by Region Roundball Review
September 6, 2004

What better time than the benchmark Labor Day holiday to highlight Northwest Indiana's top seniors? A new school year has officially begun and the Region is ripe with outstanding senior talent this upcoming season.  In our opinion, these seven young ladies represent the best candidates in Northwest Indiana for Indiana All-Star consideration in 2005, and we ask that you keep an eye on them throughout their final season of Hoosier high school basketball.

The RRR NWI Senior Seven photos and stats will appear on our site masthead throughout the season. We expect all of these senior players to have outstanding performances this year, and we will keep you apprised of their progress throughout. All seven will carry a great deal of their team's hopes in 2004-05, and they are definitely up to the challenge. As these players go, so will the fate of their teams.

Our 2004-05 Senior Seven, in alphabetical order:

Shanee Butler (5'5 G) Gary Roosevelt
College plans - Undecided

After carrying her team at Gary Horace Mann the past three seasons, Butler was forced to find a new basketball home after Mann closed its doors in June. She will spend her final year of Hoosier basketball as a Gary Roosevelt Panther. Last season, Butler scaled back her intimidating scoring stats in deference to becoming more of a complete player. Her job last season was to get her teammates involved in the offense. She did that, increasing her assists per game, which were nearly non-existent in the past. But that mindset did not stop her from some outstanding offensive outbursts, including a Mann school record of 48 points against her new Roosevelt team last December. Butler will provide a huge boost to a struggling Panthers program that is seeking to establish some renewed respectability. Along with returning Roosevelt sophomore Latice Jones, Panthers head coach Melonie Martin now has a solid backcourt to build on in 2004-05.

Ashley Gates (5'7 G) Gary West Side
College plans - Undecided

In the traditionally balanced West Side attack, you don't hear much about Ashley Gates. Throughout last season, her stats were not outstanding, but when it came to crunch time, the girl could always be counted on to give some of her best performances. Against previously unbeaten South Bend Washington in the Regional semi-final, Gates led her team to victory, pouring in 20 points against the Panthers and keeping pace with Xavier recruit
Jerri Taylor's 19 points. Gates, who has a solid body and is not afraid of mixing it up in the post with bigger players, will be a key to Gary West Side's bid for a trip past the Regional plateau in 2005, where they have run out of gas the past three seasons. Gates is part of a Cougars senior class that is expected to do great things. With legendary Gary basketball names such as Hamblin and Cheairs on the West Side roster, this could be the year that the Cougars finally get past the Regional hump.

Cassie Kerns (6'3 F) Valparaiso
College plans - Connecticut

The buzz on this Valpo force is at a fever pitch in the preseason with her commitment to reigning national champ Connecticut. Although her stats are not earth-shattering in Indiana terms, Kerns could have that break-out statistical season that will back up the interest she received from some of the top programs in the country this past summer. Kerns plays in the post for the Vikings, but she seems most comfortable at the wing, which is where UConn coach
Geno Auriemma has designs for her future. Kerns will have to carry the load early while she waits for a young backcourt to gain confidence in new positions at the varsity level. Frontcourt teammate Lindsey Humes (6'2 C), who is still rehabbing from consecutive ACL tears to the same knee since November, is not expected to return until several weeks into the 2004-05 season. But when she returns and the backcourt gets comfortable, Kerns could have the necessary team support to lead the Vikings all the way back to the state finals.

Jernita Moore (5'11 F) East Chicago
College plans - Undecided

East Chicago's force in the paint missed two months of competition last season with a knee injury. Her return to the hardwood in January was a welcome addition to the Cardinals roster, but she was never at 100 percent. Moore still managed to help her team to a 17-5 record as a tremendous complementary player to the junior backcourt of
Dee Dee Jernigan and Kelly Watts. A long, lanky and quick presence in the post, Moore causes fits for her opponents in the paint with her defensive wingspan and knack for coming up with the rebound in a crowd. Her offensive role should expand this season, which will bode well for the Cardinals. If EC can find their offensive rhythm and develop a strong team unity, Moore will be a big reason why they will be successful this season.

Cassie Pruzin (5'8 G) Crown Point
College plans - Undecided

Wow, can this girl play. As a junior, she carried her team throughout most of the season, putting together an impressive all-around string of stats. She took on a very strong Valparaiso team nearly single-handedly in January, scoring a career high 28 points to upset the eventual 4A Final Four team by a score of 54-49 in the regular season. In that game, 24 of her points came in the second half when she only missed one shot from the field. Cat-quick and basketball savvy, Pruzin is at her best in the vaunted Bulldog press. Averaging nearly six steals per game, much of her scoring and assists came off of the steal in the open court, humiliating and frustrating some of the Region's best ball handlers. Crown Point (14-8) was a very young team last season and should be much improved in 2004-05. Developing two 6'0+ sophomores in the post will be the key to whether CP can sustain any kind of a run in the post-season. If they go anywhere, however, it will be on the shoulders of their talented point guard.

Isabell Rhenwrick (5'6 G) Gary West Side
College plans - Undecided

Although this skilled and athletic player did not even break the starting lineup for the Cougars until mid-season, she managed to become the central offensive piece in the trademark balanced West Side attack in 2003-04.  Her performance in the January  McCutcheon Big 8 Shootout sealed her spot in the lineup when she logged 31 points in three games, including eight assists and seven steals in the championship win over Chesterton. Rhenwrick emerged as a go-to force for the remainder of the season, leading her team to a 22-3 record and a Regionals final appearance. In Sectional 1, when her team was trailing Lake Central by seven points, Rhenwrick scored nine straight and 18 total to give her team another day on the court. Rhenwrick will be one of several senior leaders for the Cougars this season. Don't expect huge season stats from Rhenwrick or any other West Side player, as coach
Rod Fisher spreads the minutes to keep his crew fresh for the dreaded swarming West Side press.

Karissa Walter (5'5 G) Boone Grove
College plans - Undecided

Making a splash on the NWI scene as a freshman point guard three years ago, this season could be the best ever for Boone Grove's competent floor general. With one of the most complete games in the Region, Walter was a force for her 17-5 Wolves in 2003-04. In the first week of competition last season, Walter came out of the gates with 74 points in three games, including a career-high 37 in a 67-64 OT win over Calumet, which was led by current Eastern Illinois freshman
Kiki Bytner. That three-game stretch also included a stat line of 19 points, nine assists, seven rebounds and five steals against Porter County Conference foe Hebron. With the loss of only one senior from last season's BG roster, Walter could carry a talented and experienced Wolves team to the 2A state championship at Conseco if the basketball gods are kind. Standing in the way of the Wolves is a talented and determined Wheeler team that got the better of the Wolves in last season's tournament play.


2004 REGION ROUNDBALL REVIEW - All rights reserved.
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