1. WOODBRIDGE (29-1, 2018-19 overall record)
The Vikings lost key members from last season’s Class 6 state champion that enters this season with a 43-game regular season district/conference winning streak.
First-team all-state guard Camryn-Platt Morris (10.7 ppg) and all-district guard Tae’lor Willard graduated and are now at Norfolk State and Grambling. State player of the year, Aaliyah Pitts (team-high 14.7 ppg), transferred to Bishop McNamara in Maryland and 6-2 junior Adaija Bender (9.3 ppg,team-high 7.7 rpg and 2.1 blocks per game) is not playing this season.
In addition, coach Tamika Dudley (131-75 record, eight seasons) left for Sidwell Friends.
So is Woodbridge expecting a down year? Not at all.
The Vikings remain formidable upfront with the return of 6-1 senior Vanessa Laumbach.
A four-year starter, Laumbach was first-team all-state last season and has signed with George Mason University. She finished as the team’s third-leading scorer (9.7) and second-leading rebounder (5.3). Expect her to be Woodbridge’s go-to player on offense.
The addition of Paul VI transfer Naja Ngongba (6-1 junior forward) will also help. She is the daughter of GMU assistant women’s basketball coach Tajama Abraham Ngongba and former George Washington men’s basketball player Patrick Ngongba.
Senior Alia Denwiddie (5-10 Grambling State signee, 8.0 ppg), 5-6 junior Desiree Cross, 5-9 sophomore Amani Melendez and 5-8 senior Rayne Turner (3.4 ppg) will share the load at guard. Williams and Denwiddie have the most experience.
Darius Wilson, a former assistant men’s basketball coach at Bowie State and at Paul VI, takes over as head coach.
2. COLGAN (17-9)
The Sharks return four starters, led by 5-11 junior forward Alyssa Andrews, the Cardinal District player of the year. Andrews, who averaged 18.5 points (tops among county girls) and 12 rebounds a game, gives opponents match-up problems.
Kennedy Fuller, a 5-6 junior guard and first-team all-district selection, is an experienced floor leader who averaged 9.6 points a game last season, Peyton Ray, a 5-8 sophomore guard, and Jennifer Roderick, a 6-foot senior forward, are also back.
Transfer Josie Rodas, a 5-6 senior guard, has been the county’s top 3-point girls shooter the last three seasons, averaging almost three trey’s a season. Rodas began last season at Hylton before finishing the season at Evangel Christian in Dale City.
Returners Jerika Tiller (5-2 junior) and 5-8 sophomore Najah Perryman are standout defenders who will contribute points
3. OSBOURN PARK (19-5)
The Yellow Jackets must replace Penn State signee and second-team all-state selection Sha’Lynn Hagans, the school’s all-time leading girls scorer.
But the defending Cedar Run District Tournament champs and regular-season co-champs have depth by bringing back a strong core of players who are all good shooters: junior Maddie Scarborough (first-team, all-district), senior Hannah Osaro (second-team, all-district) and junior Jo Raflo (second team, all-district). Sophomore Hailey Kellogg and juniors Katie Lemanski and Alex Harju also return.
The most intriguing player may be the 6-2 Osaro. The Longwood signee first started playing basketball in eighth grade. She injured her knee in July and is not expected back into mid to late December.
The Yellow Jackets will remain a tough team to beat with their man-to-man defense.
Incoming freshmen Alana Powell, Kori Cole and Trinity Epps will also push for playing time. Epps’ older sister Amber played for head coach Chrissy Kelly when Kelly was at Forest Park.
4. STONEWALL JACKSON (20-7)
The Raiders return three starters from last year’s team that tied Osbourn Park for the Cedar Run District regular-season title: 5-7 senior guard Hannah Williams (12.7 ppg, first-team all-district), 5-6 senior guard Zoe Kanti (9.5 ppg, second-team, all-district, Bridgewater College commitment) and 5-10 senior Nataezja Gaskins (second-team, all-district).
First-team all-district pick Reina Washington (9.6 ppg) transferred to John Paul the Great.
Maryan Yusef, a 5-4 junior guard, returns. She was Stonewall’s first player off the bench last season.
Venus Hill, a 5-6 senior guard, transferred from Potomac. She led the Panthers last season in scoring (10.4 ppg).
5. FOREST PARK (13-12)
With four starters back and three transfers coming in, the Bruins are in prime position to build on last year’s success in which they posted the program’s first winning record and reached regionals for the first time since 2014 under co-Cardinal District coach of the year Chris Baynham. Baynham is entering his second season as a head coach at his alma mater.
Lauren Palmateer, a 5-5 junior guard, Shania Glenn, a 5-7 junior guard, Angel Jones, a 5-5 sophomore guard and Janiah Jones, a 5-6 junior guard, are the returning starters. Palmateer led the team in scoring last season (10.0 ppg) and she and Jones were second-team, all-district picks. Palmateer is a dangerous outside shooter (2.1 3-pointers a game last season) and Jones will run the offense.
Five-eight senior guard Celebria Peacock (first-team, all-district, 11.5 ppg), transferred from Freedom, 6-foot senior forward Kayla Burton (second-team all-district, 11.0 ppg) comes over from Hylton and 6-2 sophomore center Lydia Pedersen played last season for Evangel Christian.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
For first-year head coach Ryan Dehaven, the Bobcats return three full-time starters in 5-9 senior guard Kat Jenks, 5-11 sophomore forward Reese Burch and 5-11 junior forward Anna Tekampe. Julia Mitchell, a 5-4 senior guard and Monroe Bryant, a 5-7 junior guard, were part-time starters.
A first-team, all-Cedar Run District pick last season, Jenks is the Bobcats’ go-to player. She averaged a team-high 15.8 points and has committed to the University of Rochester.
Kethia Ngeleza, a 5’10” junior forward, and Sara Smith, 5’5 junior guard, will see more playing time.