together.