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Posted: Monday, November 19th 2012 at 4:04pm

2012-13 Area girls basketball previews (Video)

By Morgan Lee Editor
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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North Hall's Sydney Cleveland defends against Washington County in a Class AAA semifinal game last season. Cleveland will be a leader for the Lady Trojans in 2012-13.
The air has already turned crisp, and the leaves have almost all fallen, which means it's time to start turning our attention indoors -- and the return of the high school basketball season.

The 2012-13 season will get fully underway this week and is chock full of questions and intrigue for the area's hoop programs.

Teams like Buford, North Hall, East Hall, Habersham Central, Flowery Branch, Gainesville, Rabun County, will look to maintain or exceed last year's campaigns, while others look to rebound or forge ahead.

For a look at what the area's programs have on tap for 2012-13, simply scroll down the page...



2012-13 Area Girls Basketball Previews

BANKS COUNTY
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 15-12
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: So C Kaitlyn Duncan
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: While Duncan is just a sophomore, the 6-foot center will be the leader of the Lady Leopards – a team that will feature just one senior in the starting line-up. Duncan showed plenty of skill and promise last season and will look to build on that season after watching five seniors graduate from a strong 2011-12 team. Banks will rely primarily on its inside game, but the Lady Leopards will also feature a number of perimeter players that can shoot the ball. Banks is focused on making a dent in a formidable Region 7-AAA after moving up from Class AA in the offseason.

BUFORD
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 25-8, Region 6-AA champion, Class AA runner-up
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 4
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. W Kaela Davis (No. 2-ranked player in nation), Sr. W/P Mackenzie Darrah (committed to Elon University), Sr. P Kristina Nelson (committed to Notre Dame), Sr. PG Maya Dillard (committed to David Lipscomb University), Jr. P Bree Horrocks (committed to Purdue University)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: There’s not many teams that would finish as a state runner-up and be disappointed, but that’s where the Lady Wolves are these days. Coach Gene Durden has created a juggernaut of a program that expects a lot of itself and gets a lot in return. Buford will again be expected to dominate much of the competition in 2012-13, featuring a team full of talent, including the silky-smooth Davis. Buford features a great combination of size inside and quickness/shooting ability on the perimeter, while Davis and Darrah offer a combination of all three. Perhaps the Lady Wolves’ biggest asset is their defensive prowess, which flummoxes most opposition. Buford has moved up one classification but won’t be afraid after playing eight nationally-ranked teams last season. And while the graduation of standout Andraya Carter will be felt, the Lady Wolves will be focused on getting back to Macon.

CHESTATEE
-- REGION: 8B-AAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 19-11, Region 8-AAA runner-up, reached Class AAA second round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 5
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. P Maegan Kenimer (All-Region, 15 ppg, 8 rpg, 1.5 bpg), Sr. G Erin Clifford (6.8 ppg, 35% 3-point), Sr. G Samantha Brown, Jr. PG Bridgette Kelly (5 ppg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After graduating no one and returning six seniors on the squad, the Lady War Eagles feel like this could be a big season. Kenimer is a dominant player inside and she is surrounded by plenty of talented guards that can make an impact on both ends of the floor. Thanks to all of that experience, Chestatee will look to push the tempo a little more this year, creating more opportunities in the fast break rather than relying solely on its half-court game. That said, the Lady War Eagles will still be formidable when they slow things down, as they showed last season with a number of dangerous outside shooters that can take the defense away from Kenimer. Chestatee has lofty goals in mind, including a region title and making a deep run in the state tournament, where Chestatee has been unable to progress past the second round in three of the last four seasons. The Lady War Eagles are excited about their new schedule in Region 8-AAAA.

COMMERCE
-- REGION: 8A-A
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 5-19
-- RETURNING STARTERS: N/A
-- KEY PLAYERS: N/A
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Commerce will look to bounce back from a disappointing season. The Lady Tigers have not reached the state playoffs since 2001.

DAWSON COUNTY
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-13
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. PG Carly Gilreath (14 ppg, 3.3 apg), Sr. P Allie Costley (7 ppg, 5 rpg), So. P Sheyenne Seabolt (7 ppg, 5 rpg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Tigers feature six seniors and plenty of experience, including the three-year starte at point guard in Gilreath. Kacie Bearden, Costley, Hannah Porter, Whitney Glover, and Kenna Seitz will also be looked to for key minutes and leadership. After featuring a number of different starting line-ups last season, Dawson County should also be versatile in 2012-13. The Lady Tigers know they must cut down on turnovers and look to increase their scoring from last season. Dawson County should have balance inside and on the perimeter but know they will need to be at their best to succeed in a murderous Region 7-AAA.

EAST HALL
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 26-4, Region 8-AA champion, reached Class AA second round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. PG Latisha Shelton, So. SG Chelsea Dale, several underclassmen
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Gone to the collegiate ranks are four-year stars Jasmine Jenkins and Morgan Jackson, as well as several other key players -- what the Lady Vikings are looking to replace them with is plenty of athletic youth. Shelton is the lone experienced upperclassman and will act as the leader both on the court and off for a team that will feature nine freshmen of the 18 players on the roster. Coach Joey Rider’s team will hustle and play strong defense, the biggest question is who will generate the offense. Dale showed she is capable of putting up huge numbers, scoring 26 points in the first round of the state playoffs last season. Rider says his team’s strength will lie on the perimeter with a number of quick, athletic guards. East Hall should improve vastly during the season, but the Lady Vikings know they will be tested early and often in a stacked Region 7-AAA.

FLOWERY BRANCH
-- REGION: 8A-AAAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 20-9, subregion 8A-AAAA champions, reached Class AAAA first round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 4
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Tavia Sykes (14 ppg, 5 rpg), Sr. G Jacy Ramey (9 ppg, 9 rpg), Sr. G Marissa Ivey (9 ppg), Sr. G Dani Lacko (5 ppg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: A veteran and talented group are hoping to make a big splash this season. The Lady Falcons feature four seniors that have played since their freshmen seasons and each provides a piece of the puzzle. Sykes can pour in points, while Ramey’s hard work yields plenty of rebounds. Ivey is a 3-point specialist, and Lacko is a defensive stopper. The Lady Falcons should also add some depth this season, including from some incoming freshmen. Flowery Branch’s senior group has plenty of chemistry and history, and they hope to take that a step further in 2012-13. The Lady Falcons expect a tough schedule against Region 8-AAAAA but are excited about the opportunities ahead.

GAINESVILLE
-- REGION: 8A-AAAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 16-11, reached Class AAA first round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. SG/SF Paisely Lee, Sr. P Anna Walker, So. G Tamia Rucker, Jr. G Kabree Randolph
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Red Elephants and coach Brenda Hill-Gilmore took much of last season to get used to each other, but the end result put Gainesville back in the state playoffs. With a year under their collective belts, the Lady Red Elephants hope to take that a step further. Gainesville features a team with a mixture of experience and youth. Stalwart Rebecca Webster has graduated, but Gainesville hopes to be better balanced and more dangerous, with the ability to shoot from deep, drive to the basket or pull up and hit medium-range jumpers. Hill-Gilmore also hopes to be able to field a number of different line-ups, relying eight-nine different players.

HABERSHAM CENTRAL
-- REGION: 7A-AAAAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 23-7, Region 8-AAAA champion, reached Class AAAA second round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. P Haley Gerrin (Region 8-AAAA Player of the Year), Sr. G Brianna Barrett
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After setting records for wins in a season and claiming the program’s first ever region title last season, the Lady Raiders have high hopes again this campaign. Habersham did undergo a jump to Region 7-AAAAAA, but the return of standouts Gerrin and Barrett gives the Lady Raiders a dynamic inside-out combination, and the experience gained in last year’s first state playoff appearance in 10 years should prove invaluable. A talented senior class will be looking to improve on last season’s impressive performance. Habersham and coach John Hood will continue to run a motion offense that should create plenty of scoring opportunities, while the Lady Raiders will also put an emphasis on defense and sound, fundamental play. Yes, the competition will be tougher against the likes of North Gwinnett and Norcross, but Habersham won’t be frightened of any foe.

JACKSON COUNTY
-- REGION: 8-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 11-15
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 4
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. W/F Victoria Fontana (12.5 ppg, 2.5 apg, 2.5 spg), Sr. W/P Savannah Roncadori (6 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Jr. G Mason Garland (8 ppg, 2 apg, 2 spg, 5 rpg), Jr. W/P Kaite Phillips (8 ppg, 7 rpg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Panthers will continue their up-tempo offense, along with their full-court pressure on defense. Jackson County should feature plenty of experience and depth to help out in 2012-13, including seniors Gabbi Kastner (wing/post), Kaity Hayes (guard/wing) and Daphne Melton (wing). The Lady Panthers know they must improve their rebounding and finishing, as well as free throw shooting.

JEFFERSON
-- REGION: 8B-AA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-14
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. PG Jakela Wilson, Jr. W/F Kellie Goza (5 ppg), Sr. F Sarah Wood (7 ppg), Jr. C Dralynn Vaughn, Sr. G Tristan McGarity, Sr. W Cathryn Knight, Jr. G Jordan Phillips, So. G Chandler Bragg
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Dragons graduated three players that were averaging 43 ppg from last year, more than 65 percent of their offense. They have just three seniors on a young team and coach Jason Gibson says he will rotate 12 players this year but have no real stars as the season starts. Jefferson has not reached the state playoffs since the 2006-07 season but did win nine of its last 16 games last season and hopes to continue their forward momentum this campaign. Jefferson will play fast and run the floor. McGarity, Phillips, and Bragg will challenge for starting guard spots while Jaclyn Coleman (So. F), Jerilynn Williamson (So. F), Maddie Dills (So. F) and Ashley Boyd (Jr. F) should all see action at the forward spot. However, Gibson said their main weakness is a lack of height.

JOHNSON
-- REGION: 8B-AAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 6-22
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 0
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. F Ariel Collins, Jr. Bridgette Johnson
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Knights are focused on building after losing their entire starting five from last season. Coach Kory Bays is working hard at building the Johnson girls from the ground floor, including getting his father, longtime successful collegiate coach Gary Bays, to coach the South Hall Middle School girls team. This year’s group has built plenty of self-confidence through some grueling summer workout and practice sessions and possesses plenty of leadership. Collins is one of the standouts in the group that will hope to impress in the Lady Knights’ first season in Region 8-AAAA.

LAKEVIEW ACADEMY
-- REGION: 8A-A
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 18-11, reached Class A preliminary round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Taylor Handte, Sr. P Kaylee McClendon, So. W Katie White
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Lions made huge strides in coach John Carrick’s second season, improving over just three wins in 2010-11, and hope to continue that progression this season. But if Lakeview is to get back to state this season, it knows it must see some quick progression from some younger players. With just two senior starters, the Lady Lions will look to a number of underclassmen to fill key roles. Carrick has been pleased with his team’s work ethic through preseason but knows that plenty of questions remain. Lakeview faces a stout region schedule that includes 8-A behemoth Towns County, while George Walton should also prove strong.

LUMPKIN COUNTY
-- REGION: 8B-AAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 3-22
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. W Dakota Sullens (Honorable mention All-Region), Sr. G Morgan Wood (returning leading scorer), Jr. G Randi Malone
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Indians are still looking to find themselves this season under new/old head coach Scott Hallam, who is back in charge and starting his third stint in charge at Lumpkin County. Hallam hopes to find the Lady Indians’ most suitable style of play as the season plays out. Lumpkin will try to be multiple defensively and knows it must find ways to create scoring opportunities.

NORTH FORSYTH
-- REGION: 6B-AAAAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 21-9, Region 6-AAAAA runner-up, reached Class AAAAA second round (first time in school history)
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 4
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Kim Blake (10 ppg, 38% 3-point), So. G Caroline Bowns (12 ppg, 37% 3-point), Jr. P Avery Scarbrough (7 ppg, 6 rpg), So. PG Lochlain Corliss (6 ppg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After putting together an impressive first campaign with the Lady Raiders, coach Eric Herrick wants to continue their ascent. North Forsyth will do so playing a fast and chaotic style of offense and defense. Even though the Lady Raiders have climbed one classification, their region competition will be largely the same, and North Forsyth will be holding high hopes for the campaign.

NORTH HALL
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 24-8, Region 8-AAA champion, reached Class AAA semifinals
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY PLAYERS: So. G Sydney Cleveland (6 ppg), Sr. G Allie Staub, Sr. G Jordan Nix
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After putting together a historic campaign that included a number of seniors, the Lady Trojans are looking to keep things rolling in 2012-13. North Hall will feature five seniors this season and three sophomores, including Cleveland -- who developed into one of the team’s standouts last campaign. Staub also contributed heavily and will be looked to for more this season, while Nix is returning from a torn ACL in the first game of last season. Despite graduating a tremendous class, the Lady Trojans still have five seniors this season. The Lady Trojans will continue to hang their hats on defense, knowing that it could take some time for the offense to gel after graduating a lot of firepower. Coach Kristi House has been impressed by the work ethic of this team so far and feels it will be ready for an extremely tough Region 7-AAA schedule that includes powerhouse Buford, as well as perennial contenders like East Hall, Fannin County, Dawson County and West Hall.

RABUN COUNTY
-- REGION: 8B-AA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 23-6, reached Class AA first round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. G/F Sally Woerner (led team in rebounds and steals), Sr. PG Meredith Vinson (38% 3-point), Sr. F Darian Newman (8 ppg, 5 rpg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After reaching the state playoffs in five of the past six seasons -- including the state quarterfinals in 2009, ’10 and ’11 -- the Lady Wildcats have built some high expectations. This season, Rabun County wants to improve on last season’s first round state playoff exit, and the Lady Wildcats do feature five seniors and plenty of experience. While Rabun will be a smaller squad this season, the Lady Wildcats will be quick and look to score in transition. Rabun will also look to trap and press on defense, forcing turnovers in bunches.

STEPHENS COUNTY
-- REGION: 8B-AAAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 18-9
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Charity Major, Jr. SF Whitleigh Swinton
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After doubling their win total from 2010-11 last season, The Lady Indians hope to continue their ascent into this campaign. Stephens County coach Anthony Daniel knows his team must blend in some new faces, but the Lady Indians also return some experience, including Major and Swinton. Swinton’s athleticism will make her one of the more dangerous players in Region 8-AAAA. Stephens County will be a relatively small team this season and will rely on their speed and tenacity to make up for that. The Lady Indians will make defense a key this season.

TOWNS COUNTY
-- REGION: 8A-A
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 23-7, Region 8-A champion, reached Class AA second round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. PG Eryn Cochran (10 ppg, 3.9 apg, 3.7 spg), Sr. P Dadrian Blythe (8 rpg, leading returning rebounder), So. SG Stephanie Patton (Region 8-A first team, 10.6 ppg), Jr. PF Kellsie Cowart
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After six straight years of reaching the playoffs and dominating at the region level, the Lady Indians will look to reload again in 2012-13. Towns County returns two big scoring threats in Cochran and Patton -- who was the sixth man off the bench last season -- while Blythe could be a force inside. The Lady Indians did graduate three starters that are now playing in college, including record-breaking 3-point shooter Gabby Arencibia (now at North Georgia). Towns County will continue its up-tempo style and high defensive pressure, and the Lady Indians are curious to see how the GHSA’s new public/private split in the playoffs will affect their postseason hopes.

UNION COUNTY
-- REGION: 8B-AA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 21-9, reached Class AA first round
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. PG Lauren Zollinger (5 ppg), Sr. G Jeanelle Arnold (3 ppg), Sr. G Carly Adams (2 ppg), Sr. PF Shawnna Brown, Sr. G Hannah Hughes.
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Panthers lost a lot of experience from a senior class that won a region title and made three state appearances in their time -- including Becka Merritt (four-year starter, 19 ppg), Catie Tanner, Angie Hughes and Callison Payne. Union will look hard to find a replacement for Angie Hughes' work inside and Merritt's scoring ability from the perimeter. The Lady Panthers will try to take advantage of their guard play, which includes steady contributors Zollinger and Arnold. Brown will be Union County's top option inside.

WEST HALL
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-15
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. F Kaelyn Gattis (9 ppg, leading returning scorer), Sr. F LeNiesha Kearse (7 rpg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After a slow start last season, the Lady Spartans stormed down the stretch, winning seven of their last eight games before falling in the Region 8-AAA tournament to eventual runner-up Chestatee. West Hall hopes to keep that momentum going into 2012-13 and will look to Gattis to help provide a lot of the spark. The Lady Spartans’ leading scorer from a year ago, Gattis is one of three seniors that is providing plenty of leadership for West Hall. The Lady Spartans hope to shoot the ball better this season, and know they will have to bring a few younger players along quickly in order to realize their goals. West Hall knows the schedule will be extremely difficult against teams such as Buford, East Hall, North Hall, Dawson County and Fannin County. The biggest question will be at the point guard, where the Lady Spartans are looking for someone to step up and take command.

WHITE COUNTY
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2011-12 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-14
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. C Riley Slaton (7 ppg), So. W Paige Thomas (6 ppg), Sr. W McKenzie Alexander, Sr. G Brooke Helton, Sr. G Sara Black, Sr. C Cassie Carter, Jr. G Kaitlin Wilson, So. C Abby Craven, So. G Hannah Wall, Jr. W Kaitlyn Gearing
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Wilson, the daughter of Superintendent Jeff Wilson, could be an impact player as a move-in, as well as Wall and Craven, who will be playing their first varsity season. Gearing is the team’s best defender. The Lady Warriors would like to run an up-tempo offense and coach Buster Brown says they will try to go 11 deep to try to get back to the playoffs for the first time in 11 years. “Anyone could start on any given night. We were close last year (to making playoffs) and hopefully we can learn to finish games,” Brown said. “It’s a tough region but our goal is to get to the state tournament.” graduated four of top five scorers.


-- KEY: C, center; F, forward; PF, power forward; SF, small forward; G, guard; PG point guard; SG, shooting guard; W, wing; P, post; ppg, points per game; rpg, rebounds per game; apg, assists per game; spg, steals per game; bpg, blocks per game.
Associated Categories: Sports News, High School Sports

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