Banks County Lady Leopards
Coach: Jerry King (4th season at school, 4th overall)
Last year: 8-18, 4th in 8B-AA
Returning starters: PF Terri Creger, 5-6 Sr. (7 rpg); SG Madison Franklin, 5-6 Jr. (12 ppg); PG Deasha Beasley, 5-6 Jr. (10 ppg); G Ashley Morris, 5-6 Jr.
Key newcomers: SG McKenna Riley, 5-6 So.; PG Taylor Kennedy, 5-9 Fr.
Coach says: Injuries have already taken a toll on the Lady Leopards, leaving them shorthanded in the post. Forward Katlyn Parks, who was scoring 10 points per game late last year, is still recovering from a torn ACL and won’t be able to play until the second half of the season; senior center Lindsey McDuffie will miss the season after tearing her ACL on the first day of practice. To make up for their absence, King said the Lady Leopards will try to pick up the pace offensively and rely more on their outside shooting.
Buford Lady Wolves
Coach: Gene Durden (6th season at school, 23rd overall)
Last year: 29-4 (Class AA state champs)
Returning starters: PG Andraya Carter, 5-8 Jr. (19.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.2 spg); C Sheresse Williams, 5-10 Sr. (7 ppg, 7 rpg); PG Maya Dillard, 5-5 So.; SG Joyclyn Kinsey, 5-5 Sr.; PF Mackenzie Darrah, 6-3 So.; SF Constance Harrison, 5-7 Sr.
Key newcomer: SG Kaela Davis, 6-2 So.
Coach says: Not only will the Lady Wolves return six players with starting experience, they’ve also added Davis, who like Carter, is committed to Tennessee. That gives Durden a lot of options as Buford begins its quest for a third straight state championship. Carter is ranked among the top juniors in the nation, while Davis, daugther of former NBA player Antonio Davis, is one of the nation’s top sophomores. Davis led Norcross to a Class AAAAA state title last season, scoring 21 points in the championship win over Redan.
Chestatee Lady War Eagles
Coach: Web Daniel (6th season at school)
Last year: 20-5 (Region 7A-AAA champions)
Returning starters: C Peyton Robertson, 6-2 Sr. (20 ppg, 8 rpg, 2 blocks); F Rachel Kelley, 5-10 Sr. (7 ppg, 5 rpg); G Melissa Bailey, 5-11 Sr. (6 ppg, 2 apg, 5 rpg, 2 steals); PG Diana Porras, 5-4 Sr. (2 ppg, 2 apg).
Coach says: The Lady War Eagles were clearly disappointed with the outcome last season and missing the playoffs after winning the subregion during the regular season. This season, Chestatee is loaded with four returning senior starters. “We will have to get better guard play this season,” Daniel said. “Also, we will have to dominate the boards this year because we are going to be bigger than most teams we play. If we can stay poised and play our game, we should be just fine this year.”
Commerce Lady Tigers
Coach: Eddie McCurley (4th season at school, 24th season overall)
Last year: 3-20 (1-15 in Region 8-A)
Returning starters: F Jaz Grier 5-11 Sr. (8 ppg. 6 rpg.)
Key newcomers: F Hannah Davis 5-9 Fr., F Lily Mather 5-9 Fr.
Coach says: “To be successful we have to keep Jaz healthy. She has gone down to a knee injury the last two years. When she plays well, she might be the best in Region 8-A. We will also have to get our younger players grown up in a hurry. We will be better, but our region has a lot of fine teams so I don’t know how that will translate in to wins and losses.”
Dawson County Lady Tigers
Coach: Steve Sweat (5th season at school, 28th year overall)
Last year: 11-13 (3-8 Region 8-AA)
Returning starters: F Jessi Phillips, 5-6 Sr. (7.6 ppg, 3 rpg); G Carly Gilreath, 5-8 So. (7.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg); G Morgan Bennett, 5-4 Sr. (5.6 ppg, 1.2 rpg).
Key contributors: G Kim Wallace 5-3 Jr., returns after skipping her sophomore season; C Kristi Hyams 5-10 Jr., transfer
Coach says: Sweat said the Lady Tigers have a lot of youth, but that those underclassmen still have significant varsity experience and should allow Dawson to finish above .500 and have a shot at making the state tournament.
East Hall Lady Vikings
Coach: Joey Rider (4th season at school, 8th overall)
Last year: 23-7 (1st in 7B-AAA, quarterfinals of playoffs)
Returning starters: PG Jasmine Jenkins, 5-8 Jr. (12 ppg); G Morgan Jackson 5-11 Jr. (10 ppg)
Key newcomers: SG Holly Lester, 5-2 Jr.; PF Natalie Johnson, 5-11 Sr.; SG Taylor Bishop, 5-7 Sr.; PG TT Shelton 5-0 So.; SF Kelsey Allen, 5-8 Jr.; PG Kayleigh Lunsford, 5-0 Sr.
Coach says: “Due to grades and transfers, we don’t have everyone back we were expecting from last year. Depth and athleticism are both concerns for us. We do have some very talented offensive players returning, and the key for us to compete for a region championship will be getting this team to buy into playing defense.”
Flowery Branch Lady Falcons
Coach: Hazel Hall (3rd season at school)
Last year: 17-11 (4th in 7B-AAA, second round of playoffs)
Returning starters: F Cara Chilton, 5-11 Jr. (9 ppg, 5 rpg)
Key newcomers: F Tavia Sykes, 5-10 So., started toward end of season; G/F Jacy Ramey, 5-5 So., tore ACL in January
Coach says: “We’re a young team with no seniors. We’re in a tough region with good athletes, so I’m hoping as we go through the year we’ll gain more experience. This is a good group of hard working girls that are fairly skilled. But it could be later on in the season before we start playing our best basketball.”
Gainesville Lady Red Elephants
Coach: Manson Hill (22nd season at school, 25th season overall)
Last year: 19-8 (Region 7-AAA champions, 2nd round of playoffs)
Returning starters: F Mikalyn DeFoor, 5-8 Sr. (6.3 ppg, 3.1 apg, 30% 3-point range); F Kate Callahan, 5-11 Sr.; F Rebecca Webster, 6-0 Jr. (6.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg).
Key newcomers: G Hunter Pugh, 5-10 Jr.; G Chelsey Young, 5-5 Jr.; G Aleayah Hendrix, 5-6 So.
Coach says: After winning their third straight region title last year, the Lady Red Elephants are capable of winning a fourth straight, despite the graduation of Jaymee Carnes. Hill said the team has had highly competitive practices that give him confidence entering a season in which six of the first eight games are against top-10 teams.
Habersham Central Lady Raiders
Coach: John Hood (2nd season at school, 9th overall)
Last year: 7-19 (6th in 8A-AAAA)
Returning starters: PG Charlotte Lewallen, 5-8 Sr. (3 ppg, 3 spg); C Haley Gerrin, 6-1 So. (8 ppg, 7 rpg); G Brianna Barrett, 5-8 So. (6 ppg)
Key newcomers: G Kerra Canup, 5-9 Jr.; G Grace Donnelly, 5-9 Jr.; G A.C. Brown, 5-7 Jr.; F Emily Robinson, 6-0 Jr.
Coach says: On a young roster that features only one senior, the Lady Raiders return only four players with varsity experience. For that reason, Hood doesn’t know how his team will respond to the level of competition in Region 8-AAAA, but he’s optimistic about the chances for improvement. The Lady Raiders hope to step up the pressure defensively and have installed a motion-oriented offense.
Jackson County Lady Panthers
Coach: John Hawley (1st season at school, 30th overall)
Last year: 13-12 (5th in 8N-AAA)
Returning starters: G/F Ashley Skelton, 5-9 Sr.; G Emily Elrod, 5-6 Sr.; F/C Bre Drew, 5-9, Sr.; C Sierra Roncadori, 5-10 Sr.; F/C Danni Cunningham, 5-9 Jr.; G Victoria Fontanna, 5-9 So.
Key newcomers: F/C Savannah Roncadori, 5-8 So.; F Katie Phillips, 5-9 Fr.
Coach says: “They’re still learning the system at this point. I’m happy with the progress. The style is more upbeat and more uptempo than what they were probably used to in the past, and we’re looking to extend the defense a little more. It’s going to be a slow process learning the concepts and new things, so we’re going to have mistakes early on, but we’ll work through them. They’re hard workers.”
Jefferson Lady Dragons
Coach: Jason Gibson (6th season at school, 17th overall)
Last year: 10-16 (3rd in 8B-AA)
Returning starters: SG Skyler Evanson, 510 Jr. (9 ppg); SF Jakeia Wilson, 5-7 So. (5 ppg); SF Rachel Goza 5-10 Jr. (7 ppg, 7 rpg).
Key newcomers: PG Bethany Whitlock, 5-7 Sr.; C Layce Rail, 5-11 Sr.; C Bailey Boyd, 5-11 Fr.; PG Kellie Goza, 5-11 Fr.; F Sarah hWood, 5-10 So.
Coach says: “We’ve been competitive in our region the last two years — we were 6-2 two years ago and 6-4 last year — but our overall record has suffered because we play a brutal non-region schedule to prepare us for the region playoffs.”
Johnson Lady Knights
Coach: Kory Bays (2nd season at school, 10th season overall)
Last year: 2-22
Returning starters: F Caitlin Sloan, 5-8 Sr.; G Carlyn Ivey, 5-5 Sr.; F Kelsha Brooks, 5-8 Sr.; G Lyndsey Pethel, 5-7 Jr.; G Sasha Edge, 5-1 Jr.
Key newcomers: G Ryleigh Shannon, 5-1 So.; G Harlee Robson, 5-1 Jr.
Coach says: With five returning starters and a strong inside presence in Sloan and Brooks, Bays is exited about this year’s team. He said he is seeing “signs of a cohesive unit,” and is encouraged by the direction the program is headed.
Lakeview Lady Lions
Coach: John Carrick (1st season at school, 36th overall)
Last year: 12-12 (6th in 8-A)
Returning starters: C Jamie Nixon, 5-11 Jr. (4 ppg, 2 rpg); F Mona Abraham, 5-9 Jr. (3 ppg, 2 rpg)
Key contributors: PG Amber Whitlock, 5-2 Sr.; F Taylor Handte, 5-7 Jr.
Coach says: As a newcomer to Region 8-A, Carrick doesn’t know much about the competition his team will face this year. But judging by his resume, what he does know is the game of basketball. He joins Lakeview after most recently leading Georgia College to the Peach Belt Conference championship last season. The Lady Lions don’t return much experience, but with 14 players, the numbers are up from recent seasons. “We may struggle at times,” Carrick said, “but if the kids continue to work, I’m sure we’ll improve as the season goes along.”
Lumpkin County Lady Indians
Coach: Greg Murray
Last year: (2-21, 6th Region 7A-AAA).
Returning starters: F Emma Thomaswick, 5-8 Sr.; G/SF Frankie Walls, 5-6 Sr.
Key newcomers: SF Morgan Wood So., C Erica Barker, 6-0 Jr., Alexia Wilson Jr.
Coach says: Murray wants to make his group more competitive this season and defensive minded. The Lady Indians are playing with seven freshmen on the roster and younger players will get thrown into action to see how they respond to varsity playing time. He says that a positive attitude and good team chemistry will go a long way to helping this team grow. “We’ll be a scrappy team this season,” Murray said. “What we’re trying to do is really turn the corner and be more competitive.”
North Hall Lady Trojans
Coach: Kristi House (1st year as head coach)
Last year: 16-10 (fourth in Region 7A-AAA)
Returning starters: SF McKenna Rushton, 5-8 Jr. (11 ppg.); SG Mary Kate Rushton, 5-7 Jr. (11 ppg.); PF Sarah Paschall, 5-9 Jr. (6 rpg.); PG Taylor Swoszowski, 5-5 Jr.; SG Tiffany Hamilton, 5-4 Jr.
Coach says: With a new coach in charge, the Lady Trojans want to set a team identity as soon as possible. House is a familiar face to the program as a member of the coaching staff for eight years now. Last season, North Hall lost to East Hall in the first round of the region tourney. “For our team to be successful, we must show up and play hard on the defensive end and be focused for 32 minutes every night,” House said.
West Hall Lady Spartans
Coach: Lynn Jarrett (5th year at school)
Last year: 6-19
Returning starters: F Amber Johnson, 5-7 Sr. (started every game last year and averaged 8 points and 6 rebounds per game).
Key newcomers: None
Coach says: This group of Lady Spartans is one of the youngest teams in recent years and, according to Jarrett, will have to overcome early mistakes and lack of experience. Johnson will be out until December due to a knee injury.
White County Lady Warriors
Coach: Jodie Watkins (4th season)
Last year: 4-20, seventh in Region 7A-AAA
Returning starters: G Shauna Anderson, 5-8 Jr., (10 ppg, 5 rpg); PG Callie DeLoach, 5-5 Sr., (2 apg, 3 steals); PG Megan DeLoach, 5-5 Jr.; SG Ashley Smith, 5-5 Sr.
Key contributors: C Aubrie Gstalder, 5-10 Jr.; F Riley Slaton, 5-11 So.; C Cassie Carter, 5-9 So.
Coach says: Led by Anderson’s 10 points per game last season and the return of Gstalder from a season-long injury, White County should have more depth this season. “We are hoping to turn things around this season,” Watkins said. “The key to our success this season is gaining confidence with each game and playing to win instead of playing afraid to lose.”
Towns County Lady Indians
Coach: Jim Melton (13th season at school. 13th season overall)
Last year: 23-7 (2nd in 8-A, 2nd round of playoffs)
Returning starters: G Gabby Arencibia 5-10 Jr. (Made 88 3-pointers last season); F Jordan Moss 5-9 Sr. (14.6 ppg, 9 rpg, 4 apg.); G Ali Bleckley, 5-11 Jr.; F Lindsay Patton 5-9 Jr.
Key newcomers: G Ben Pong 5-5 Jr.; F Kindle Moss 5-8 Jr.; G Eryn Cochran 5-7 Fr.
Coach says: “We expect to be competitive in a tough Region 8-A. We believe that our hard work will give us a great chance to make it to the state tournament again this year.”
Union County Lady Panthers
Coach: Jim Hughes (15th season at school, 15th season overall)
Last year: 11-22 (4-6 Region 8-AA)
Returning starters: G Holli Abernathy 5-5 Sr., (11 ppg, 2.1 apg); G Tori Dyer 5-7 Sr. (6.3 rpg, 1.5 spg); C Angie Hughes, 5-11 Jr. (9.5 rpg, 4 bpg); F Rebecka Merritt 5-9 Jr. (10.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg); F Catie Tanner 5-6 Jr. (5.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
Key newcomers: G Jeanelle Arnold 5-3 So., made an impact as stout defender over the summer.
Coach says: “We are playing in one of the top subregions in the state, with all six teams capable of winning on any night. In order to be successful we are going to have to be better physically and mentally and avoid off nights. We feel we can compete with anyone but must prove it on the court.”