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Girls Basketball Previews
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Boys Basketball Previews

Basketball Preview: Buford girls looking to repeat

Banks County Lady Leopards
Coach: Jerry King
Last year’s record: 11-15
Key players: SG Madison Franklin, So.; SG Deasha Beasley, 5-6 So.; PG Ashley Morris, 5-6 So.; C Katlyn Parks, 5-7 So.
Coach says: “We are a young team with no seniors,” King said. “However, this group really enjoys working together. The junior class has stepped up to provide leadership. We believe we will be in the mix this year. The biggest challenge will be consistency that can sometimes be a problem for a young team.”

Buford Lady Wolves
Coach: Gene Durden
Last year’s record: 32-1, Class AA state champions
Key players: PG Andraya Carter, 5-8 So. (10 ppg, 7 apg); F Alysha Rudnik, 5-9 Sr.
Coach says: Durden says a tough schedule with games against Gainesville, Wesleyan, GAC and East Hall will prepare a younger group for a postseason run. “We are a defensive, full-court team which presses and applies pressure defense from baseline to baseline,” Durden said. “Offensively, we look to score off of transition baskets or execute in the half court when we have to. We play hard and are fundamentally sound with our game.”

Chestatee Lady War Eagles
Coach: Web Daniel
Last year’s record: 17-12, Class AAA Sweet 16 appearance
Key players: F Peyton Robertson, 6-2 Jr. (16 ppg, 8 rpg); SF Chelsea Wilson, 5-9 Sr. (10 ppg, made 65 3-pointers last year); F Rachel Kelley, 5-10 Jr. (5 ppg, 4 rpg); SG Shelby Bright, 5-7 Sr. (Made more than 40 3-pointers last year).
Coach says: “Our expectations are to make it further than we did last year,” Daniel said. “Our goal is to make it to Macon and play for a state championship. I feel like we have the talent to beat any team we play and if we can defend and rebound better then I think we have a chance.”

Commerce Lady Tigers
Coach: Eddie McCurley
Last year’s record: 6-17
Key players: SG Jessie Flint, 5-9 Sr.; SG Jaz Grier, 5-11 Jr.; SF Brittney Beauchamp, 5-9 Sr.
Coach says: The Lady Tigers lost two starters, Lauren Jones and Shekia Moon, but have last year’s leading scorers, Flint and Grier, returning to ease the transition. Commerce will dress a very young team again this season, and the squad’s sophomores and freshmen should see a generous supply of time on the court.

Dawson County Lady Tigers
Coach: Steve Sweat
Last year’s record: 4-19
Key players: SF Jessi Phillips, 5-7 Jr. (8.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg); PG Morgan Bennett, 5-6 Jr. (7 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
Coach says: “Hopefully the experience we gained from last year will help us be more competitive this year,” Sweat said.
“We have a little more depth and competition for each position. We also have some good role players and each one must fill their role for us to win.”

East Hall Lady Vikings
Coach: Joey Rider
Last year’s record: 22-8
Key players: G Dorreka Faulkner, 5-6 Sr. (has led team in steals for two years); PG Jasmine Jenkins, 5-8 So. (10 ppg, 2.4 apg, 2 spg); G/F Morgan Jackson, 5-11 So. (second-leading rebounder and third-leading scorer on team as a freshman).
Coach says: “We are more athletic than last year’s team,” Rider said. “But we lost our best shooter and three-of-four post players. We are not very big and we must find a way to rebound. With Jasmine Jenkins running the point, we must find some shooters to extend the defenses.”

Flowery Branch Lady Falcons
Coach: Hazel Hall
Last year’s record: 11-15
Key players: G Jessica Harper, 5-6 Sr. (13 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg, 2.5 spg); G Cash Champion, 5-7 Sr. (7 ppg, 4 rpg.).
Coach says: “We have four seniors, all the other players are sophomores and freshmen,” second-year coach Hazel Hall said. “We are small, but very athletic. The freshmen will have to grow up quickly to help us and our key players must stay healthy.”

Gainesville Lady Red Elephants
Coach: Manson Hill
Last year’s record: 18-10, Lanierland champions, Region 7-AAA champions
Key players: F Jaymee Carnes, 6-1 Sr. (16 ppg, 8 rpg, 2.1 bpg); PG Loren Thomas, 5-6 Sr. (1.2 ast/turnover ratio); SG Mikalyn DeFoor, 5-8 Jr. (7.5 ppg, 48% FG).
Coach says: “We think we have a chance to be a really good team with three returning starters in Carnes, Thomas and DeFoor,” Hill said. “I think we have what it takes to have a really good season.

Jackson County Lady Panthers
Coach: Chad Pittman
Last year’s record: 11-14
Key players: F Breanna Drew, 5-9 Jr. (12 ppg, 5.8 rpg); G Ashley Skelton, 5-8 Jr. (12.4 ppg, 3 apg, 2 spg); PG Emily Elrod, 5-5 Jr.
Coach says: Pittman says the loss of senior Jessica Stevens, who tore her ACL, will hurt on defense, but the Lady Panthers have experience with Drew, Skelton, Elrod and Katie Rodriguez, the team’s lone senior.

Habersham Central
Lady Raiders
Coach: John Hood
Last year’s record: 9-13
Key players: PG Lauren Cunningham, 5-4 Sr.; SG Chelsea Smith, 5-11 Sr.; PF Chloe McAllister, 5-8 Sr.
Coach says: The Lady Raiders are senior loaded with seven returning for the season, even after the loss of three starters from last year. “We lost three seniors and they were all good players, but we have two starters returning (Cunningham and Smith) and have many players with varsity experience,” said Hood. “We should be improved over last year’s team.”

Jefferson Lady Dragons
Coach: Jason Gibson
Last year’s record: 11-13
Key players: PG Erin Knight, Sr. (8 ppg, 4 apg); SF Stephanie Fincher, Sr. (8 ppg, 4 rpg).
Coach says: “This year’s group will be a little undersized inside, but hopefully we can make up for it on the perimeter,” Gibson said. “We’re a good shooting team that has a lot of potential. We will play four guards most of the time which could cause some matchup problems on both ends of the floor.”

Johnson Lady Knights
Coach: Kory Bays
Last year’s record: 0-22
Key players: PG Haley Chapman, 5-6 Sr.; SG Mary Fiorentino, 5-6 Sr.; SG Shelley Farley, 5-5 Sr.
Coach says: “We are excited about the young group of girls we have this year,” Bays said. “They continue to work hard and pull together good things will happen for them. Our goals are to perform to our potential each day out.”

Lakeview Academy Lady Lions
Coach: Buster Brown
Last year’s record: 17-8
Key players: F Megan Rochester, 5-8 Sr. (leading rebounder in 2008); G Maddie Haymore, 5-6 Sr. (leading scorer in 2008); PG Louisa
Jacobs, 5-8 Sr. (9.4 ppg, 5.3 apg, 2.7 spg).
Coach says: According to Brown, with only eight girls playing basketball in the high school and only six able to practice currently due to injuries, the program’s streak of six consecutive trips to the state tournament is in jeopardy due to lack of numbers.

Lumpkin County Lady Indians
Coach: Greg Murray
Last year’s record: 4-20
Key players: PG Cara Malone, 5-2 Sr.; SF Kelsie Smith, 5-7 Sr.; SF Jessi Cantrell, 5-8 Sr.
Coach says: With the graduation of Ashley Brown, the school’s all-time leading scorer, the Lady Indians will rely on the four seniors on the roster to replace the scoring.

North Hall Lady Trojans
Coach: Bryan Richerson
Last year’s record: 10-16
Key players: SG Taylor Bishop, 5-7 Sr.; PF Shakeyla Rucker, 5-11 Jr.; SF McKenna Rushton, 5-8 So.; SG Mary Kate Rushton, 5-7 So.; PG Taylor Swoszowski, 5-5 So.
Coach says: “We are continuing to build our program and work toward competing for a region championship,” Richerson said. “We will be a little more experienced this year and know what to expect night-in and night-out with the tough region schedule. We want to continue to get better on the defensive end, rebounding, and taking care of the basketball.”

Towns County Lady Indians
Coach: Jim Melton
Last year’s record: 25-6 Region 8-A Champions, Class A finals
Key players: PF Melissa Conrad, 5-11 Sr.; SG Keri Abernathy, 5-6 Sr.; SF Jordan Moss, 5-9 Jr; PG Gabby Arencibia, 5-10 So.; SF Ali Bleckley, 5-11 So.
Coach says: Towns County lost three seniors this season, but Melton said that he won’t dwell on the losses. “We will very balanced and have great experience coming back from the previous two years,” said Melton. “Our region is always competitive and well coached. I think that we work very hard as a team, the girls have an excellent attitude, and we are excited to get the season started.”

Union County Lady Panthers
Coach: Jim Hughes
Last year’s record: 17-11, Region 8-AA champions
Key players: PG Holli Abernathy, Jr.; PF Becka Merritt, So.; C Angie Hughes So.
Coach says: Union County graduated two-time Region 8-AA Player of the Year, Candace
Williams, who is now a redshirt freshman at the University of Georgia.
“With no seniors on the team it is going to be up an uphill battle in the region,” said Hughes. “The good news is there are four starters returning and just how quickly they grow up will determine the season. I believe we will be competitive by the region tournament.”

White County Lady Warriors
Coach: Jodie Watkins
Last year’s record: 3-22
Key players: PG Ashley Smith, 5-5 Jr.; PG Callie DeLoach, 5-5 Jr.; SF Jayme Lea
Whitfield, 5-8 So.
Coach says: “We are still young this year, but a lot of the girls gained some experience from last season,” Watkins said.
“I believe that experience will help us turn it around this season and become very competitive within our region.”

West Hall Lady Spartans
Coach: Lynn Jarrett
Last year’s record: 10-16
Key players: PG Emily Hammond, 5-4 Sr.; F Bailey Soucie, 5-8 Sr.; F Amber Johnson, 5-9 Jr.
Coach says: Jarrett knows the graduation of All-Region player Jayla Moon will hurt on both sides of the floor, but the Lady Spartans will look to counter that with a balanced and more up-tempo attack.

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