Senior leadership is an integral part of success for high school basketball teams.
Regardless of how many seniors there are, how often they play or whether or not they lead the team in any statistical category; senior leadership is integral.
The East Hall and Chestatee girls both have younger phenoms that, night-in and night-out, make their marks on the stat sheets.
For the Lady Vikings, it’s sophomores Jasmine Jenkins and Morgan Jackson and for Chestatee, it’s junior Peyton Robertson.
But I’d bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets that if you were to ask Joey Rider and Web Daniel — the coaches at East Hall and Chestatee, respectively — they’d say their seniors are the real keys.
When Lady War Eagles’ seniors Chelsea Wilson and Shelby Bright were freshmen, Chestatee was 14-12, 7-8 in region play and didn’t make it past the first round of the region tournament.
Three years later, the three have proven that, at times, losing teaches a lesson on how to win. They have the Lady War Eagles (11-3, 4-0 Region 7A-AAA) undefeated in subregion play and riding an eight-game winning streak.
Thus far, Chestatee is beating its subregion opponents by an average of 27 points, but that all could change because over the course of the next eight days, the Lady War Eagles face formidable subregion foes — and two teams biting at the Lady War Eagles talons in the standings — North Hall and Pickens.
Both North Hall and Pickens, along with Creekview, which Chestatee beat by only seven points earlier this season, have one loss in subregion play.
The East Hall girls have four seniors — Dorreka Faulkner, Jasmine Butler, Haley Chapman and Jalisa Stephens. Three of the aforementioned had a different freshman year altogether than their three counterparts leading the other side of the region: they watched as junior varsity players as East Hall won a state title with a 31-1 record.
Faulkner, Chapman and Co., however, are proving that winning breeds winning, as they have the Lady Vikings (10-4, 4-0 Region 7B-AAA) undefeated in subregion play and at the top of the standings.
They are beating subregion opponents by an average of 19 points and, sans Gainesville and Flowery Branch, probably won’t have much competition for a subregion title.
As for the boys, each subregion leader has a bevy of seniors on its roster.
North Hall, with its seven seniors, is tied atop the Region 7A-AAA standings with Pickens, a team the Trojans lost to by one point in overtime earlier this season.
The Trojans are beating subregion opponents by an average of 26 points and other-side-of-the-region opponents by an average of 12.
Do the Trojans (11-2, 3-1 Region 7A-AAA) score? Yes. They have excellent shooters, are fantastic passers, and have bought into the idea that good ball movement leads to wide-open shots or layups.
But the key with this team is the fact that its seniors — the first group to have played their entire high school careers under Benjie Wood — have taken on the indestructible and always-striving-for-perfection personality of Wood, and that’s filtered down. Wood, from Day 1, has preached the importance of team defense and the Trojans now comply.
They’ve held opponents to an average of 55 points per game, 50 in the last three subregion games, which is unheard of in boys’ basketball, and it’s because of senior leadership.
The Johnson and East Hall boys, leaders in the south part of the region with one loss each, have eight and five seniors respectively.
They won, they’ve lost, they’ve seemingly bought into a system and now, they sit atop the standings and it’s because of senior leadership.
They each have younger standouts, there’s sophomore Ty Odem for Johnson and junior Kymmon Woods for East Hall. But it’s the seniors, the ones who have been in the good and in the bad, that have Johnson and East Hall, along with the East Hall and Chestatee girls and North Hall boys battling for subregion and region supremacy.