B’Aunce Carter, Bellleville East
An athletic 6-foot senior center/forward, Carter made a quick transition after transferring from Belleville West prior to the start of the 2017-18 season and, under the guidance of Belleville East coach Amanda Kemezys, quickly became the missing inside presence in the Lancers guard-oriented offense. Carter averaged 13.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and nearly three blocked shots per game for a Lancers team which finished 18-10 and lost to Edwardsville 41-40 in the Class 4A regional title game. This season, with senior guard Kaylah Rainey out for the year with a heart condition, even more of the scoring and leadership role will fall to Carter, who is averaging 12.5 points and six rebounds through the first two games.
Clare Breden, Jersey
Although a relative unknown talent in the Belleville area, Breden wasted little time in establishing herself as one of the premier offensive players in the Mississippi Valley and the St. Louis area a year ago. The Panthers 5-5 guard averaged 17.9 points with 68 3-point baskets as a freshman for a team which finished 21-7. A first team all-Mississippi Valley Conference and second team News-Democrat all area selection, Breden is currently averaging 24.7 points for the Panthers who placed second to Mater Dei at the Alton Tournament.
Ellie Brown, Highland
Also one of the top guards in the Mississippi Valley Conference, Brown is the most recent in a long line of a list of standout players produced by the elite Highland program. As a 5-7 point guard a year ago, Brown averaged 12.6 points, three assists and two steals for a Bulldogs team which finished 19-11 and placed second in the MVC. A second team all-area player a year ago, Brown is currently scoring 11.7 points for Highland which has won two of its first three games at the Salem Tournament.
Mya Glanton, East St. Louis
A third team News-Democrat all-area player a year ago, the 6-1 Glanton has turned herself into one of the top post players in the area and should be a key player in what could be an elite Flyers squad. A true force in the paint, Glanton should improve on last season when she averaged 12.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Glanton will combine with transfer and former Belleville West standout Chamya Darough and others to give East St. Louis a squad which could contend for the Southwestern Conference championship.
Jaylen Townsend, Edwardsville
One of many talented players in a program which has produced several all-staters over the years, the 5-9 Townsend gets her turn in the spotlight for coach Lori Blade’s perennial state title contending Tigers, who will once again be the team to beat in the Southwestern Conference. Townsend averaged 7.1 points and shot nearly 60 percent from the field while pulling down nearly four rebounds a game for the Tigers who finished 30-2 and placed fourth in the Class 4A State Tournament.
Kourtland Tyus and Anna Hall, Civic Memorial
Starters from the time they walked into the Eagles’ gym two years ago as freshmen, the 5-7 Tyus and 5-11 Hall have helped Civic Memorial win 59 of 65 games in their first two years in the program. This season, both will be key players again as the Eagles go after a third straight MVC title. “ I expect big years out of these two primarily because they have matured physically and mentally. Need to be leaders on and off the court,’’ Eagles coach Jonathan Denney said.. ”The work they’ve put in the weight room and making their overall games better is quite noticeable.’’ Hall averaged 10.6 points and six rebounds per game while Tyus scored eight points and dished out five assists per game a year ago.
Sophia Bonaldi, Columbia
A third team all-area player a year ago, the 5-9 Bonaldi is off to a good start in the opening two weeks of the season, averaging 13.3 points for the Eagles. An excellent perimeter shooter, the 5-9 Bonaldi scored nearly 15 points while pulling down 3.6 rebounds and collecting nearly three steals for the Eagles which finished 17-11. “Sophia is a dynamic scorer who can take the ball to the basket and can shoot it from behind the arc,’’ Columbia coach Scott Germain said.
Emily Reinneck, Lebanon
Emily Rennieck has combined with her twin sister Abigail to lead the way for a Greyhounds team which has split its first four games of the season. A 5-9 senior, Emily Reinneck had 68 3-point field goals and averaged 12.7 points a year ago for a Lebanon team which placed third at the Class 1A state tournament. “Emily is a fundamentally sound player who works hard on the court and in the weight room. She has a bigger role to fill this year as our most consistent offensive threat, hopefully as the year goes she will become more and more comfortable in that role,’’ Lebanon coach Chad Cruthis said. “She is a 4.0 student in the classroom and has a high basketball IQ on the court.’’
Brooklynn Smith, Carlyle
Picking up where she left off a year ago as the Indians best offensive player, Smith scored 22 points in Carlyle’s 54-31 season opening win over Nokomis on Monday. A 5-9 guard-forward Smith is a versatile player who can score both from the perimeter and inside. She led Carlyle in scoring (14.7 ppg) and rebound (6.6 ) a year ago.. Brooklynn is just a competitor and hard nosed. We will rely heavily on her as our leader and scorer in the paint, Indians coach Janelle Kuhn said. “We have been working on her free throws so when she goes to line it will be an automatic two points. I am expecting big things from Brooklynn this season.”
Anna McKee, Father McGivney
One of the top offensive freshmen in the St. Louis area a year ago when she averaged 18.4 points, McKee may not have to carry as much of the scoring load this winter for coach Jeff Oller’s team which is off to a 3-1 start. But the 5-7 McKee, (averaging 13 points) is capable of breaking out for a 30-point performance on any given night.
“Anna is a great two way player. She is a threat on offense from the 3 point line and off the dribble,’’ Oller said. “She is disruptive on defense and gets a lot of deflections and steals. She is a team first player who does what it takes to win.’’
Kierra Winkeler, Mater Dei
A 5-9 senior sharpshooter, Winkeler is averaging 19.7 points per game for a Knights team which could be among the best Class 2A teams in the state. Mater De’s leading scorer a year ago (14.5 ppg.), Winkeler helped lead the Knights to a 3-0 start at the Alton Tournament last week.
“Kierra has developed into a great perimeter player. She brings 110% to the game every night,’’ Knights coach David Kohnen said.