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(VIDEO) 2017-18 Girls Basketball: Expectations running high for area squads once again

By AccessWDUN Staff
Posted 7:00AM on Tuesday 14th November 2017 ( 1 week ago )

Northeast Georgia has put out plenty of great girls basketball teams through the years, a number of which have won or played for state championships.

Perhaps no campaign has featured as many quality teams as last season, however, producing one state champ (Buford), a state runner-up (Rabun County), two semifinalists (Flowery Branch and Lakeview Academy) and several quarterfinalists, as well as a West Hall team that lost (by three points) to eventual Class AAAA champ Columbus

And the good news for teams and fans alike is that many of the players and coaches that made last season so incredible are back for another crack.

Buford and Flowery Branch are once again stocked with talent and experience, while West Hall, Rabun and Lakeview each have starters back from last season.

That does not mean it's all about repeat, however, as there are seven new head coaches set for the maiden voyages with their respective programs (at Habersham Central, Jackson County, Johnson, Lanier, Lumpkin County, Towns County and Union County), as well as three more (Banks County, Stephens County, White County) set for their second campaigns -- seasons that so often set the stage for how a program will fair under its coach.

That said there are plenty of veterans roaming the sidelines, including six coaches who have been with their schools for more than 10 seasons -- Gene Durden (13 years with Buford), Web Daniel (13 with Chestatee), Steve Sweat (11 straight and 21 overall with Dawson County), Suzianne Pass (11 with Fannin County), Jason Gibson (11 with Jefferson) and DeeDee Dillard (12 with Rabun County).

In short, fans can expect plenty more fireworks in the nights ahead. To see how your team stacks up scroll down...

(NOTES:Teams listed alphabetically. ... For a key on abbreviations scroll to bottom.)

2017-18 GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL PREVIEWS

BANKS COUNTY
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Steven Shedd, second season (19-9 record at school)
-- REGION: 8-AA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 19-9, Region 8-AA runner-up, reached first round Class AA state playoffs
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 4
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. PF Jaycie Bowen (13 ppg, All-Region in 2016-17), Sr. SF/PG Allison Smith (11 ppg, All-Region in 2016-17), Jr. PF/SF Amber Williams, Jr. PG Kailynn Gilstrap, Sr. PG/SG Lauren Shedd, Jr. SG/SF Maddie Thomas
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Leopards battled youth and consistency issues last season but hope those days are behind them thanks to the experiences gained. With four starters back and further experience on the roster, Banks County is hoping to make a run at the 8-AA crown and a deep playoff push. Players like Bowen will be key to that hope. The 5-foot-11 post is a physical presence that led the team in scoring but is also a defensive stopper. She has improved her mid-range and 3-point shooting as well. Smith is also a perimeter threat, while the return of Shedd, who missed last season due to illness, will only add to Banks' verastility. Coach Shedd believes the team has a strong mix of speed and strength and expects them to be a threat both inside and out.

BUFORD
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Gene Durden, 13th season (317-65 record at school, 750-209 overall)
-- REGION: 8-AAAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 29-2, Region 8-AAAAA champion, Class AAAAA state champion
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. PG Tory Ozment (15 ppg, 4 apg, Class AAAAA Player of the Year, Michigan St. commit), Sr. SG Audrey Weiner (10 ppg, All-State, Air Force commit), Sr. P Jessica Nelson (8 ppg, 6 rpg, Division I offers), Sr. W/P Sierra Sieracki, Sr. W Mary Walters 
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After winning a state championship by an average differential of 30 points per game (its fifth crown under Durden), Buford returns six of its top 10 players from its rotation last year. As with any team under Durden, expect Buford to play an aggressive, hustling, pressing defense from the full court to the half court. The Lady Wolves will also play a fast-paced transition game on offense. This year’s team has several players that can score in a variety of ways and depth and versatility should be a strength -- Nelson and Sieracki can score inside, while Ozment, Weiner and Walters can light up defenses from beyond the 3-point arc. The Lady Wolves will try to wear teams down with defensive and offensive pressure and player depth. A challenging schedule that includes state powers, Norcross, Collins Hill, Wesleyan, Harrison, Lambert and Lovejoy should prepare the Lady Wolves for another postseason run.

CHESTATEE 
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Web Daniel, 13th season (208-124 record at school)
-- REGION: 7-AAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 20-8, Region 7-AAAA runner-up, reached first round Class AAAA playoffs
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Lindsay Caudell (16.5 ppg, 8 rpg, All-Region, Young Harris commit), Sr. G Peri Satterfield (6 ppg, 2 spg), So. G Maggie McNair (5 ppg, 3 rpg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: With just three seniors on the roster, the Lady War Eagles know they must undergo a baptism of fire early in the season, and Daniel set a schedule to do just that with contests against North and West Forsyth, as well as a spot in the Carrollton Christmas Tournament (not to mention Lanierland). That said, the veteran players on the team -- including the standout Caudell -- impressed throughout last season and should be able to provide leadership and the kind of play that will help a talented younger group live grow. The 7-AAAA schedule will be tough, but the successful tradition Daniel has set for the Lady War Eagles means that they will approach the campaign with high expectations. 

COMMERCE
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Brad Puckett, fourth season (37-43 record at school)
-- REGION: 8-A
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 3-22
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 5
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. G Autumn Mathis, Jr. P Jeanece Smith, Jr. P Mackenzie McRee, Jr. P Marae Carruth, So. G Shatoya Johnson, Sr. G Gracie Hamilton
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Tigers battled through a transition season in 2016-17, replacing all five starters; now they hope to make that experience pay off in 2017. McRee is a leader on the floor that will look to lead the turnaround of a versatile group of players that also includes a big freshman class. Athletic guards Maggie Mullis and Bryanna Sanders and post Emma Davis could all see significant playing time, while sophomore post Ragan Allen should also see plenty of minutes. Commerce spent much of the summer working on versatile defenses, and it paid off with plenty of turnovers and transition points.

DAWSON COUNTY 
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Steve Sweat, 11th straight season, 21st overall -- (516-313 record)
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-18, Region 7-AAA runner-up, Class AAA state quarterfinalist
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 5
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. W Kaylee Sticker (14.3 ppg, 5 rpg), Sr. PG Abi Chatham (8 ppg), Sr. W Calli Watson (5 ppg), Jr. P Anna Lowe (7 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Sr. P/W Emma Brown (4 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Sr. P Cadey Ayers (4 ppg, 3 rpg), Sr. G Kati Brady (2 ppg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Tigers opened last season as an inexperienced squad -- and finished it off as one of the most improved in the state, storming through to the Region 7-AAA tournament final and into the Class AAA "Elite Eight." And now they hope to continue that ascent into this season. With plenty of experience back from last year, Dawson has much reason for optimism. Sticker and Chatham proved their worth last season, and with a tested starting lineup, Sweat has options galore. Add in Jr. P Maggie Schandera, So. G Chloe Bennett and So. P Marlie Townley and the Lady Tigers have the depth to rotate and keep the pressure on opposing teams. If they can continue last year's ascent there could be big things afoot again for a program that has progressed past the first round of state in each of the last five seasons.

EAST HALL 
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Justin Wheeler, fifth season (72-44 record at school)
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 16-11, reached first round Class AAA state playoffs
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 4
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Carly Winters (14.7 ppg, school record holder for made 3-pointers in a game, 10, season, 115, and career, 252, Georgia State signee), Sr. G Summer Lindsey (school record 41 charges taken last season), Sr. W Macy Thomas, Jr. G Jenny Lopez
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: With 12 players and four starters back from last season, you might think the Lady Vikings are a veteran group overall -- but there is still plenty of youth on the roster. The good news is that coach Wheeler expects that group to only get better as the season progresses against a tough schedule. And there is certainly an established corps of leadership at the top in Winters, Lindsey and Thomas. Winters and Thomas are both deadly oustide shooters, while Lindsey is not afraid to get physical inside. The squad went undefeated through the regular season 7-AAA schedule last season only to finish as the fourth seed for the playoffs. This group will look to learn from that and improve their postseason this time around. If players like Lopez can step up East Hall could be in for another big season.

EAST JACKSON 
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Matthew Gibbs, fifth season (35-95 record at school)
-- REGION: 8-AAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 11-15
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. G Abbie Howington (8.4 ppg, 4 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.8 spg), Sr. G Grace Moore (3.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 1 apg), Sr. G/F Annice Pittman (1.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1 spg), Sr. G/F Shiquita Sturdivant, Fr. PG Kenzie Whitehead 
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Eagles tied their own program record for wins last season and hope to continue their upward trend again this season. East Jackson will vary styles and tempo to fit its personnel and game situations, and with three starters back and another senior contributor, the team should be able to show some versatility this campaign. Whitehead could be a key addition, as she impressed over the summer in running the team. The Region 8-AAA will be tough with state power Morgan County in the schedule, but East Jackson is focused on making strides in region play.

FANNIN COUNTY
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Suzianne Pass, 11th season
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 8-17
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. P Makenzie McClure (second on team in rebounds), Sr. G Maddie Johnson, Sr. G Morgan Patton, Sr. G Savada Collins, Jr. G Maleah Stepp, So. G Morgan Holt
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Rebels have plenty of variables at play heading into the season. First the bad: Fannin is already dealing with a number of injuries that could require Pass to juggle the line-up and play some younger players. There is good, however, in that the Lady Rebels' new faces will aid their quickness and defense. In fact, you can expect Fannin to press more effectively in 2017-18. And if the injuries prove short-lived the Lady Rebels do have experience returning to a program looking to get back to the traditions that saw them be a playoff regular during the past 30 years.

FLOWERY BRANCH 
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Courtney Newton, third season (53-9 record at school)
-- REGION: 8-AAAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 24-7, Lanierland champion, Region 8-AAAAA runner-up, Class AAAAA state semifinalist
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Taniyah Worth (All-State in 2016-17, 2-time All-Region, 2-time Lanierland MVP, Alabama commit), Sr. PG Lexie Sengkhammee (All-Region 2016-17, Emmanuel College commit), Jr. G Caroline Wysocki, Jr. G Ashley Woodroffe
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Falcons continued their ascent to one of the power programs across not just northeast Georgia but the entire state last season, competing neck-and-neck with eventual state champion Buford in region. And with a talented and seasoned group of seniors leading the way the Branch expects to be right back in the hunt in 2017-18. Worth is certainly an All-Star, and Sengkhammee is one of the more dangerous shooters in the region. Expect the Branch to continue its aggressive styles of offense and defense. The first showdown with Buford is scheduled for Dec. 15, followed by the KSA tournament in Orlando, Fla., and Lanierland just after. It's going to be a busy early season, also highlighted by a date with Winder-Barrow.

GAINESVILLE 
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Brenda Hill-Gilmore, seventh season
-- REGION: 8-AAAAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 17-10, Region 8-AAAAAA runner-up, reached first round Class AAAAAA state playoffs
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. PG/SG Tija Blackwell, Sr. PG Jada Harrison, Jr. G/PG Tia Shelton, P Tiya Cantrell
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Red Elephants graduated one of the program's best in Taylor Hawks and will be looking to re-build in the early stages of the campaign. Blackwell will be looked to for points and leadership early on as the team's second leading scorer and rebounder from last season, while Cantrell's return from injury could provide a big boost inside. Other veterans like Harrison and Shelton will be looked to for early leadership. Freshmen who could contribute include Lauren Teasley, Sadie Roach and Kendall Glasper. And Gainesville will look to ride a tough early schedule as it preps for region play.

HABERSHAM CENTRAL
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Bill Bradley, first season at Habersham, 28th year coaching (overall record 465-251)
-- REGION: 8-AAAAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 16-13, reached first round Class AAAAAA state playoffs
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G McKenzie McDuffie, Sr. G Halle Black
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Raiders are under a new head coach for the first time in several seasons and graduated one of the program's all-time leaders in Lainey Gosnell. That said, Habersham returns a corps of seniors (10 in all) that played tough last season and will expect to be competitive again in Region 8-AAAAAA. The Lady Raiders open the campaign with five straight road games, so they will learn a lot about themselves early on.

JACKSON COUNTY
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Monty McClure, first season
-- REGION: 8-AAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 15-12, reached first round Class AAA state playoffs
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. F Carlie Anderson, Sr. F Kendell Clerici
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Panthers are under a new head coach for the first time in several seasons, and McClure wants his team to be known for speed and effort. McClure has two inside presences which he can rely on, but both will also be expected to run the floor. Jackson County knows the Region 8-AAA schedule will be tough, especially with state power Morgan County on the schedule.

JEFFERSON
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Jason Gibson, 11th season (197-108 record at school)
-- REGION: 8-AAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 24-5, Region 8-AAAA champion, Class AAAA state quarterfinalist
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. W Jazmin Allen (12 ppg, 10 rpg, Trevecca Nazarene University commit - DII), Sr. G McKenzie Tyner (10 ppg, 3 spg), Sr. W Akera Benton (3 ppg, 7 rpg), Sr. W/F McKenzie Ulmer (7 ppg, 7 rpg), Sr. C Nia Johnson (4 ppg, 6 rpg), Sr. PG Mariah Starks (5 ppg, 5 apg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: There's excitement surrounding this roster, and it's not hard to see why: six seniors return from last year's state quarterfinal run that ended against eventual Class AAAA runner-up Carver, Columbus. The Lady Dragons will continue their up-tempo style and will make defense a priority -- which should only help in a tough 8-AAAA that saw two teams reach the quarterfinals and another make the Sweet 16 last season. Jefferson is gunning for its third region championship in five seasons and knows it must be set for a battle every night in league play.

 JOHNSON
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Duke Mullis, first season
-- REGION: 8-AAAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 0-25
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. PG Kenny Velasquez, So. SG Tori Smith, So. SF Amy Berry
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After a rough go of it the past few campaigns, the Lady Knights hope that a new coach will help right the ship. Mullis is a veteran campaigner in northeast Georgia and one that has experienced his share of success at programs such as Flowery Branch and West Forsyth boys. His goal is to shape and mold Johnson into a competitive unit that will be playing its best come region tournament time.

LAKEVIEW ACADEMY 
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: John Carrick, seventh season (120-76 record at school)
-- REGION: 8-A
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 26-5, Region 8-A champion, Class A Private state semifinalist 
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: So. PG Jackie Allen (5 ppg, 5 rpg), Jr. P Sadie Thrailkill (5 ppg, 6 rpg), So. G Maddie Towles (2 ppg, 2 rpg), Sr. G Maddie Blackburn (2 ppg, 2 apg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Lions are coming off an incredible season and great multi-year run behind a stellar senior class that included the school's (boys or girls programs) leading scorer in Hannah Grogan. That class is now gone, however, and the Lady Lions will spend the early part of the campaign finding out who is ready to help pick up the slack. There is come experience returning and after making such a deep postseason run, those Lady Lions back on the floor will have much to draw from. That said, a tough non-region schedule could teach some vital lessons for the 8-A schedule, and veteran coach Carrick expects his team to be right back in the thick of 8-A race.

LANIER
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Josh Link, first season
-- REGION: 8-AAAAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 15-10
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 5
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. G Kalen Surles (9 ppg, 4 apg, 5 rpg, 4 spg), Jr. G Mekala Fuller (9 ppg), Sr. G Bailey Bassett (11.6 ppg), Sr. F Jamyah Montissol (11.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg), F Christabel Ezumah (8 rpg) 
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Despite a recent coaching change, the Lady Longhorns have lofty expectations for the upcoming campaign, as they return all five starters and most of their bench. Lanier has balance among its starters as well and will look to make the most of it.

LUMPKIN COUNTY
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: David Dowse, first season (241-142 record as head coach at two other programs)
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 7-19
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. F Mackenzie Pulley, Jr. C/F Ashlynn Wistoski
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: New coach Dowse brings a wealth of experience after coaching at Grayson (2003-07) and McIntosh (2007-2017) and takes over a Lady Indians program that has not reached the state playoffs since 1991. That said, Dowse is excited by what he's seen from his new charges and hopes to make a quick impact in building the program. Dowse says they will look to improve via "discipline, toughness and fundamentals." 

NORTH FORSYTH
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Eric Herrick, seventh season (137-40 record at school, 253-93 overall) 
-- REGION: 5-AAAAAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 21-8, Region 5-AAAAAAA runner-up, reached second round Class AAAAAAA state playoffs
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 5
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. F Cassie Markle (7 ppg, 8 rpg, 3 spg), So. PG Caroline Martin (12.5 ppg, 4 rpg), So. G Amber Jones (8 ppg, 70 made 3-pointers), Catherine Shope (Transfer from King’s Academy, 22 ppg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: When coach Herrick says something like "this is one of the deepest teams I have coached," it should get Lady Raiders fans pretty excited. North Forsyth has been a stalwart in the state bracket since Herrick's arrival, reaching at least the Sweet 16 of the playoffs in all but one of his previous six campaigns, including a quarterfinal appearance in 2014. Last season's team fell to eventual state champ McEachern in the second round, and this year's team figures to build on that experience with plenty of minutes returning. Herrick says his team will be strong at the guard position and has the ability to compete for a region title. Do that in 6-AAAAAAA and you'll likely be in the mix for a state title as well.

NORTH HALL
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Kristi House, eighth season (126-78 record at school)
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 19-11, reached second round Class AAA state playoffs
-- RETURNING STARTERS: Zero
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. P Ansleigh Ferguson, Sr. G Natalie Nixon, So. G Macy Gillespie, Jr. G Macy Clark, Sr. G Camilla Howell
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Trojans have been a consistent winner under House and did so again last season, yet with an entirely new starting five North Hall may expect some early learning moments. That said, House's staff is excited about the work put in this offseason and hopes to be hitting top gear for the start of the Region 7-AAA season -- a region which figures to be stout again this campaign. The roster features a mix of talents that have worked hard in the offseason to mold themselves into starters, and House's staff has shown it is quite capable of building younger players into standouts.

RABUN COUNTY
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: DeeDee Dillard, 12th season (245-66 record at school)
-- REGION: 8-AA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 29-3, Region 8-AA champion, Class AA state runner-up
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Jr. G Georgia Stockton (All-State in 2016-17), Jr. G Brooke Henricks (All-State in 2016-17), Jr. G Kaitlin Coleman, So. PG Laken Stiles 
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Wildcats came achingly close to a state title last season, falling 85-76 to Laney in the championship game, but still put together the best campaign in program history. Yet many of the players that made that run have graduated, and, while Stockton is a standout, Henricks is coming off an ACL repair in late June and her status is uncertain for the season. With that in mind Rabun will be depending heavily on underclassmen in its pursuit of a fourth straight region title. Dillard has proven a great developer of talent, however, and the Lady Wildcats will be eager to see how much they can develop in early season contests before getting to the 8-AA schedule.

STEPHENS COUNTY
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Scott Strickland, second season
-- REGION: 8-AAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 4-22
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. W Anaiah Wilson, Sr. SF Tykia Thompson (All-Region last season, 16 ppg, 12 rpg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Indians featured inexperienced upper classmen in 2016-17 in Strickland's first season but are returning the two key pieces of last years lineup. Stephens County will mix in young group that features talent and skill and expects to be much improved over last year. The Lady Indians will also expect to go at a much faster pace and will feature some defensive pressure while also look to run the floor on offense.

TOWNS COUNTY
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Brian Hunnicutt, first season
-- REGION: 8-A
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 5-19
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. PG Madison McClure (leading scorer in 2016-17), Jr. G Kristen Byers (returning starter), Jr. F Kenzlee Denton, Jr. G Erika Spano, Jr. G Taylor Cornett, 
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: Taking over from longtime coach Jim Melton -- who won close to 350 games with the Lady Indians -- Hunnicutt inherits a program that features a handful of veterans but battled through a tough season a year ago, winning just four games in Region 8-A play and has not been in the state bracket since 2014. Hunnicutt is optimistic, however, and believes this group has the make-up to get back in the thick of things in 8-A.

UNION COUNTY 
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Corey Garrett, first season
-- REGION: 7-AAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-14
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Bailey Daniel (two-time All-Region performer), Jr. G Aubree Pack, So. G Brooke Dockery, So. F Kait McCarter (honorable mention All-Region in 2016-17)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Panthers will be installing new systems of offense and defense this season, so coach Garrett is looking to keep things simple as his new squads creates its identity. Expect Union to move at a faster pace and give opponents little time to rest. Garrett notes that his team has been working hard at getting in the best shape possible and used the word "energy" when asked what he's looking for from the Lady Panthers.

WEST HALL
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Bryan Richerson, fifth season (63-46 record at school)
-- REGION: 7-AAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 23-6, Lanierland runner-up, Region 7-AAAA champion, reached second round Class AAAA state playoffs
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. G Anna Mckendree (19.1 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 apg, 3.4 spg, 1,543 career points), Sr. G Reagan Horton, Sr. G Kylie Passmore, So. F Kinsey Wilson, So. G Aashyah White, So. F Cadie Shirley, Jr. F Kylie Stasierowski
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: After losing by just three points (50-47) to eventual Class AAAA state champ Columbus last season and ripping through much of the last two seasons -- two of the most successful campaigns in program history -- the Lady Spartans find themselves looking at some question marks heading into 2017-18. After graduating four of five starters and the majority of minutes played from seniors Macy Passmore, Avery Prather, Meagan English and Danielle Hinkelman, West Hall will be very much a young team. Certainly the athletic Mckendree is a star, but the question marks surround her supporting cast and who is ready to step into major roles. There are plenty of candidates, but expect West Hall to lean on its defense early to get the job done, as it looks for who else can step up and fill the scoring gaps created by graduation.

WHITE COUNTY 
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Jarvis Davenport, second season (6-19 record at school)
-- REGION: 7-AAAA
-- 2016-17 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 6-19
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 5
-- KEY PLAYERS: Sr. F Rachel Gearing (7 rpg), So. PG Ellie Gearing, Jr. G/F Annabeth Vandiver, Sr. G Kyleigh Johnson (just over 6 ppg), So SG Naomi Crumley (8 ppg)
-- SEASON OUTLOOK: The Lady Warriors underwent a change in basketball philosophy under Davenport last season and experienced a bit of a learning curve. But White County expects that to begin to pay off this season, as they showed in flashes at the end of last season. The Lady Warriors hope to be more efficiently offensively, while continuing to press and play hard defensively.  They will be an up-tempo team with plenty of athletes, including the defensive stopper in Rachel Gearing. Ellie Gearing will be the floor-leader on offense. Meanwhile, So. F Rachel Lovell, So PG/G Bently Cronic, So. P Madi Phillips (who hit for 28 points in one game last season) and Jr. G Sakina Wilmont will look to add depth. If this team continues its progression it could be a factor in 7-AAAA.

-- Key: Sr: senior, Jr: junior, So: sophomore, Fr: freshman, PG: point guard, G: guard, SG: shooting guard, W: wing, F: forward, PF: power forward, SF: small forward, P: post, C: center, PPG: points per game, RPG: rebounds per game, APG: assists per game, SPG: steals per game, FT: free throws.

Buford's Tory Ozment (1) shoots over a host of Flowery Branch defenders during a battle between the two teams during the 2016-17 season. The Lady Wolves won the Class AAAAA title, and the Lady Falcons reached the semifinals last season, and each program expects big things again in 2017-18.

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