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Top Teams: Bearcats, Beavers are No. 1 in E-10

12:00 AM, Dec. 06, 2012 EST

Battle Creek Central head coach Greg Williams and his Bearcats are the Enquirer's pick to be No. 1 in the first E-10 poll of the season. / Nick Garrison/For the Enquirer

Sometimes, it takes a lot of patience to reach the top.

Battle Creek Central's boys' basketball head coach Greg Williams has shown a lot of patience as many of the players on his current team were brought up as freshmen and sophomores, taking their lumps early in hopes that they will be better in the future.

Well, the future might be now as a BCC team loaded with returning players with varsity experience has reached the top of our first E-10 poll for this season.

We rank the Bearcats as No. 1 in our first E-10 poll because we think they are ready to take another step up after a more-than-solid season a year ago at 12-9 with eight returning players on the varsity, including six who have started games at one point in their career.

BCC features a junior point guard in Joe Bowser, who has already been asked to lead the team for much of the last three years and a big man with a soft touch in Trevin Alexander, a senior who will pick up the load in the scoring department.

The Bearcats showed their potential in the summer, winning the traveling trophy at the Grand Valley State University Team Camp, and could be ready for a big 2012-13 season.

We go from a team on the rise on the boys' side to a team on the girls' side that's already been there and done that when it comes to being No. 1 in our basketball E-10 poll.

The Harper Creek girls are coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons and a league title. With three All-City players returning to that team, there shouldn't be any drop off which is why we have the Beavers at No. 1 in our girls' E-10 poll.

Harper Creek is led by four-year varsity starter Brianne Burritt as well as four-year varsity player Sarah Ressler and three-year varsity player Jozlin Johnson.

Those are top teams in each of the boys' and girls' E-10 poll - let's break down the rest of the top 10.

First the boys.

Climax-Scotts went all the way to the state finals in Class D last season, so nobody should have much of a problem with us putting them all the way up to No. 2 in our poll. Unless, of course, that's not high enough. The Panthers were a real threat to be the No. 1 team to start the season for us with two 6-foot-7 frontcourt players in Malachi Satterlee and Aaron Cook and if BCC were to slip up, we think the Panthers might be ready to pounce on the No. 1 spot.

Another team that made a nice tourney run last season was Marshall, which fits in at No. 3 in our early poll. Marshall won a district last year and went 14-11 and returns several key players from that run. The Redhawks will have to get it done this year under first-year coach Nick Dent .

No first-year coach at Olivet as Brian Dartt is in his 19th season with the Eagles as he has another strong team that we see at the No. 4 spot in our E-10 poll. Olivet features 6-foot-8 Quintan Harris and should be a player in the Kalamazoo Valley Association race.

Gull Lake jumped into the competitive Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference last season and held its own going 17-5 on the year and with a good core group of returners from that team, we think the Blue Devils will continue that success as we have them at No. 5 in the poll.

A young Lakeview team will be looking to improve much of the season and with that growth, could climb this poll as the games go by, but the Spartans will start at No. 6 in the rankings. Lakeview slipped to 7-14 last year, but has a senior at point guard in Brennan Kerr, which is always a key to success, and a bruising big man in junior Donnie Ernsberger.

The biggest big man in the area is on our No. 7 team with Harper Creek's Josh Bass, at 6-foot-5 and 280 pounds. We think Harper Creek can show improvement over its 5-16 record from a year ago as Bass plays his senior season before heading off to play football at Eastern Michigan University.

It could be the year of the big man in the city, as a third team in Battle Creek will depend a lot on the man in the middle as Pennfield comes in at No. 8 in our poll. The Panthers don't have a lot of returning depth from a 10-11 season from a year ago, but see a lot of potential in 6-foot-8 sophomore Ryan Lowe.

Another small school makes an appearance in our E-10 poll as Homer hopes to make some noise during the year and starts the season ranked No. 9 by us. The Vikings are one of the early favorites in the Big Eight this season .

Rounding out the top 10 for the boys is a team that has high expectations, but has to show it on the court after heavy graduation losses. St. Philip, with a strong 15-7 season under then first-year coach Dino English last year, return just three seniors.

The girls are already in to their second week of the season, but this is the first E-10 poll.

With Harper Creek in the top spot, there are several quality girls' programs looking to knock them off.

And one is right in their division.

Marshall starts the season at No. 2 in our E-10 poll as the Redhawks look to build off a strong finish to last year and could push Harper Creek at the top of the SMAC East Division. Marshall went 19-7 last year and advanced to the Class B state quarterfinals, but the Redhawks will have to do it by filling in some key spots lost to graduation.

Another team that made the deepest of tournament runs fits right in among the top teams in the area as Athens comes in at No. 3 in the E-10. Athens finished as runner-up in the state in Class D last season, losing in the state finals. The Indians have a lot coming back from that team and could very well be back at Breslin Center again .

The area is full of teams that are coming off nice postseasons last year as Gull Lake advanced to the regionals and went 19-5 last season. The Blue Devils do have some losses due to graduation, but we think the program is strong enough to put them at No. 4 .

Another strong program looking to get back to its winning ways is Lakeview, which has a young team, but slips in at No. 5 in our first poll. The Spartans have a young backcourt, but have potential there and have strength in the frontcourt that could allow them to have a strong year.

Potential is a big word for our next team as Climax-Scotts comes in at No. 6. The Panthers, after going 20-4 last season, could be higher in this poll, or even lower. We aren't sure what the potential of this team is as it has to start the season without one of the top players in the area in Janae Langs, who is currently out with a knee injury.

Pennfield took a step back last year, but we think it was only a blip on the screen as the Panthers should rebound as they fit in nicely for us at No. 7 in the E-10.

After winning the first district title in school history and coming off a 19-4 season, Delton Kellogg was hit with graduation losses, but we think the Panthers still have enough to be worthy of the No. 8 spot in the E-10.

With one of the top centers in the area in 6-foot-1 senior Stephanie Osborn, Homer looks as if it could build on last year's 13-9 mark and put together a season that fits the profile of a No. 9 team in our poll.

Rounding out the top 10 is a St. Philip team that has a historically strong program, but if facing a lot of question marks. The Tigers have a new coach in Dic Doumanian and some new faces on the floor.



Battle Creek

Boys Basketball

No ranking data available for that gender / sport.




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