The Hartley High School girls basketball team is taking a simple approach offensively this season, particularly in the early going.
The Hawks' offense will center around their most experienced player in Marissa Brown, a 6-foot-2 senior post player who has committed to Youngstown State University.
Hartley returns only two other players who were regulars last season in senior guard Alexis Britford and junior guard Sydney Williams, and Britford is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks with an injury.
Last season, the Hawks finished 21-5 overall, went 6-2 in the CCL to share the league title with DeSales and Watterson and won a Division II district championship before losing to Millersburg West Holmes 59-49 in a regional semifinal.
The district title was Hartley's first since 2001.
"We obviously want to try to use Marissa's skill set, so we want to run a little but not so much that we have to do mass subbing," said coach Mike Lanza, whose team opened Nov. 23 against Chillicothe Unioto. "We'll have a transition offense but we're picking and choosing when to do that. Last year we just ran and ran and just subbed whenever we wanted."
Last season, Brown averaged 9.3 points and was named honorable mention all-district. Britford, who is expected to see extensive action running the offense when she returns, averaged 4.4 points a year ago and Williams averaged 1.7 points in a backup role but should be a key ball-handler this season.
Junior Kylie Casimir and sophomore Jayla Fields are in the guard rotation after spending most of last season on junior varsity. Kailey Beard, a junior guard who practiced with the team last season but wasn't eligible to play after transferring from a charter school, also is expected to be a key contributor in the backcourt.
Others looking to contribute include junior post player Miranda Golden, sophomore post players Haley Johnson and Hannah Kelly and freshman guard Faith Saxton.
Hartley lost forward Jaana Motton, who averaged 10 points last season and made first-team all-district, to graduation. It also lost guard/forward Taylor Kilgore-Barr, who transferred to Walnut Ridge for her senior year after averaging 5.6 points last season, and guard Ariel Packer, who averaged 4.7 points a year ago but transferred to Mifflin for her junior year.
According to Lanza, Brown has a chance to shine this season. She scored 13 points in a 53-44 win over DeSales in a district final last year. The Hawks had lost both regular-season meetings with DeSales.
"(Brown has) always been a good rebounder, a good shot-blocker and a good scorer, but she's a very good jump-shooter as well," Lanza said. "She can hit those elbow jump shots consistently."
Football team played for regional title
The football team played Wheelersburg in the Division V, Region 17 final Nov. 23 at Nelsonville-York.
The winner will play Akron Manchester or Columbiana Crestview in a state semifinal Saturday, Nov. 30, at a site to be announced. The other semifinal will pit Coldwater or Huron from Region 16 against West Jefferson or Hamilton Badin from Region 18.
The state final is Dec. 7 at Fawcett Stadium in Canton or Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon.
In the final state poll, Hartley was ranked fourth, Wheelersburg was fifth, Coldwater was sixth and West Jefferson and Crestview were among those receiving votes. Coldwater won its third state championship last season and was state runner-up in three consecutive seasons from 2009-11.
The top seed in Region 17, Hartley was 11-1 before playing third-seeded Wheelersburg, with its only loss coming against Coldwater, 41-16 on Sept. 6.
The Hawks, who won the Division IV state title in 2010, advanced to the regional final with a 14-7 win over fifth-seeded Liberty Union in a second-round game Nov. 16 at Bloom-Carroll. They entered the game against Wheelersburg looking to advance to a state semifinal for the third time in four seasons.
Running back Sam Mackowiak led the way against Liberty Union, rushing for 121 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown in the third quarter that gave Hartley a 14-0 lead, on 30 carries. The Hawks' first touchdown came on a 9-yard pass from quarterback Jared Brandewie to wide receiver Alonzo Saxton in the second quarter.
Manchester was 10-2 and Crestview was 11-1 heading into their regional final.
Manchester made it to the playoffs for the 21st time this fall, although its only state appearance came in 1997 when it lost in the Division IV state final.
Among the key players for the Panthers are seniors Bobby Bowen (WR/DB) and Austin Klein (RB) and juniors Pavin Parks (QB) and Mason Hayes (RB/LB).
Through 12 games, Parks had thrown for 1,486 yards and 10 touchdowns, Klein had rushed for 883 yards and nine touchdowns and Hayes had rushed for 659 yards and 20 touchdowns. Bowen was the leading receiver with 42 catches.
Crestview features multi-faceted senior quarterback Collin Gilbert, who had thrown for 1,466 yards and 22 touchdowns and had rushed for 1,753 yards and 20 scores through 12 games.
Seniors Trevor Cope (RB/DB), John Davis (OL/DL) and Josh McDade (TE/DL/P) and junior Cody Mackall (RB/LB) are other key players for the Rebels.