Westerville News & Public Opinion

Girls Basketball

North faces early season challenges

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Things don't always go according to plan.

Westerville North High School girls basketball coach Jim Kloepfer knows that all too well.

The Warriors have returned six players, including three starters, from last season when they finished 22-2 overall and went 14-0 in the OCC-Cardinal Division to win their first league title since 2004-05.

However, only one of the returning starters, 5-foot-9 junior guard/forward Symone Simmons, was available for North's opener Nov. 26 against DeSales. The other two -- 5-7 senior guard Kelsey Walker (knee) and 5-9 junior forward Devin Jackson (ankle) -- are expected to be out until late December because of injuries.

"We play a rough schedule in December, so it will be tough without them," Kloepfer said. "But I like how this group of girls seems to be up for the challenge."

Last season, Simmons led the Warriors in scoring (15.5 points per game), rebounding (8.0 per game), blocks (2.0 per game) and steals (3.0 per game) and was named OCC-Cardinal Player of the Year and second-team all-district.

Jackson led North in assists (4.1 per game) and averaged 8.5 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.7 steals and Walker averaged 8.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.3 assists and was the team's top 3-point shooter, making 42 of 112 (37.5 percent).

Jackson was first-team all-league and special mention all-district and Walker was second-team all-league.

"I think we have looked very good (in practices and scrimmages) and should have a good season," Simmons said. "We have been communicating well on the court and have been playing well as a team."

Also back are 5-5 junior guard Hannah Ferguson (5.1 points, 2.2 assists, 1.5 steals), 5-6 junior guard Anna Gibbs (3.0 points, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals) and 5-7 senior forward Tierra Streater (2.5 points, 2.4 rebounds).

"We still have a lot of players back," said Kloepfer, who was named Division I district Coach of the Year last season. "Hannah Ferguson and Anna Gibbs both have improved their shooting, and we have looked good."

Also on the roster are junior Nikki Post (5-5, guard) and sophomores Megan Bellner (5-5, guard), Kristen Everhart (6-1, post player), DeeDee Post (5-7, guard), Francia Rajkoummale (5-11, forward), Ronni Royer (5-1, guard) and Caitlyn Shields (5-5, guard).

North, which was seeded sixth in the district tournament last season and lost to ninth-seeded Pickerington North 50-42 in the second round, begins OCC-Cardinal play Friday, Nov. 29, at home against Westerville South.

"I think we have a little more team speed, so we should be a little quicker than last year," Kloepfer said. "This team should be a lot of fun to coach. Hopefully, we can be peaking at the right time and do well in the tournament."

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