The goals and expectations at Hillsboro High School in Nashville, Tenn., were pretty big this year. After claiming Tennessee's 3A title in March, returning key players and having plenty of young talent, the Burros were gearing up for a season run against the best.
But things are a bit unsure right now, as the Burros open against a tough opponent on Tuesday night without their senior leader to take the court with them.
Lakeisha Crouch, a 6-foot forward, tore her left anterior-cruciate ligament during a play day on Halloween. She had surgery Wednesday and will be out until at least the playoffs, left to support her teammates from the bench.
"The young kids get to see how they'll do next year without Lakeisha," Hillsboro coach Katrina Carter said. "We don't know who the player's going to be to step up."
So far in practice, it has been Isabelle Harrison, a 6-3 junior forward, who has taken on some of Crouch's leadership role with her teammates. In Crouch's place, one of the Burros' five freshmen will likely join the starting lineup. But Carter still anticipates quite the season from a group that, with its senior leader on the court, was being penciled in among the top in the country.
"We're still very talented," Carter said. "I coach the belief that anyone can be beat on any given night, so we don't get wrapped up in rankings or things we can't control."
The Burros will have many opportunities to show what their young talent can do, as they have non-league games scheduled against tough in-state opponents, as well as trips to the Nike Tournament of Champions in Chandler, Ariz., and the T-Mobile Invitational in Birmingham, Ala., this year.
With the injury, the Burros have a new coach on the bench. Crouch started physical therapy the day after her surgery and plans to travel with the team to the TOC and T-Mobile Invitational. Her injury, which was a torn ACL and torn meniscus on both sides of her knee, will take some time to heal, but she said doctors told her a return in time for the playoffs isn't out of the question.
"I've just got to do the work to get my knee better," Crouch said. "I'm still part of the team no matter what. It's hard, but I can help them off the bench and make sure they don't get upset and stay focused.
"It's hard, but I know they look up to me and I'm still going to help them however I can."
The return of junior point guard Cassie Peoples wasn't enough for then-No. 7 Cy-Fair (Cypress, Texas) to beat Mansfield Summit (Mansfield, Texas), the reigning Texas 5A champions, in Saturday's Texas Invitational Championship. Peoples, who returned in time for the tournament from a broken leg she suffered in February, scored 24 points against Summit in the 63-56 loss. The Jaguars held Chiney Ogwumike to 13 points, while senior guard Taylor Hooker, a Tulsa signee, led Summit with 16.
The Place to Be
The inaugural Tennessee Turkey Jamm, brought to you by the same folks who run December's Braggin' Rights Classic, will be quite the event. Hosted by Memphis Central High School, the two-day event that kicks off Friday will close Saturday with No. 6 Potter's House Christian (Jacksonville, Fla.) taking on No. 9 Memphis Central on its own court. The hosts also play No. 19 Riverdale Baptist (Upper Marlboro, Md.) Friday, while the rest of the field includes Hillsboro, H.W. Byers (Holly Springs, Miss.) and Overton (Nashville), among others.
On the Move
No teams entered or left the HoopGurlz HS Nation Top 25 this week.
South Broward (Hollywood, Fla.) used a 21-5 second quarter to put a big cushion on then-No. 20 Dillard (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and then held on against a full-court press for a 59-46 win. Krystal Saunders, a Miami-bound guard, led all scorers with 26 points and 10 rebounds for South Broward. ... Thaddeisia Southall, a 6-foot-4 forward at Long Beach Poly (Long Beach, Calif.), will miss the first month of the season while she recovers from ACL surgery. The Jackrabbits, already heavy on guards with senior twins Brittany and Ashley Wilson as well as junior Ariya Crook-Williams, will miss Southall's size at two national tournaments in December: the Iolani Classic and Nike's Tournament of Champions. ... Chloe Wells, a Duke signee, was declared ineligible by the California Interscholastic Federation and has been told she won't play her senior year at A.B. Miller (Fontana, Calif.). Wells, a 5-foot-7 point guard, moved to Cary, N.C., for her junior year, then moved back to Fontana before her senior year. A teammate from Cary, Cassandra Mitchell, who moved to Fontana with Wells, was also declared ineligible. ... Jasmine Newsome, a 5-foot-7 point guard from Millington, Tenn., scored a career-high 42 points Saturday during Millington Central's 74-52 win against Briarcrest Christian.
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Mindi Rice is an ESPN HoopGurlz staff writer. She previously was an award-winning sportswriter at the Tacoma News Tribune and a barista at Starbucks, and grew up in Seattle, where she attended Roosevelt High School before graduating from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism. She can be reached at email@example.com.