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2008-09 Basketball preview: Hall County teams
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Chestatee Lady War Eagles

Coach: Webster Daniel

Region: 7A-AAA

2006-07 record: 12-14, 6-4

Returning starters: C Peyton Robertson (6-2, So.; 12 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 bpg); PG Jessica Porter (5-2, Sr.; 3 apg); G Chelsea Wilson (5-10, Jr.; 6 ppg)

Key losses: G Kasey Smith (12 ppg); F Erica Lackey (6 ppg)

Key newcomers: PG Dianna Porras (5-4, So.); G Brooke Peck (5-7, So.)

Notable: With only one senior and eight sophomores on the roster, the Lady War Eagles are young, but they boast a ton of playing experience. All eight of the sophomores played as freshmen, including Robertson, who Daniel believes has more pieces around her this year to be even more productive this season. The schedule is tough with games against St. Pius X, Milton and Brookwood, but while the record may not be ideal, playing teams of that caliber will give Chestatee experience later in the season.

Key to success: According to Daniel, the Lady War Eagles grew up a lot last year and should start out this season right where they left off. The continued maturation process will ultimately determine whether or not this group can lead Chestatee to its first playoff appearance in the program’s history. This team is still young, but if it plays consistent and beats the teams that it is supposed to beat, the Lady War Eagles could be among the top four teams in Region 7-AAA.

Chestatee War Eagles

Coach: Russ Triaga

Region: 7A-AAA

2006-07 record: 22-6, 12-4; lost in first round of state tournament

Returning starters: G Brandon Smith (6-0, Sr.; 6 ppg, 5 apg); G Brandon Jovaag (6-2, Sr.; 14.7 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg); F Jackson Chandler (6-3, Jr.; 7 ppg, 7 rpg)

Key losses: G Parker Smith (32 ppg, scored 2,000 points in career)

Notable: Chestatee is testing itself this year with games against St. Pius X and Class AAAAA schools Brookwood and Milton. On top of that, the team will be competing in a Christmas tournament with three high-classification teams from Alabama. Facing competition of that level will help the team prepare for the rigors of region play.

Key to success: How the War Eagles rebound from the loss of the school’s all-time leading scorer will ultimately determine how successful this season is. Chestatee will look for Brandon Smith and Jovaag to fill the void left by Parker Smith, and with several players returning from last year’s playoff team, the War Eagles have the experience it needs to make a run at its third straight postseason appearance.

East Hall Lady Vikings

Coach: Joey Rider

Region: 7B-AAA

2007-08 record: 21-7, 9-4; Lost in the second round of the state tournament

Returning starters: PG Dorreka Faulkner (5-6 Jr.)

Key losses: C Sada Wheeler (17 ppg., 12.5 rpg); F Tierra Benton (11 rpg., 2.5 bpg.); G Jessica Blackwell (10 ppg, 5 rpg)

Key newcomers: PG Jasmine Jenkins (5-9 Fr.); G/F Morgan Jackson (5-11 Fr.)

Notable: East Hall not only lost 90 percent of its scoring to graduation, but also rebounding, steals and assists. ... Blackwell hit 50 percent from the field in 2007 and was the team’s lone outside threat. ... That isn’t the case now, as this year’s squad boasts four or more consistent shooters, according to Rider. ... With speed and quickness all over the roster, East Hall’s offensive and defensive styles will move from being solely halfcourt to a faster style of play similar to that of the boys.

Key to success: The freshman getting comfortable quickly and the ability of East Hall to play fast, yet do it without fouling and a significant amount of turnovers.

East Hall Vikings

Coach: Joe Dix

Region: 7B-AAA

2007-08 record: 24-7, 13-2; Lost in state quarterfinals

Returning starters: SG Kiante Young (6-1 Sr. 8.5 ppg, 3.5 spg)

Key losses: C Ken Wise (15 ppg, two-time all-state selection); SG Trevor Bishop (12 ppg); PG Dedric Ware (12 ppg); F Josh Chapman (8.5 ppg)

Key newcomers: C Sterling Bailey (6-5, Soph.)

Notable: East Hall plays host to Class AAAAA Milton, a team which boasts seven Division-I prospects including the son of former North Carolina and Boston Celtics’ standout Charlie Scott, in the second game of the season.

Key to success: A quick learning curve. With only one starter returning and nobody coming back that boasted team-leading stats, the ability of last year’s role players to become standouts will determine East Hall’s success in 2008.

Flowery Branch Lady Falcons

Coach: Hazel Hall

Region: 7B-AAA

2007-08 record: 10-14, 5-8

Returning starters: G Kristy Harper (5-7 Sr.); PG Kayla Smith (5-5, Sr.); F Clare Tyler (5-10 Sr.)

Key losses: F Jessica Hart, PG Molly May

Key newcomers: G Jessica Harper (5-6 Jr.); G Cash Champion (5-7 Jr.); G Tangie Moss (5-7 Sr.)

Notable: Hall is hopeful that Harper can regain her speed and power coming back from last season’s ACL injury. ... The small, yet athletic Lady Falcons should be solid defensively and will look to Jessica Harper, Champion and Moss to be key contributors offensively. ... A tough non-region schedule to start the year, beginning with Buford on Dec. 2, will help Flowery Branch in the long run.

Key to success: The Flowery Branch girls need two things to be successful during the 2008-09 season: Leadership, and a consistent double-digit scorer that can evolve into the team’s go-to player.

Flowery Branch Falcons

Coach: Duke Mullis

Region: 7B-AAA

2007-08 record: 26-4, 14-1; Lost in the state quarterfinals to Dunwoody

Returning starters: G Josh Barrett (6-2 Sr.; 15 ppg, 3.2 apg, shot 47 percent from 3-pt.); F Izaan Cross (6-4 Sr.; 10 ppg, 10 rpg); PG Rashad Tate (5-10 Sr.; 5 apg, 1.4 spg); G Brian Welchel (6-1 Sr.; 7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, shot 51 percent from the field)

Key losses: F A.C. Bailey (12 ppg, 6 rpg, 22 blocked shots)

Key newcomers: G Imani Cross (6-1, Fr.)

Notable: With the realignment of the subregions, last year’s top three Region 7-AAA teams, East Hall, Gainesville and Flowery Branch are now all in the same subregion. ... The defending Region 7-AAA champion Falcons lost only three players from last year’s team which had the best season in the program’s history. ... 6-7 center Ishmael Hollis came on strong for the Falcons in the latter half of last season and will be looked at to fill the void left by Bailey. ... Mullis, the first-year head coach of the Falcons, is coming off an 8-19 campaign coaching first-year varsity program West Forsyth. ... In Mullis’ last game as coach of the Wolverines, his team lost to Flowery Branch 76-49 in the second round of the Region 7-AAA tournament.

Key to success: Not fixing what isn’t broken. The Falcons ran their way through the region last year relying on Barrett’ sharp shooting, a bench that was 15 deep, a fastbreak offense and a run-and-jump defense. With essentially the same personnel and a successful year’s experience under its belt, Flowery Branch looks primed for a repeat.

Gainesville Lady Red Elephants

Coach: Manson Hill

Region: 7B-AAA

2006-07 record: 24-6, 13-0; Lost in second round of state tournament

Returning starters: F Jaymee Carnes (6-1, Jr.; 19 ppg, 9 rpg); F Madison Strickland (6-1, Sr.); F Hailey Solomon (6-0, Sr.)

Key losses: F Abby Musselwhite; PG Kiana Glasper (5-4, Jr.)

Key newcomers: G Alina Tremeterra; F Rebecca Webster (5-11, Fr.)

Notable: If regular-season tests are what Gainesville wants, then that’s what it’ll get, as the Lady Red Elephants have scheduled what Hill called “the hardest schedule they have ever played.” Along with the grinds of the region schedule, Gainesville will play a home-and-home with Franklin County (AAA quarterfinalist last year) and Buford, which is considered the team to beat in AA this season. Combine those games with road trips to Class AAA finalist Carrollton and three-time defending Class AA state champion Wesleyan, and Gainesville will get its chances to measure how far it will go in the state playoffs.

Key to success: How Gainesville rebounds from the loss of its floor general, Glasper, who tore her ACL in October, has yet to be determined, but according to Hill, this year’s team has the depth to overcome such a loss. That depth, combined with talent at every position, the Lady Red Elephants should have no trouble being one of the top-four teams in Region 7-AAA. They return all but two players off of last year’s team that made it to the second round, and with 2007-08 Times Player of the Year Carnes out on the floor, Gainesville is once again a favorite to win the region title. This year Carnes may see more time on the perimeter, and if she’s as successful out there as she was inside, then Gainesville could make a nice run in the Class AAA state tournament.

Gainesville Red Elephants

Coach: Todd Cottrell

Region: 7B-AAA

2006-07 record: 15-14, 9-7; Lost in first round of state tournament

Returning starters: G George Manomano (6-2, Sr.; 14 ppg); G Blake Sims (6-1, Jr.); F Nick Johnson (6-3, Sr.)

Key losses: F Allan Dockery (18 ppg); F Gerald Ford; SG Martin Estes

Notable: As Gainesville’s football team goes, so goes the early stages of the basketball season. With eight players still playing football, the Red Elephants will start the year with a multitude of young players filling those roster spots. Despite that, first-year head coach Todd Cottrell is optimistic. “Winning breeds winning,” he said. “It may hurt us at the beginning of the year, but I think it will help us in the long run.” While Gainesville may not get the bulk of its roster back until December, Cottrell knows that once he does get those players on the court, the Red Elephants should be ready to compete for a region title. After playing just a handful of games at the end of the season last year, Sims teams up with Manomano in the backcourt, giving Gainesville a dynamic scoring duo.

Key to success: A new coach means a new philosophy, and how quickly the Red Elephants adapt to Cottrell’s coaching style will be key for a successful season. The team used summer workouts to iron out some of the differences, the main one being a more up-tempo style of play on offense, and a tenacious attack on defense. Cottrell, who coached at Flowery Branch last year, knows all about how difficult this region is, and said that his team “needs to have improvement every day” in order to compete with some of the region’s elite.

Johnson Lady Knights

Coach: Ron Smith

Region: 7B-AAA

2007-08 record: 4-20

Returning starters: F Ansley Benefield (5-8, Sr.)

Key newcomers: G Carlyn Ivey (So.)

Notable: Smith is light on returning starters but still has plenty of players back with varsity experience. ... Senior guard Laura Gazaway, sophomore post Caitlin Sloan and junior guard Shelley Farley are all expected to lead a young Lady Knights team that’s looking to rebound from a disappointing 2008. ... Smith also expects Ivey, a transfer from East Hall, to be a team leader with excellent shooting and defensive skills. ... “This year’s team will play a ton of freshman and sophomores,” Smith said. “We have some good athletes who will develop into good basketball players in the near future.“ Johnson is in rebuilding mode and will have a good base of young players who will compete hard every night.”

Johnson Knights

Coach: Jeff Steele

Region: 7B-AAA

2007-08 record: 10-15

Returning starters: G Devaris Finch (5-10, Sr.; 15 ppg.); G Tre Dudley (6-1, Jr.; 10 ppg.).

Key loses: SG Brandon Sloan

Key newcomers: C Jim Orr (6-9, Sr.)

Notable: The Knights certainly have a strong nucleus back on the floor this season. ... Finch and Dudley combined for 25 points per game last season. ... Beau Robson, Mick Shannon and Chris Henry are also back in the fold to add depth to the guard rotation. ... Johnson also has size inside with 6-9 senior Jim Orr. ... “We have good team speed,” Steele said. “We should defend well with pressure style creating easy basket chances.” The Knights are looking to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

Lakeview Academy Lady Lions

Coach: Buster Brown    

Region: 8-A

2006-07 record: 7-12, 4-3; Lost in the first round of the state playoffs

Returning starters: F Louisa Jacobs (5-8, Jr.); G Brittany Moore (5-5, Sr.); G Maddie Haymore (5-6 Jr.); F Megan Rochester (5-7, Jr.)

Key losses: PG Janelle Francis (2nd team All-Region in 2007), G Brooke Windle (Honorable Mention All-Region in 2007)

Notable: Despite making it to the state playoffs for the fifth straight year, Lakeview had nobody on the team average double figures, in fact, the starters each scored between six and eight points per game. ... Haymore, who’s brother Josh is a former standout at North Hall, should step up and be the team’s consistent outside threat. ... Jacobs and Rochester are entering their third year as starters and will be looked at to carry the scoring load.

Key to success: Lakeview has a two-headed monster inside with Jacobs and Rochester, and that type of combo is hard to find. The junior forwards need to step up and be consistent double-digit scorers while staying out of foul trouble yet still be able to get offensive rebounds at the other end. Their play will go a long way in determining whether or not Lakeview makes that sixth trip to the playoffs.

Lakeview Academy Lions

Coach: Seth Vining

Region: 8-A

2006-07 record: 21-9, 8-0; Lost in the second round of the state tournament

Returning starters: PG Haughton Carswell (5.8 ppg, 4.2 apg, 2.5 spg); F Nick Saye (4.9 rpg), G Tyler Ward (10.1 ppg, 70 3-pointers made)

Key losses: G David Pruett (21.7 ppg, 2.1 spg); F Colin King (6.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg)

Notable: Lakeview is coming off a season in which it won the program’s first region title and advanced to state for the fifth year in a row.

Key to success: With the graduation of Pruett, the Lions lost their pure shooter. Lakeview has quickness and slashing abilities, but what happens when the person driving to the basket is stopped? Having a reliable short-range shooter as well as a consistent 3-point threat will go a long way towards getting the Lions back in the playoffs.

North Hall Lady Trojans

Coach: Bryan Richerson

Region: 7A-AAA

2007-08 record: 19-11

Returning starters: PG Shannon Haire (5-5, Jr.).

Key loses: PG Elizabeth Williams (11 ppg., 8 apg.); F Letiecia Davenport (20 ppg., 7 rpg.)

Key newcomers: G/F McKenna Rushton (5-8, Fr.); G Taylor Tate (5-7, Fr.); PF Mary Mancin (5-7, Sr.); G/F Shakeyla Rucker (5-11, So.)

Notable: North Hall’s first-year coach is going to be counting on a bunch of first-year players to get the job done this season. ... Rucker, Rushton, Tate and the lone returning starter Haire are going to be the main names for Lady Trojans fans to expect to carry the load this season. ... North Hall’s schedule is heavy with tournament games early in the East Jackson tournament and North Georgia Challenge Tournament, to go along with a game against Class AA state title contender Buford before region play begins on Dec. 30. “We are going to be a young team with very little varsity experience,” Richerson said. “I think we will be able to play nine or 10 players. “We are going to have to use speed, pressure defense, and be able to push the ball up the floor.”

North Hall Trojans

Coach: Benjie Wood

Region: 7A-AAA

2007-08 record: 17-8

Returning starters: None

Key loses: PG Josh Haymore; SG Drew Hill; SG Branon Nix

Key newcomers: G Kanler Coker (6-3, Fr.); G Trevor Ross (6-2, Jr.); G Lance White (5-8, Fr.).

Notable: Trojans senior point guard Ethan Satterfield will be a leader this season. ... Tyler Browning will be a presence inside for North Hall if he’s healthy after missing the past two seasons with torn anterior cruciate ligament injuries. ... Chase Syfan, a junior, will also be needed to contribute significantly at forward for a young North Hall squad. ... The Trojans have a pair of notable games that highlight the schedule early. ... North Hall faces defending Class AA state champion Wesleyan on Dec. 19 at North Georgia College & State University. ... The Trojans also face East Jackson on Dec. 23 at Philips Arena.

West Hall Lady Spartans

Coach: Lynn Jarrett

Region: 7B-AAA

2006-07 record: 12-12, 6-6

Returning starters: F Jayla Moon (5-10, Sr.; 15 ppg, 9 rpg); PG Emily Hammond (5-4, Jr.)

Key newcomers: F Bailey Soucie (5-8, Fr.); F Amber Johnson (5-9, So.); F Nicole Bresemen (5-10, Sr.)
Notable: After leading the team in scoring and rebounds last year, Moon returns to the Lady Spartans ready to help the team to its first playoff appearance since the state finals run of 1999. Moon has worked hard during the offseason to improve her game on both sides of the floor.

Key to success: Despite the return of Moon and starting point guard Hammond, the Lady Spartans lack experienced depth, which could hurt the team if one of the key players suffers an injury. With Gainesville, North Hall and East Hall all vying for a region championship, West Hall could sneak into the playoffs as the fourth seed.

West Hall Spartans

Coach: Warren Sellars

Region: 7B-AAA

2006-07 record: 13-11, 7-5

Returning starters: G Terrell Penland (6-0, Sr.; 9 ppg); G Kavon Williams (5-10, Sr.; 12 ppg); C Marquise Stephens (6-2, Sr.; 6 ppg, 5 rpg)

Key losses: F Derek Weatherly (11 ppg, 7 rpg); F Ricky Vital (12 ppg, 8 rpg); G Tray Malone (6 ppg)

Notable: With their top two rebounders lost to graduation the Spartans are hoping that forwards Shunquez Stephens and Rodney Gibson can fill those voids. Stephens, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound post player saw limited minutes last year as a freshman, but his role will be much more extensive this year for West Hall. That can be said for the remainder of the Spartans’ roster, which Sellars calls “the deepest team he’s ever had.” That depth will help with the team’s fast-paced offense and help control the tempo on the defensive end of the floor.

Key to success: According to Sellars, a successful season for the Spartans starts with defense. How well the team defends and how much they can create offense off of defense will dictate how many wins they get.

Riverside Military Eagles

Coach: Matt Bohon

Region: 8-AA

2007-08 record: 14-12

Returning starters: F Steven Frady (6-1, Sr.; 9 ppg., 2 spg); PG Richard Tribble (6-1, Jr.; 4 apg., 5 spg); G/F Dylen Setzkorn (6-5, Jr.; 6 ppg., 4 rpg.)

Key newcomers: F Brandon McKinney (6-6, Jr.); John Ogguniya (6-7, Sr.)

Notable: The Eagles return a solid nucleus of three starters that led them to the Georgia Independent Schools Association state semifinals in 2007 and 2008. ... Bohon will also be able to count on Ogguniya and McKinney to provide an inside presence this season. ... The Eagles’ coach says that the biggest challenge will be establishing adequate depth. ... Riverside also has to be prepared for the transition into the GHSA from the GISA. ... Bohon knows that the increased level of competition will be a challenge for RMA every night.

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