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High school basketball: Girls Previews
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HS basketball preview: Area teams prepare for loaded 7-AAA

High school basketball: Boys Previews

The Starting Five

Taylor Handte


School: Lakeview

Height: 5-7

2012 stats: 16 points, 6 rebs., 2 steals, 2 assists per game

Tavia Sykes


School: Flowery Branch

Height: 5-10

2012 stats: 14 points, 5 rebounds per game

Kaela Davis


School: Buford

Height: 6-2

2012 stats: 18.5 points, 6.5 rebounds per game

Haley Gerrin


School: Habersham Central

Height: 6-2

2012 stats: 18 points, 9.5 rebs., 3.1 assists, 2.1 steals per game

Kristina Nelson


School: Buford

Height: 6-4

2012 stats: 10.2 points, 6.2 rebounds per game


Team Previews

Banks County

Coach: Jerry King

Region: 7-AAA

2011-2012 record: 15-12

Returning starters: C Kaitlyn Duncan (6-1, So.); PG Taylor Kennedy (5-8, Jr.)

Key contributors: SG McKenna Rylee (Sr.); C Haley Warner (6-1, Jr.); SG Lauren Carter (5-4, Jr.).

Key losses: SG Madison Franklin, PG Deasha Beasley

Notable: Division-I prospect Duncan led the team in rebounds last season and is expected to be a leading contributor again. …Rylee returns to the team after taking a year off. …Franklin and Beasley combined to average 25 points per game last season. …The Leopards upset then-No. 1 Rabun County last season before suffering injuries that hurt their chances in the region tournament.


Coach: Gene Durden

Region: 7-AAA

2011-12 record: 25-8; Region 6-AA champ, state Class AA runner-up

Returning starters: G Kaela Davis (6-2, Sr.; 18.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg); C Kristina Nelson (6-4, Sr.; 10.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg); F Mackenzie Darrah (6-4, Sr.); PG Maya Dillard (5-6, Sr.)

Key contributors: C Bree Horrocks (6-5, Jr.); G Camile Anderson (5-8, So.); G/F Caitlyn Dawkins (5-4, Jr.); G/F Tara Dambach (5-6, Jr.)

Key losses: PG Andraya Carter (6.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg), G Kallie Case

Notable: A loss in last season’s state title game ended a run of three straight championships, but the Lady Wolves appear loaded to make a run at another. ... Carter is now at the University of Tennessee, but Buford got accustomed to playing without her as she missed most of last season due to an ACL injury. ... Five Lady Wolves are committed to college programs; Davis is ranked as the No. 2 player in the country by ESPNU.


Coach: Web Daniel

Region: 8-AAAA

2011-12 record: 19-11; second round of state tournament

Returning starters: F Maegan Kenimer (6-2, Sr.; 15 ppg, 8 rpg, 1.5 bpg); G Erin Clifford (5-6, Sr.; 6.8 ppg); G Samantha Brown (5-9, Sr.); PG Bridgette Kelly (5-5, Jr.; 5 ppg)

Key contributors: SF Katie Arthur (5-6, Sr.); PF Danielle Stephens (5-10, Sr.); SG Deanna Bradberry (5-6, Jr.)
Key losses: G Emily Crain (7 ppg, 40 percent 3-pointers)

Notable: With two solid post players and capable shooting guards, Daniel said his team will have an inside-out approach. ... The Lady War Eagles will look to push the ball down court, but will mainly play in the half-court offense, relying on passes and movement. ... They will continue to use their signature 2-3 zone, but Daniel said the team will look to press more and show more man defense because his players possess the size, quickness and intelligence to make it effective.


Coach: Rex Gregg

Region: 8A-A

2011-2012 record: 5-15

Returning starters: F Lily Mather (5-9, Jr.; 7.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg); F Hanna Davis (5-10, Jr.; 7 ppg, 7 rpg)

Key contributors: PG Madison Maddox (5-4, Sr.); F McClaine Martin (5-6, Sr.); G Bridget Barnett (5-6, So.)

Key losses: PG Drea Mathis, F Erica Greene, F Allie Morgan

Notable: Mather was a team leader in points per game and rebounds per game last season. …A number of players on this Lady Tigers team have varsity experience, and Gregg believes that the entire team will have to be strong and contribute this season. …Commerce could see appearances from young players Tremelia Sims (So.) and Libby Lance (Fr.).

Dawson County

Coach: Steve Sweat

Region: 7-AAA

2011-12 record: 12-13

Returning starters: PG Carly Gilreath (5-8, Sr.; 14 ppg, 3.3 apg); F Allie Costley (5-11, Sr.; 7 ppg, 5 rpg); F Sheyenne Seabolt (5-11, So.; 7 ppg, 5 rpg)

Key contributors: G/F Kacie Bearden (5-7, Sr.); G Hannah Porter (5-9, Sr.); G/F Whitney Glover (5-8, Sr.); C Kenna Seitz (5-8, Sr.)

Key losses: G Morgan Huber (6 ppg)

Notable: Gilreath is a three-year starter and will be looked at a leader on a team that includes six seniors. ... The Lady Tigers have their sights set on snapping a long playoff drought, though Sweat said he expects the region to be challenging as Dawson County moves up to Class AAA. ... Sweat said the Lady Tigers used numerous different starting lineups last year, allowing many returning  players to earn quality experience, which should benefit Dawson County this season.

East Hall

Coach: Joey Rider

Region: 7-AAA

2011-12 record: 26-4, Region 8-AA champions, second round state playoffs

Returning starters: PG Latisha Shelton (5-4, Sr.)

Key contributors: G Chelsea Dale (5-6, So.); G Natalie Winters (5-8, Jr.); G/F Aleayah Hendrix (5-7, Sr.)

Key losses: PG Jasmine Jenkins (18 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.2 apg); G/F Morgan Jackson (20 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 apg); F Audrianna Lindsey (9.4 rpg); G Holly Lester (6 ppg).

Notable: The loss of Jenkins and Jackson — both four-year starters now playing at Division-I schools — will be difficult to overcome, and the Lady Vikings lost four other seniors as well. ... This year’s 11-player roster features four freshmen, two sophomores and just three seniors. ... The Lady Vikings have reached the playoffs in eight consecutive seasons.

Flowery Branch

Coach: Hazel Hall

Region: 8-AAAAA

2011-12 record: 20-9, 9-1; first round of state tournament

Returning starters: G Tavia Sykes (5-10, Sr.; 14 ppg, 5 rpg); G Jacy Ramey (5-6, Sr.; 9 ppg, 9 rpg); G Marissa Ivey (5-3, Sr.; 9 ppg); G Dani Lacko (5-6, Sr.; 5 ppg)

Key losses: None

Notable: The Lady Falcons’ experienced, core group returns from a team that dominated in region play last season en route to a second consecutive state tournament appearance. ... Flowery Branch will also be relying on a few freshman to come in and help with depth, Hall said. ... The Lady Falcons will look to play solid defensively and play fast. ... The team heads straight into region play Nov. 27 against Salem in Flowery Branch for the season opener.


Coach: Brenda Hill-Gilmore

Region: 8-AAAAA

2011-12 record: 16-11, 9-2; first round of state tournament

Key starters: C Angel Mickle (5-8, Sr.); F Anna Walker (5-9, Sr.); SG Paisley Lee (5-5, Jr.); PG Kabree Randolph (5-3, Jr.)

Key contributors: G Shikyia Brown (Fr.); G Breana Fair (Fr.); G Kayla Kelly (Fr.); PG Tamia Rucker (So.)

Key losses: F Rebecca Webster (13 ppg, 8 rpg); G Hunter Pugh; G Kynika Coleman; G Keke Harris

Notable: The Lady Red Elephants are a guard-heavy team, with an emphasis on once again playing strong defense — last year’s team averaged less than 40 points per game allowed in region play  — and pushing the ball up the floor and playing a balanced attack. ... Gilmore said the team has great leadership to go along with talented younger players. ... Gainesville opens the season with a region game Nov. 27 against Clarke Central in Gainesville.

Habersham Central

Coach: John Hood

Region: 7-AAAAAA

2011-2012 record: 23-7; Region 8-AAAA champions, second round of the state tournament.

Returning Starters: C Haley Gerrin (6-2, Sr.); G Brianna Barrett (5-8, Sr.); PG Jen Lovell (5-4, Sr.).

Key Contributors: G Kenzie Fleming (5-6, Sr.); P Alicia Maddox (5-9, Sr.); G Christy Smith (5-9, Sr.); G Carly Sales (5-10, Sr.).

Key Losses: F Kerra Canup, F Emily Robinson, A.C. Brown, Grace Donnelly.

Notable: The Lady Raiders return Class AAAA Player of the Year and All-State player Gerrin to a team that won the first region championship in school history last season. …Habersham Central lost a captain in Canup and other notable players, but they return a sizable group with varsity experience. …They will look to make an impression in their first season in Class AAAAAA.

Jackson County

Coach: John Hawley

Region: 8-AAA

2011-2012 record: 11-15

Returning starters: F Victoria Fontana (5-9, Sr.; 12 ppg, 2.5 apg, 2.5 spg); C Katie Phillips (5-9, Jr.; 8 ppg, 7 rpg, 2 apg); G Mason Garland (5-3 Jr.; 8 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.5 apg)

Key contributors: F Savannah Roncadori (6 ppg, 3 rpg); C Gabbi Kastner (5-8, Sr.); G Kaity Hayes (5-5, Sr.); G Victoria Woods (5-6, Jr.)

Key Losses: PG Macey Latty, F/C Danny Cunningham (12.5 rpg)

Notable: The Lady Panthers have great experience with about 35 points per game from last season’s team returning. ... Hawley hopes good height will also help with players get more second shots around the basket and aid in rebounding. ... Hawley says that more consistent play in full-court pressure will be a big indicator of success. ... Jackson County has to replace All-Region players Latty and Cunningham from last season. ... Sophomore Taylor Behsers (5-11), and freshmen Shelton Kendrick (5-9) and Sawyer Vickers (5-6) are young players who Hawley says are making strides.


Coach: Jason Gibson

Region: 8-AA

2011-2012 record: 12-14, 6-6

Returning starters: F Kellie Goza (5-10, Jr.; 6 ppg, 6 rpg); PG Jakeia Wilson (5-6, Sr.; 3 ppg, 2 apg); F Sarah Wood (5-8, Sr.; 9 ppg, 6 rpg)

Key contributors: C Dralynn Vaughan (5-11, Jr.); G/F Tristan McGarity (5-6, Sr.); G/F Cathryn Knight (5-7, Sr.)

Key Losses: SG Skylar Evanson (14 ppg, 4 apg); F Rachel Goza (6 ppg, 6 rpg); C Brianna Whatley (6 ppg, 5 rpg)

Notable: The Lady Dragons have big shoes to fill with 2011-2012 leading scorer Evanson now playing at Andrew College. ... Jefferson’s three returning starters combined for an average of 18 points per outing last season. .... The Lady Dragons will have plenty of height with four players who stand at least 5-10. ... Jefferson plays host to West Hall on Nov. 30 to open the season.


Coach: Kory Bays

Region: 8-AAAA

2011-12 record: 6-21

Returning starters: None

Key contributors: F Ariel Collins (5-11, Sr.); F Bridgette Johnson (5-8, Jr.)

Key losses: G Harlee Robson (9.2 ppg, 2 apg, 2 spg); G Ryleigh Shannon (5 ppg, 4 apg, 3 spg); F Lyndsey Pethel (10 ppg, 8 rpg); F Carlie Doster (5 ppg)

Notable: The Lady Knights will need to fill all five starting spots with no returning starters, but Bays is still optimistic, especially considering the height that the team boasts, including with Collins and Johnson. ... Johnson will still play man-to-man defense and Bays said the Lady Knights will try to get out in transition as much as possible.

Lakeview Academy

Coach: John Carrick

Region: 8-A

2011-12 record: 18-11, first round state playoffs

Returning starters: G Taylor Handte (5-7, Sr.; 16 ppg, 6 rpg, 2 apg, 2 spg); F/C Katie White (5-7, So.; 6.2 ppg); F/C Kaylee McClendon (5-8, Jr.; 6.4)

Key contributors: F Ansley Cash (5-7, Jr.); G Katie Gay (5-6, So.)

Key losses: G/F Molly Gay, PG Kelsey Gilbert

Notable: The Lady Lions went from three wins in 2010-11 to 18 wins and a state playoff berth last season, the biggest turnaround in the state. ... Handte was a big part of that reversal of fortunes and was a second-team All-Area selection last season. ... Carrick said the first goal is go at least .500 again, but he also hopes to build on last year’s success and earn another postseason bid.

Lumpkin County

Coach: Scott Hallam

Region: 8B-AAAA

2011-2012 record: 3-22

Returning starters: PG Morgan Wood (Sr.); G/F Abbie Guthrie (Sr.); G/F Dakota Sullens (Jr.); G/F Randi Malone (Jr.)
Key contributors: F/C Lacey Robinson (So.)

Key losses: C Erika Barker

Notable: The Lady Indians return last season’s leading scorer in Wood. … Sullens received Region 8-AAA Honorable Mention honors last season and is expected to contribute even more this year. … Malone is a two-year returning starter and will provide veteran leadership. … Hallam is back as head coach this season, having coached the Lady Indians twice before in his career.

North Hall

Coach: Kristi House

Region: 7-AAA

2011-2012 record: 24-8; Region 8-AAA champions, Class AAA state semifinalist.

Returning starters: None

Key contributors: G Sydney Cleveland (So.; 6 ppg); G Allie Staub (Sr.; 3 ppg); G Jordan Nix (Sr.)

Key losses: G/F McKenna Rushton; G Mary Kate Rushton; PG Taylor Swoszowski; G Tiffany Hamilton; F Sarah Paschall

Notable: The Lady Trojans enjoyed a magical 2011-2012 season with a region championship and trip to the state semifinals. ... North Hall graduated all five starters who accounted for about 45 points per game and defensive specialist Tiffany Hamilton from that team. ... Twins McKenna and Mary Kate Rushton led North Hall with 13 points each per game last season. ... Despite substantial youth, House is excited about the effort the Lady Trojans have displayed in practice. ... Cleveland played extensive minutes last season and already established a reputation as a gritty player. ... The senior Nix missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

Towns County

Coach: Jim Melton

Region: 8-A

2011-12 record: 23-7

Returning starters: PG Eryn Cochran (5-8, Sr.; 10 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.3 rpg, 38 percent 3-pointers); C Dadrian Blythe (5-11, Sr.; 8 rpg)

Key contributors: SG Stephanie Patton (5-7, So.); PF Kellsie Cowart (5-9, Jr.)

Key losses: SG Gabby Arencibia (16 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.8 spg, 43 percent 3-pointers); PG Allie Bleckley, PF Lindsay Patton

Notable: The Lady Indians have won back-to-back region championships, but must replace a talented senior class that put three players on college rosters. ... Look for Patton to take on a larger role this season after earning All-Region honors despite coming off the Towns County bench last year; she averaged 10.6 points, 2.8 steals, 2.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists per game and made 41 percent of her 3-pointers. ... The public- and private-school split for the playoffs will bring unknowns to the 2012-13 season, but Melton said the Lady Indians’ goals remain unchanged: win a region championship and go deep into the state tournament.

Union County

Coach: David Tucker

Region: 8B-AA

2011-2012 record: 21-9, first round of the state tournament

Returning starters: PG Lauren Zollinger (Jr.; 8 ppg, 5 apg)

Key contributors: F Ariel Mauer (So.); G Brooke Maddox (So.)

Key Losses: G/F Rebecka Merritt; G Callie Payne; F/C Angie Hughes; G/F Catie Tanner

Notable: The Lady Panthers lost a strong core of players after last season. … The team will rely on Zollinger for experience and leadership. … Union County is a young team and expects to start at least two sophomores. … This is Tucker’s second year coaching the girls team.

White County

Coach: Buster Brown

Region: 7-AAA

2011-12 record: 12-14

Returning starters: F/C Riley Stanton (5-11, Sr.); G/F Paige Thomas (5-9, So.)

Key contributors: F/C Cassie Carter (5-8, Sr.); G Brooke Helton (5-5, Sr.); G Sara Black (5-4, Sr.); F/C Katilyn Gearing (5-9, Jr.)

Key losses: Megan Deloach, Shauna Anderson, Taylor Freeman and Jayme Whitfield

Notable: Despite losing four of five of last season’s starters, Brown said the team should be better on offense, but defense will need to improve. ... Last year’s team won more games than the previous three combined, but the goal for this season is to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2002.

West Hall

Coach: Lynn Jarrett

Region: 7-AAA

2011-2012 record: 12-15

Returning starters: F Kaelyn Gattis (5-11, Sr.; 9 ppg); F LeNiesha Kearse (5-8, Sr.; 7 ppg); G Jensen Hall (5-5, Jr.); G Maia Booker (5-7, Jr.)

Key losses: F Brooke Reed, PF Miranda Miller

Notable: The Lady Spartans have a solid nucleus to build around with Gattis and Kearse back on the court. ... Gattis averaged almost double figures scoring last season, while Kearse came in at seven points per game. ... West Hall gets an early start, tipping off against Class AAAAA’s Cambridge on Nov. 19 in the White County Tournament in Cleveland.

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