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Saturday December 5th, 2020 8:16PM

Boys basketball previews: New classifications, new regions, new coaches, COVID-19 headline upcoming season

By Bo Wilson Sports Editor

Last boys basketball season began with several unknowns simply because eight programs were under new direction. As the 2020-21 boys basketball season tips off, it's much of the same, just add COVID-19 to it.

In total, nine programs around the area are under new direction, and for the third straight season, East Hall will have a new coach roaming the sidelines in Tommy Yancey at Valhalla. Dawson County, who hired former North Forsyth girls coach Eric Herrick last season to lead the team, decided his passion was on the girls' side. So, he quickly jumped at the opportunity to coach Dawson's girls after Steve Sweat's retirement, leaving the boys' job open for the second season in a row. Todd Cottrell was lured away from Lakeview Academy to man the controls for the Tigers. 

Among the other openings, Tyler Sanders left North Hall for Lakeview Academy, while his assistant, Miles Kendall, was elevated to head coach at North Hall. Lanier Christian Academy hired Michael Thurmond to take over for Mike Roberts. Jackson County hired Bryan Parker, Banks County assistant coach Ryan Griffin replaces Mike Cleveland, Michael Parker is the new leader in Lumpkin County, and Robbie Bailey takes over White County.

Last season, nine northeast Georgia teams advanced to the postseason with two making it to the quarterfinals and, one, Jefferson, playing for a championship -- Class 3A. 

As teams begin the season, which starts today, several questions emerge: Not how, but when will COVID-19 and quarantines start slashing games on the schedule? Will Gainesville make a run in the state's largest classification? Can Buford be just as dominant in Class 6A as it was in 5A? Will Jefferson make it back, in Class 4A, after losing several key players? Who wins the ultra-competitive Region 7-3A? And, which team or teams will shock the area?

It's sure to make for an interesting 2020-21 campaign throughout the area. 

We offer you below our 2020-21 season preview of every team in our coverage area.*

(* -- Information provided by coaches or team officials.)


BANKS COUNTY LEOPARDS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Ryan Griffin, 1st season
-- REGION: 8-2A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 25-5, Region 8-2A champions, Class 2A quarterfinals
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: F Carl Cleveland
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G/P Pierce Martin, Sr. G Clay Gosnell, Sr. P Dakota Orr 
-- STRENGTHS: The Leopards return a solid group of experienced players this season. New coach Ryan Griffin says they’ll focus on group production which should make the Leopards a more potent offense.
-- QUESTIONS: The Leopards will transition from former coach Mike Cleveland to Griffin this season but it shouldn’t pose a huge problem as Griffin was Cleveland’s top assistant last season. 
-- KEY GAMES: Banks County should enter the new Region 8-2A as the favorite to win again this season. They do welcome newcomer Riverside to the region. 


BUFORD WOLVES
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Eddie Martin, 6th season
-- REGION: 8-6A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 22-7, Region 8-5A champs, Class 5A quarterfinals
-- KEY PLAYERS LOSSES: Caleb Williams, Sebastian Augustave, James Munlyn, Carson Bell
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G Connor Johnson, Jr. PG Caleb Blackwell (8.7ppg, 4.1apg, 3.7rpg), Jr. F Jaylon Taylor (6-5, 8.2ppg, 5.3rpg), Jr. G Alahn Sumler, Jr. F Hysan Dalton, So. F London Williams (8.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg), So. G Malachi Brown
-- STRENGTHS: Martin says his team should be a good defensive team which will come in handy in a new region that features perennial powers Lanier and Dacula. 
-- QUESTIONS: With the loss of leading scorer Sebastian Augustave, the Wolves will be a work in progress on offense. Martin says the Wolves are lacking consistency on that side of the court. If it comes along quickly, the Wolves, as usual, will be in the hunt for another region title and state tournament run.
-- KEY GAMES: Entering a new region with rivals Lanier and Dacula will be new to the Wolves as they’ve dominated Region 8-5A for the last four years. Now, they’ll face some meaningful and contested region contests. As Martin says, all Region 8-6A games are important. 


CHEROKEE BLUFF BEARS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Benjie Wood, 3rd season 
-- REGION: 7-3A 
-- 2018-19 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 18-12, second round of Class 3A tournament
-- KEY PLAYERS LOSSES: G Griffin Neville (Young Harris-commit), P Jason Evrett, G Bosko Norman
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. P Corey Thomas (6-9), Sr. G Shad Dabney, Sr. G Jaylon Justice, So. G Cade Simmons, So. G Dre Raven, So. G Carlos Marlow
-- STRENGTHS: Despite the graduation losses, the Bears return a deep bench that includes three sophomores that should provide defensive help and potential scoring threats from the perimeter. 
-- QUESTIONS: The Bears will be searching for much-needed senior leadership and offensive production after the graduation of Griffin Neville and Bosko Norman. Wood is expecting Thomas to help fill that void.
-- KEY GAMES: Besides its familiar county rivals, key matchups will come early this season against Class 7A Grayson and Mill Creek. Perennial region foe, Dawson County, will be a much-anticipated rivalry this year as well. 


CHESTATEE WAR EAGLES
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Josh Travis, 2nd year
-- REGION: 8-4A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 13-16, first round of state playoffs
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: Jonah Bull (13.3 ppg) – All-Region Team / Lanierland All-Tournament Team, Brenton Nicholson (16.7 ppg) – All-Region Team
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. Ethan Corley, Sr. Ethan Popham, So. Hugh Pruitt 
-- STRENGTHS: With three returning starters, the War Eagles will look to their depth in navigating a new Region 8-4A. Travis says he has 12 players competing for playing time this season.
-- QUESTIONS: The War Eagles lost their two leading scorers, Bull and Nicholson, to graduation. Travis says replacing those two is a major question mark heading into the season. 
-- KEY GAMES: The War Eagles will play in a new region with new and familiar faces. East Hall, Jefferson, North Oconee and Madison County are newcomers to the region, while Flowery Branch moved over from Region 7-4A. Travis says East Hall, Madison County and North Oconee will be key games as they look to make a second straight trip to the Class 4A state tournament.


COMMERCE TIGERS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Russ Gregg, 4th season 
-- REGION: 8-A Public
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-15
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: 0
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 5
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. SG Creed Dunbar (6-4, 9.7 ppg), Sr. C Ian McConnell (6-4, 14.1 ppg, 9.3 rpg), Sr. Shawn Cunningham (9.5 ppg), Dr. Dominic Ricci (9.3 ppg), So. G Jackson Morris (67 assists), So. G Matthew Simpson, So. G Cayden Lord
-- STRENGTHS: The Tigers return a ton of speed and quickness to the lineup this season and with the two players over 6-foot-3, they’ll rely on an up-tempo pressing style of defense.
-- QUESTION: Commerce will have to navigate the 2020 part of the schedule without football players and leading scorers Dunbar and McConnell. 
-- KEY GAMES: The Tigers will play in a new region this season with no private schools competing for the region title. Commerce made a huge improvement last season, winning 10 more games than the previous season. With everybody returning this season, the Tigers will be in the hunt for their first state tournament berth since 2012. 


DAWSON COUNTY TIGERS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Todd Cottrell, 1st season
-- REGION: 7-3A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 25-3, Region 7-3A Champions, first round of Class 3A tournament
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Jasper Gibson, G Campbell Reed, F Eli Burress, G Tate Adkins, F Brody Howell, F Bryson Broadway, G Mason Barnes (transferred to Lambert)
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 0
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G Ty Whitmire, Sr. F Max Tierney, Sr. F Luke Smith, Sr. G Jake Craft, Sr. G Joakeim Celestin, Sr. G Tyler Lane 
-- STRENGTHS: Cottrell says he really likes his team’s attitude and work ethic and believes that will be the key to making a run in Region 7-3A. 
-- QUESTIONS: With a new starting lineup, the Tigers will have to jell quickly. Cottrell says it’ll be interesting to see how fast, and how well, his players will adjust to new roles. An improvement over the course of the season will be key for the Tigers.  
-- KEY GAMES: The Tigers will be tested early before they begin a tough and balanced Region 7-3A schedule. They are scheduled to play Creekview in the North Forsyth Raider Classic tipoff tournament on Saturday as well as non-region games at Class 6A No. 4 Lanier and Roswell. 


EAST HALL VIKINGS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Tommy Yancey, 1st season
-- REGION: 8-4A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 6-18
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G TJ Campbell, G Treveon Newsome
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. PG Zion Cheeks, Jr. G/F Christian Torres, Sr. G Imre Earls, So. G Levi Holtzclaw, So. G/F Cletus Agborsangaya, Jr. G Clete Cooper
-- STRENGTHS: The Vikings return a deep group of guards that have plenty of quickness.
-- QUESTIONS: The biggest question mark is a new coach for the Vikings. It’ll be the third in as many years for the program. The Vikings have stability in new coach Tommy Yancey, but how they respond will be the biggest question. 
-- KEY GAMES: The Vikings were forced to move up to Class 4A after the latest round of GHSA realignments and fell into a region that houses Class 5A runner-up Cedar Shoals and Class 3A runner-up Jefferson. Yancey marks those games as key in their hopes to make the Class 4A state tournament this season. He also says North Hall (11/21), Cherokee Bluff (12/28) and Gainesville (2/2) as key games this season. 


EAST JACKSON EAGLES
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Jarvis Smith, 2nd season
-- REGION: 8-3A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 15-10
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: 0
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 4
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G Makayl Rakestraw (All-Region, 22 ppg, 4 rpg, 4 apg),
Sr. G/F RJ White (All-Region HM, 12 ppg), Sr. G Kendrick Carson (6 apg, led the team), Sr. G/F Greg Huggs (Team rebounding and 3-point percentage leader) 
-- STRENGTHS: With the return of the entire backcourt, the Eagles will have a strong guard play.
-- QUESTIONS: The frontcourt is where the Eagles will need to find some help this season as post play will be important in the new Region 8-3A.
-- KEY GAMES: East Jackson will open against Troup County on Saturday followed by a non-region slate including Cherokee Bluff, Cedar Shoals and Glynn Academy before opening region play at home against Oconee County on Jan. 8.


FLOWERY BRANCH FALCONS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Jay Burney, 2nd season 
-- REGION: 8-4A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 1-25
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: F Judson Burney, leading scorer and rebounder
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: G Trevor Gurske (5"11),  G Trey Shaw (5"11)
-- STRENGTHS: The Falcons are entering their second season in Burney's system and have a better understanding of the way things work. They'll also have a deeper bench in 2020.
-- QUESTIONS: Flowery Branch lost its leading rebounder to graduation and returns more guards than post players, so play in the paint is a huge question entering the season. Offensively, Burney says being consistent shooting the ball also is a concern. 
-- KEY GAMES: The Falcons will test their lineup against North Murray in a Thanksgiving tournament next week followed by games against West Hall, Habersham Central and Lumpkin County before opening region play at Chestatee on Dec. 11.


GAINESVILLE RED ELEPHANTS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Chuck Graham, 3rd season
-- REGION: 6-7A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-15, Lanierland champions, Region 8-6A runner up, first round of Class 6A state tournament 
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Dee Buffington, G/F Walt Dixon, G Donsha Gaither, G Lavoy Hill
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 2
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G/F Robert Reisman (6-2, All-Region), Sr. G/F Eli Pitts (6-3, All-Region), Sr. G Dylan Bobga, Sr. G Luke Blackburn, Sr. F Ced Nicely, Sr. G Jimmie Jackson (All-Region)  
-- STRENGTHS: The Red Elephants return a solid senior group that Graham says “has experienced all you can experience in high school basketball.” Gainesville also has underclassmen experience returning as well. 
-- QUESTIONS: The Red Elephants make the jump to Class 7A and a new region this season.
-- KEY GAMES: Big Red will open the season against Collins Hill, followed by several key non-region games before starting the Region 6-7A grind at West Forsyth.


HABERSHAM CENTRAL RAIDERS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Cody Anderson, 2nd season
-- REGION: 8-6A
-- 2019-2020 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 7-19
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: F Grayson Adams, G Micah Ward, G Josh Pickett (Enrolling early at Duke)
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: So. PG Malachi Dooley (5-11, 15.4 ppg, 5.3 apg, 2.2 stl, 3.4 rpg, All-Region)
-- STRENGTHS: Anderson says this team is a lot more skilled than in years past and has good depth at the guard position. The Raiders could be a much better shooting team this season and will look to space out their opponents to open up the lane for Dooley. Defensively, Anderson believes they’ll be a good half-court team. 
-- QUESTIONS: The lack of experience is the biggest question mark for the Raiders. Outside of Dooley and Sr. Grant Tipton, the Raiders have very little varsity experience returning this season. Anderson hopes freshman Bryce Pittman will be able to contribute right away. The Raiders also are smaller than last season with the loss of Adams, Ward and Pickett -- all over 6-foot-2, which will handicap them on the boards this season. 
-- KEY GAMES: The Raiders will play in the Piedmont Hardwood Tournament next week and will have a string of non-region games to get them ready for the Region 8-6A opener at No. 4 Lanier.


JACKSON COUNTY PANTHERS
COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Bryan Parker, 1st season
REGION: 8-5A
2020-21 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 7-15
RETURNING STARTERS: 3
KEY PLAYER LOSSES: 0
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. SF Kalib Clinton (All-Region/All-State), Sr. G Kedric Zimmer, Jr SF Bryce Blake, Fr. Trentyn Flowers
STRENGTHS: The Panthers return a solid group of seniors to lead them into a new classification in 2020-21
QUESTIONS: The Panthers opted to move up to Class 5A from Class 3A when the GHSA realigned classifications earlier this year. How Jackson County will respond is the biggest question mark for new coach Parker.
KEY GAMES: Parker says every region game is key as they attempt to make the Class 5A state tournament in 2021. 


JEFFERSON DRAGONS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Kevin Morris, 4th season
-- REGION: 8-4A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Region 8-3A championship, Class 3A state runner-up
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: Jacob Radaker, Owen Parker, Daniel Parker
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jr. Malaki Starks, Sr. Kam Robinson, Sr. Spencer Darby
-- STRENGTHS: With the return of Robinson, Darby and Starks, the Dragons have a solid guard trio of lead them into a new Region 8-4A
-- QUESTION MARKS: The Dragons will have to wait on Starks and Robinson, among other players, to get off the football field before they’ll be at full strength. As coach Morris says, once that happens, they should be ready to make a run after the first of the year. 
-- KEY GAMES: The Dragons will navigate a new region and classification this season but should be the early favorite to win Region 8-4A. In the meantime, they'll open the season on Saturday, Nov. 21 against Hebron Christian in the Jackson EMC tournament, two straight against Banks County before opening region play at Madison County on Dec. 11.


JOHNSON KNIGHTS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Chris Guthrie, 2nd season
-- REGION: 8-5A 
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 4-22
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Jesse Harbin
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 0
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G Wade Pierce (6-2), Sr. G Scott Odum (6-0), Sr. G Jose Cabrerra (5-11), Jr. G Jackson Vandiver (6-4), Jr. G Dayshun Summerour (5-10), Jr. F Jake Shaw (6-6), Sr. G Marcos Santiago (6-4), Jr. G Alex Flores (5-8)
-- STRENGTHS: Although the Knights lost their starting rotation to graduation, they return size in the paint and skill outside and as Guthrie says a smart coachable group that is willing to put in the work.
-- QUESTIONS: The Knights aren't up-to-speed yet on the defensive side of the ball which could hurt them early on. Guthrie says they have to be able to guard people and limit the easy baskets and the lack of game experience will force them to grow up quickly.
-- KEY GAMES: Johnson opens on the road Saturday at Lumpkin County, followed by another road trip to Chestatee before opening region play against Clarke Central. Guthrie says the early games are key for the Knights to gain confidence and start building on a good foundation.


LAKEVIEW ACADEMY LIONS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Tyler Sanders, 1st season
-- REGION: 6-A Private
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 11-16
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Holden Cooper, F Sam Stewart
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3 
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G Declan Weidner, Sr. G Conley Millwood, Sr. C Ben Montgomery, Jr. G Harrison Cooper
-- STRENGTHS: The Lions return experience in Weidner, Millwood, Montgomery and Cooper as well as some in the sophomore class. It gives Sanders a solid base to build on, especially when the football players are able to join the program. 
-- QUESTIONS: Sanders says there are a lot of question marks heading into the season. As he says, a new coach, a new system and the lack of summer team camps have the team a bit behind. Sanders also says building team chemistry will be key and hopes to improve that as the season goes along. 
-- KEY GAMES: The GHSA completely divided Class A into Public and Private which sent the Lions to the toughest Class A Public or Private region in the state. St. Francis, back-to-back Class A Private champs and Class A Private semifinalists Mt. Pisgah return as the region favorites. After that, Sanders says there are a lot of unknowns in the region.  


LANIER CHRISTIAN LIGHTNING
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Michael Thurmond, 1st season
-- REGION: GAPPS 1-3A Region 2 
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 6-13
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: PF Thomas Avery
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: SR. PF Trevin Last (6-4, All-State, All-Region, GAPPS All-Star), SR. SF Bo Souther (6-1), SR. SG Samuel Collins (5-11), JR. PG Luke Winkler (5-10) 
-- STRENGTHS: The Lightning return strong leadership and a group of solid scorers this season.
-- QUESTION: Thurmond says responding to adversity and playing together as a team will be key in making a run this season.
-- KEY GAMES: LCA will get three non-region games to tune up for region play. They’ll open the region schedule  at home against Covington Academy on Dec. 7


LUMPKIN COUNTY INDIANS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Michael Parker, 1st season
-- REGION: 7-3A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 8-17
-- KEY PLAYERS LOSSES: G Pat Jackson, F Peyton Polk, G Jacob Cumbie
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 3 
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. PG Gus Faulkner, Sr. F Brian Cunane, Sr. SG Chandler Pulley
-- STRENGTHS: Parker says the team’s work ethic has been outstanding, and the chemistry is developing into a strength. He attributes that to the leadership of Faulkner, a three-year starter, who Parker says is battle-tested and leads by example.
-- QUESTIONS: The Indians lost their top-three scorers and rebounders off last year’s team. Parker will have to replace 46 ppg and 22 rpg. The added lack of experience won't make it easy for Parker and his staff, but he says he “feels good about the guys we have on our team and is excited about seeing who competes and earns minutes on a daily basis in practice and in early games.”
-- KEY GAMES: The Indians have several key non-region games, Johnson (11/21), Habersham Central (11/24), North Forsyth (12/1) and Flowery Branch (12/8) before opening region play at home against rival Dawson County. 


NORTH HALL TROJANS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Miles Kendall, 1st season
-- REGION: 7-3A
-- 2018-19 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 18-11, first round Class 3A tournament
-- KEY PLAYERS LOSSES: P Luke Gunter, G Ty Smith, P Luke Volle, G JT Fair, P Luke Gunter, P Matthew Gunter, G Samir Huete, G Brock Cooper, G JT Fair
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: G Clark Howell (All-Region)
-- STRENGTHS: The Trojans return a fundamentally strong, good shooting, deep and youthful roster.
-- QUESTIONS: Kendall is searching for a strong point guard and a reliable starting five. He'll continue to evaluate during the non-region part of the schedule.
-- KEY GAMES: The Trojans will open at home against county rival East Hall on Saturday, Nov. 21. They'll play top-five ranked Hart County twice, Habersham Central and Chestatee once before opening up region play at Cherokee Bluff on Dec. 8. 


RABUN COUNTY WILDCATS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: David Adcock, 3rd season 
-- REGION: 8-2A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 9-16
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Sam Adams
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 4
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jr. G/F Connor McKay (All-Region, 15 ppg, 5 rpg, 4 apg, 2.4 blks, 52 percent field goal percentage), Jr. PG Gus Hood (10 ppg, 5 apg, 2.5 stls), Jr. SG Grayson Carver (10 ppg, 3 apg, 2 stls, 42 percent 3-point percentage), Jr. F Clayton Dixon (10 ppg, 5 rpg)
-- STRENGTHS: Although the Wildcats have no seniors this year, they return a boatload of talented leadership. Adcock says the biggest strengths are depth, offensive balance and defensive intensity. They also return five guys to the guard rotation that can handle the ball. Adcock also said, “there is an excitement about this season, and we expect to get back to where this program was six years ago.”
-- QUESTIONS: The Wildcats lack of size in the paint could limit them on the boards, but Adcock said they will put a major focus on defending the paint and rebounding as a unit and are getting closer to where he feels the team needs to be to control the defensive side of the floor.
-- KEY GAMES: Because of the new smaller Region 8-2A, Adcock has scheduled some quality non-region opponents to prep for a possible post-season run. The Wildcats will open against Class 3A opponents Stephens County (12/1, 12/8), Dawson County (12/15) and Franklin County (12/18) before opening region play at home against Union County. The Wildcats also have Class 4A Jefferson on the schedule twice. 


TOWNS COUNTY INDIANS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Robert Benson, 5th season
-- REGION: 8-A
-- 2018-19 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 18-9, first round of Class A Public tournament
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Jacob Kinsley
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 4
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jr. Kolby Moss (18 ppg), Jr. Aidan Berrong (9 ppg), So. Collin Crowder (8 ppg, 7 rpg).
-- STRENGTHS: The Indians only lost one starter from last year's state playoff team and have a deep bench heading into the season.
--QUESTIONS: Although the Indians have a deep roster, team chemistry is a concern to Benson. If the Indians can find the right combination, a deep playoff run could be on the horizon.
-- KEY GAMES: The Indians have a solid non-region schedule with Union County, Rabun Gap and Copper Basin, Tenn. slated. They'll open region play on Dec. 18 at home versus Social Circle. 


UNION COUNTY PANTHERS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL: Corey Garrett, 2nd season. 
-- REGION: 8-2A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 15-12, first round of Class 2A tournament. 
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Pierson Allison (1,000-career points), G Sawyer Drake (1,000-career points)
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. G Kaston Hemphill, Jr. G Lake Hughes, Jr. G Landon Kight
-- STRENGTHS: Garrett says his team, although young, has a great attitude, work ethic and balance.
-- QUESTIONS: The biggest question mark this season will be inexperience.
-- KEY GAMES: The Panthers play in a new region with some of the same opponents but open the season against several bigger programs. Their first region game is set for Jan. 5 at Rabun County.


WEST HALL SPARTANS
-- COACH, YEARS AT SCHOOL:  Bobby Pless, 5th season
-- REGION: 8-4A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 9-20, Lanierland Tournament runner-up
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: SG Sawyer Passmore, G Colton Smith, W Canaan Koger
-- RETURNING STARTERS: 1
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. PG Braden Simms, Sr. SF Chase Reed, Sr. G Sterling Morales, Jr. PG Bryce Pressley, Jr. W Calvin Norman, Jr. F Jackson Young, So. F Andrew Malin, So. G Owen Jenkins, So. W Noah LeGualt. 
-- STRENGTHS: The Spartans are young but have depth and return a versatile group down the roster. 
-- QUESTIONS: How that depth improves is the biggest question mark for Pless. He believes it will continue to improve throughout the season and hopes the Spartans will be in the hunt for a state playoff berth.
-- KEY GAMES: The Spartans open region play early with a road trip to North Hall, then a trip to Oconee County before playing host to Cherokee Bluff on Dec. 15. The Spartans will have two region games under their belts before they begin the Lanierland tournament. 


WHITE COUNTY WARRIORS
-- COACH/YEARS AT SCHOOL: Robbie Bailey, 1st season
-- REGION: 7-3A
-- 2019-20 RECORD/ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-14
-- KEY PLAYER LOSSES: G Will Sampson
-- KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Sr. F Cooper Turner (10.6 ppg), Jr. SG Silas Mulligan (13.2 ppg, All-Region), So. PG Jadon Yeh (11.9 ppg, All-Region HM) 
-- STRENGTHS: The Warriors have a ton of depth returning this season and most of that is athletic. 
-- QUESTIONS: The Warriors’ football team is poised to make a run in the Class 3A playoffs which will keep several key players off the hardwood. Bailey says the biggest question mark is how quickly those players jell with the team once they return. 
-- KEY GAMES: The Warriors will use a competitive non-region schedule to iron out all the kinks before region play begins in December. They’ll play at Banks (11/20), Habersham Central (11/28) and South Forsyth (12/5) before traveling to Dawson County on Dec. 8 to begin the region slate. 

--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.

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While going back to the basics includes working on fundamentals, to North Hall coach David Bishop, it means more than that.
7:01AM ( 2 days ago )
High School Sports
Basketball: Lumpkin boys win third straight
Jones Harris and Chandler Pulley combined for 39 points to Lumpkin County past White County, 64-62, in overtime to capture the Piedmont College Hardwood Classic championship.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:14PM ( 3 days ago )
Basketball: Lakeview girls, Habersham boys shoot past Chestatee
Joelle Snyder scored a game-high 28 points in a 53-47 loss to Jackson County in the second round of the Piedmont Classic Tournament on Wednesday.
By AccessWDUN Staff
9:33PM ( 3 days ago )
Girls basketball: Towns wins 2OT thriller in opener; GHS; Buford, Banks all get wins
Towns County took a thrilling 43-42 double-overtime win over rival Union County on Tuesday night in both teams' season openers...
By AccessWDUN Staff
6:57AM ( 4 days ago )
Boys basketball: Big 3rd quarter sends Vikings to first win
East Hall used a big third quarter to pull away for a 52-37 win over Apalachee on Monday night in boys basketball action...
By AccessWDUN Staff
8:35PM ( 5 days ago )
Boys basketball: Parker gets first for Indians; LCA takes tourney title
The Michael Parker-era at Lumpkin County got off to a strong start Saturday night...
By AccessWDUN Staff
8:52AM ( 6 days ago )