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High school basketball: Five things to watch for this season among area girls teams
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Ashlee Locke, center, puts ups a shot for Flowery Branch Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, between Henry County's Usoreia McWhorter, left, and Mia Culpepper during the second half of the Lady Falcons win in the Class 4A state quarterfinals at the Flowery Branch High gymnasium. - photo by Scott Rogers

With the change in season from fall to winter, the high school basketball season is just getting underway. 

Here are a few things to watch out for among local girls teams this season:

How will Ashlee Locke handle being the focal point for Flowery Branch?

The Lady Falcons were among the best teams in the state a season ago, making it as far as the Class 4A semifinals, but this year’s team will have an entirely new look. Following the graduation of Caroline Wysocki, Ashley Woodruff and Ashley Scott, junior center Ashlee Locke stands out as biggest contributor from the 2018-2019 team. 

Flowery Branch will need another strong year from Locke if it wants to remain a title contender this season. 

Will Lakeview Academy capitalize on strong senior class?

Much like the Gainesville boys team, the Lady Lions championship window remains open following last year’s 25-5 campaign, but it won’t be open for long. Lakeview Academy will be led by a six-person senior class that includes last year’s scoring leader Eliza Snyder. 

With no juniors on the roster this season, the Lady Lions will be made up of entirely underclassmen next year, so winning now is imperative for this team.  

Can Cherokee Bluff build on Year 1 playoff appearance?

The Lady Bears did well for themselves last season, making a playoff appearance despite their lack of experience. With most of the corps players returning, Cherokee Bluff is positioned to be even more successful in Year 2. 

The Lady Bears get back their backcourt/frontcourt duo of Timber Gaither and Madi Phillips that led the team in virtually all statistical categories last year, a pairing that should only gain in confidence as they get more comfortable playing with each other. 

Can Gainesville find a new dynamic duo?

No Hall County team got quite as much of its production last season from two players as Gainesville did, but with both Tia Shelton and Tija Blackwell now graduated, the Lady Red Elephants must look elsewhere to stay afloat. 

With only two returning seniors left on the roster, Gainesville will have one of the youngest teams in the area this season, and will need new stars to emerge from its host of inexperienced players, if it wants any hope of returning to the playoffs this season.  

Can North Hall make most of incoming talent?

The Lady Trojans will be getting senior leaders Grace Hollifield and Maci Gillespie back for one more season, but youth is more abundant than experience for North Hall this year. 

The team welcomes eight freshmen to the squad, with first-year players outnumbering upperclassmen as they Lady Trojans look to build on a trip to the second round of Class 3A playoffs following the 2018-2019 season. If North Hall can find some production from its younger players, it should be competitive once again this year. 

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