Central Catholic and Waite headline deep, talented Toledo City League


TCC’s Danielle Lewis
In the Toledo City League, girls’ basketball is entering a period of
Renaissance. There are probably more Division I level athletes
competing in the league than ever before. Beginning with Natasha Howard
at Waite, Patrice Lalor at Notre Dame and Sharise Calhoun at Central
Catholic the TCL is blessed with many outstanding athletes. TCC and Waite are again the heavy hitters.

In the Toledo City League, girls’ basketball is entering a period of Renaissance. There are probably more Division I level athletes competing in the league than ever before. Beginning with Natasha Howard at Waite, Patrice Lalor at Notre Dame and Sharise Calhoun at Central Catholic the TCL is blessed with many outstanding athletes.

For the past three years, the Waite Lady Indians have ruled the roost but late last season the Lady Irish found a weakness in Waite’s armor and, with all five starters from that team returning, the Irish have to be considered the favorite to end Waite’s reign.

Being at the top of the TCL is familiar territory for Central Catholic as no other team in the league has historically enjoyed the long-term success that Central has. The Lady Irish were the dominant team in the City League for many years and, even in their “down” years, were not far from the top so their ‘resurgence” is no surprise.

As earlier noted, the Lady Irish return all five starters from their district championship team of last season and, if they continue the improvement that they demonstrated down the stretch last season, they could find themselves among the state’s elite teams by season end. Quarterbacking the Irish will be senior Sharise Calhoun (5’7”, G). Calhoun’s greatest strength may be her ability to combine her quickness with an ability to still play under control. This combined talent makes her a constant threat on the court and, as she goes, so go the Lady Irish.

Inside the Irish are led by junior Brianna Jones (6’1”, C). Jones’ improvement last season allowed Central Catholic to go on its late season run in the spring of 2007. Jones’ potential was seen by everyone and as she improved the Irish became more powerful.

Jones and Calhoun are ably assisted by seniors Danielle Lewis (5’6”) and Lauren Farell (5’5”, G) in the backcourt and senior Ashley Frazier (6’2”) in the forecourt. Farrell and Frazier are good athletes whose better skills lie in other sports but they are both able basketball players and know their roles in coach Steve Pfahler’s system.

The Waite Indians have enjoyed a three year stranglehold on the City League title but Shareese Ulis is no longer on the Waite campus and replacing her talents and leadership will be impossible for coach Manny May. Talents like Ulis come along very rarely and coach May has no one on his roster ready to assume Ulis’ responsibilities.

Waite Natasha Howard (6’3”, F) is likely the Toledo area’s finest player and, by season’s end, may be among the state’s best. Howard is an outstanding post player but has the abilities to play anywhere on the court. Watching her run the floor on a fast break is a true delight and her presence alone make the Indians a good team but there are other quality athletes available to lighten the load.

Finding a floor general must be the Indians’ first priority. Senior Kenya (Ke-Ke) Marsenburg (5’7”, G) is being looked upon as Waite’s savior but an unresolved knee injury may limit Marsenburg’s effectiveness and she lacks Ulis’ overall skills.

Of the remaining players on the Waite roster, sophomore Courtney Jackson (5’7”, G) shows the most potential. Jackson was the first choice off the bench last season and did a good job in that role. More is expected of Jackson this season and how she adjusts to these expectations will determine how well the Indians do this season.

The remainder of Waite’s bench is filled with role players. Role players that must pick up their games considerably if the Indians have any hopes of repeating their success of the past three years. Waite’s schedule is brutal. Non-league games with South Euclid Regina, Columbus Africentric, Westland Galloway and Pickerington Central and Detroit Country Day dot the Indian’s schedule. Not an easy win among them.

Beyond Central Catholic and Waite, look for Start, Notre Dame and Bowsher to battle it out for the final two spots in the City League’s play-off format. All three teams feature an All-City player to build around and all three have newcomers who figure heavily in the teams’ plans.

Notre Dame coach Rhett Boyd has something special in senior guard Patrice Lalor (5’7”, G). Lalor, who has signed to play next season with the University of Dayton, has had a remarkable career with the Eagles but has seemingly not reached her full potential. She is the consummate team player and often this has limited her overall effectiveness. She has the potential to score baskets in bunches and, if she can learn to take a more selfish position, a per game scoring average nearing 20 points a game is a possibility.

Senior Mackenzie Strall (5’9”, G/F) is a talented athlete that brings a lot to the table and junior Kasey Fought (5’8”, G) is the kind of player that every team needs to be successful but the overall success of the Eagles may lie with the development of the new players. Several show promise and if they develop quickly Notre Dame will be in the mix.

At Start, second year coach Bob Brown has already learned how quickly lineups can change in the Toledo City League. Players come and go rapidly and so a good coach must be prepared to make adjustments.

Gone from Start is three year starter Ke-Ke Marsenburg who transferred to Waite. This left Brown without a floor general but the cupboard is far from bare.

Returning for the Spartans is junior Yolanda Richardson and another three year starter, T.T Arnold. Richardson is a remarkable talent. She is definitely among the best players in the league and, if the Spartans can find some outside shooting to take the pressure off of Richardson inside, Start should have a good season and find themselves fighting for a City title.

Somehow Brown was fortunate enough to benefit from the out-of-district enrollment of Maleeka Kynard from Byrnedale Junior High. Kynard is regarded by many as the area’s top freshman and should provide immediate help. Based on her summer performance, Kynard should more than offset the loss of Marsenburg.

Of the remaining City League teams only Bowsher appears to have the potential to have the necessary talent to challenge for the league’s top spot. With a new coach, Dennis Mussery, and the loss of four-year starter, Stephany Johnson, some may question how this could be the case but the Lady Rebels have a potential All-City player, Tiffani Blackman, and a strong guard in senior Tiara Roberts.

Blackman showed promise last season as a freshman but was plagued by reoccurring injuries. If Blackman can avoid injury this year and, the rest of her sophomore teammates who won a junior high title two years ago can continue to develop, the Lady Rebels will surprise many teams.

Beyond the top five teams already mentioned, the league cupboard is fairly bare. St. Ursula, under new coach Dave Rieker, has some talent but not enough of it. Clay, Scott and Whitmer are rebuilding while Rogers, Libbey and Woodward continue to struggle. None of these seven teams can be considered to be a serious threat to be among the league’s top four.

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