For the last three years, the question in 5A girls basketball is whether or not any team could compete with Syracuse High.
With the graduation of two-time Ms. Basketball Brittney Martin, and 5A Defensive MVP Makenlee Williams, the question becomes which teams will compete for that 5A championship this season.
"It should be a fun year," said fifth-ranked Layton High head coach Van Price. "There should be more parity this year than last. I still think that there are a few teams that stand out above all the rest."
Those teams are the usual powerhouses with a few newcomers joining the battle.
Last year's runner-up in the 5A state title was Weber. The Warriors made their title run after finishing third in region play, proving that anything can happen in the postseason.
The Warriors started the season ranked but suffered some losses to top 4A teams (Bonneville, Bountiful and Sky View) to drop out of the top five, although they remain in the top 20.
"We have a different team this year," said Weber head coach Rick Stoeckl. "We have six seniors with only one with varsity experience, but they are seniors and they know what we do and work really hard. We have a great group of sophomores that if they come along should really help us. Our goal right now is to make it to the state tournament."
Erin Reichle is one of the state's top scorers in any classification with an average of 21.45 points per game. She also averages nearly three assists and three steals per game.
The state's top-ranked team after the preseason is Bingham. The Miners return all of last year's team but point guard Summer Yack, who moved on to Salt Lake Community College.
The team is led by its four seniors, Ashton Henderson, Jillian Powell, Mackenzie Bruggeman and Madison Aulai-Roe. Powell leads the team in scoring with an average 11.4 points per game.
The Region 4 battle could be the most intriguing and may have the most impact on the tournament as three of the state's top teams are in Region 4 — Bingham, Riverton and American Fork.
The Silverwolves are currently ranked No. 2 in 5A, and like their rivals the Miners, the Silverwolves navigated the preseason without a loss. Their closest contest was an overtime win against fourth-ranked Viewmont.
Riverton is led by Whitney Saunders, who averages 11 points per game, Mallory Bostic, who averages 8.9 points per game, and Shelby Richards, who averages 8.4 points per game.
Riverton coach Ron Ence said the team's record is reason to hope but nothing to celebrate quite yet.
"I feel like I have a good team, and I think we can compete," said Ence, who retired last year and then decided to return to coaching this season. "There is no Godzilla out there, so a lot of teams could compete. If somebody gets hot at the right time, they could make a run. Hopefully we'll be in the mix."
American Fork is currently ranked No. 3 and has just two losses in the preseason — one to 4A's top-ranked Springville and another to an Arizona team in the Nike Tournament of Champions. The Cavemen are led by Cassidy Fraughton, who averages 10.2 points per game, with Ashley Baugh and Amy Bergeson adding seven and eight points per game, respectively.
The Vikings' two losses are to Riverton and Brighton, but they are a heavy favorite to win the Region 2 title. Viewmont is led by Caitlyn Larsen, who averages 18.6 points per game, and Katie Toole, who averages 13.9 points per game.
Brighton has some good wins, and the Bengals have been in and out of the rankings in the early part of the season. Copper Hills, Cottonwood and West could all surprise opponents. Alta is struggling to compete without Makenzie Morrison, who is now playing for BYU, but it could be a factor as well.
Syracuse wasn't even picked to win Region 1, but the Titans remain a solid team despite losing two of the state's best players last year.
"We are very excited to start a new season," said Syracuse head coach Rob Reisbeck. "We have lost some great players, but we are excited to see what the new kids can do."
Several move-ins gave their respective teams added depth. Shelby Richards moved from Bingham to Riverton and is the team's third leading scorer with 8.4 points per game. Natalie Mecham moved to Davis from Mesa, Ariz., and she's the team's second leading scorer, averaging 12.7 points per game. Maile Richardson moved from Layton to American Fork, and the sophomore is the fourth leading scorer, averaging just over six points per game.
"All teams seem to have improved," said Price. "It should be very interesting and competitive."
3. American Fork
2. Copper Hills
3. West Jordan
3. American Fork
4. Pleasant Grove
5. Lone Peak
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