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Warren Central players cheer for their teammates from the sideline Feb. 18 during the Lady Dragons’ 50-40 win against host Allen County-Scottsville.

Editor’s note – This is the ninth in a 16-part series of high school basketball previews counting down to the scheduled opening night of the regular season Jan. 4.

The Warren Central girls’ basketball team already had plenty of motivation heading into Anthony Hickey’s first year as head coach.

The Lady Dragons finished strong last season, tying Warren East and South Warren in the District 14 standings. But Warren Central fell to the fourth seed after a draw to determine seeding and was upset by fifth seed Greenwood in the opening round of the district tournament.

That was enough to get Warren Central excited about this season.

Then came a preseason publication that had Warren Central ranked 10th in the region, which only added more fuel to the fire.

“With what happened to them last year, that definitely sets in their minds,” Hickey said. “I’m not one on preseason stuff, but I think it’s locker room material when they put you at 10th. They look at it like they are not the 10th team in the region. That gives them a lot of motivation and puts a chip on their shoulder.”

Warren Central will look to prove the prognostication wrong with a mix of veterans and a few new faces – as well as a key return.

The Lady Dragons return three seniors with plenty of experience in La Auhnni Lewis, Kyleigh Ray and Aliyah Whitfield. Lewis led the team in scoring, while Ray was Warren Central’s third-leading scorer last season.

Warren Central gets a boost from a familiar face in sophomore guard Saniyah Shelton, who started for the Lady Dragons as a seventh grader but spent the last two seasons at Bowling Green. Shelton led the Lady Purples in scoring last season.

“It’s like Christmas when you get a kid like Saniyah to walk through the door,” Hickey said. “I saw her when I first got here and she was pretty good as a seventh grader. Her length and just knowing how to score is big. She knows how to score and get it to the basket and she shoots it better now. That pays dividends for the rest of the kids around her.”

Shelton is one of three new faces to transfer in with junior Kaylyn Keener coming from Greenwood and sophomore guard Jordyn Downey arriving from Warren East.

Hickey said he expects big things from sophomore Kennedee Robinson, who showed flashes last season. Ariana Simmons and Janiah Wheeler both saw action last season, with freshman Aida Akhmedova impressing in preseason camp.

“She is just an exceptional kid,” Hickey said. “She is pretty sharp, very heady and can handle the ball in both hands. She’s probably one of our hardest workers in practice.”

The Lady Dragons will be tested right out of the gate, with three of their first four games against Warren East, South Warren and Bowling Green. Hickey said that schedule and the uncertainty of how many games get played with the ongoing pandemic only adds to the importance of getting off to a good start.

“We don’t know how this year is going to turn out,” Hickey said. “I emphasize that to them. Football, they got to play some games then had to stop, so we never know. We have to take every game seriously, like it is our last.”{&end}

– Follow prep sports reporter Micheal Compton on Twitter @mcompton428 or visit bgdailynews.com.

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