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High school basketball: Season preview
Plenty of interesting local story angles to follow this year
Gainesville High girls basketball players practice dribbling last week in the school's gym. The season begins for most programs this week around the area. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

High school basketball: Girls Preview

High school basketball: Boys Preview

Heading into the 2011-2012 basketball season, questions are plentiful for area teams, and sure things seem to be few and far between.

In two instances, traditional Hall County powers are looking to continue their long runs of success, one with the same successful coach and the other with a new coach but already a Hall County legend.

For the Buford girls basketball team, the question is whether the Lady Wolves can defend their state title despite an injury that could keep the two-time Class AA Player of the Year sidelined.

Here a few of the unknowns at the forefront of the coming hoops season:

Can a new coach continue the winning tradition of Gainesville girls basketball?

Gainesville is replacing a coaching legend in four-time state title winner Manson Hill with one of the top players in Hall County history.

Brenda Hill-Gilmore is the No. 2 all-time leading scorer from Hall County, finishing her high school career at East Hall in 1982.

The only player ahead of her is her daughter, Tasha Humphrey, who led Gainesville to three state titles in the early 2000s before playing for the University of Georgia and the WNBA.

Hill-Gilmore was an assistant coach on those Gainesville teams from 1998-2002 and then with the Lady Bulldogs in Athens before taking a heading coaching job at Winder-Barrow, where she went 45-51 in the past four seasons.

The new coach is already tied in with the history of Hall County and Gainesville basketball, and knows what it takes to continue the Lady Red Elephants' run of success.

Can East Hall boys get back to the final four?

The Vikings' run in the last decade was nothing short of dominating.

East Hall won state titles in 2001, 2003 and 2005 and played in the title game three more times, in 2000, 2004 and 2007.

For the decade East Hall went 256-53.

The program is still going strong; last year the team reached the elite eight in Class AA after winning the program's 27th region championship.

Two starters from that team return, including senior guard Joshua Hampton, one of the top scorers in the area.

The team has been to 15 final fours in program history.

This season the Vikings will try for a 16th.

Can the Buford Lady Wolves defend their Class AA state championship despite an injury to two-time Player of the Year Andraya Carter?

Lady Wolves coach Gene Durden has put together a tough non-region schedule to test the defending Class AA state champs, but the toughest test might just be how the team adapts to the possibility of playing without two-time Class AA Player of the Year Andraya Carter.

The senior suffered a torn ACL in the offseason.

Buford still has a stacked roster, including junior wing Kaela Davis, a University of Tennessee recruit.

Davis was the second leading scorer in Gwinnett County last season at 18. 2 points per game and is one of the top five players in the country in the class of 2013.

A number of Division-I prospects round out a team that is still one of the most talented in the state, but clearly, a team without Carter will not be the same team.

Whether this is still a team that can defend its state championship is the question.

How will Region 8-AAA turn out?

Last year West Hall and Gainesville battled for the boys region title, but the Spartans could take a step back with the loss of The Times Player of the Year Shunquez Stephens and First Team All-Area selection Jarquise Young.

Gainesville could be primed to get back on top with the Shaquan Cantrell and Deshaun Watson returning, but the Red Elephants will have to overcome the loss of A.J. Johnson.

In the North subregion, Franklin County still has the inside track at defending its subregion title, while White County and North Hall wait in the wings.

Can the Flowery Branch girls get back to state?

Last season the Lady Falcons were one of the biggest surprises in the area, entering the Region 8-AAAA tournament with a 2-8 region record and winning three consecutive games in the tournament to not only qualify for the postseason but play for the region title.

Flowery Branch fell to Clarke Central in the region final but still reached the state tournament as a No. 2 seed before being knocked off by Mays in overtime in the first round.

The Lady Falcons' top scorer, junior guard/forward Tavia Sykes, is back. Last season she averaged 13 points per game and six rebounds per game.


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