4. Collins Hill
2. Douglas County
2. Flowery Branch
3. Southwest DeKalb
6. Villa Rica
7. Warner Robins
10. Harris County
2. Cross Creek
3. West Hall
4. North Oconee
6. Henry County
9. St. Pius X
10. Northwest Whitfield
1. Morgan County
3. Greater Atlanta Christian
9. East Hall
10. Franklin County
2. Putnam County
4. Rabun County
7. Dodge County
8. Heard County
9. Jeff Davis
1. St. Francis
3. Holy Innocents’
5. Our Lady of Mercy
6. Southwest Atlanta Christian
7. Calvary Day
8. Tattnall Square Academy
9. Lakeview Academy
2. Terrell County
3. Taylor County
5. Wheeler County
7. Telfair County
8. Hancock Central
9. Wilcox County
10. Mitchell County
Norcross earns the No. 1 ranking to open up Class AAAAAAA girls play. The Blue Devils finished 25-5 a year ago with a heartbreaking 39-37 loss to Westlake ending their season in the second round. Leading scorer Vash Perry is now at Florida Atlantic, but a powerful senior class led by Miami-commit Taylor Mason paves the way. Mason averaged 10.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game. 5-foot-10 senior Tylia Gillespie has big game experience and returns as the team’s leading scorer at 11.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game. South Florida-commit Vanessa Blagmon averaged 8.1 points as a junior.
McEachern has won three straight state titles and leans on the play of UGA-commit Que Morrison. She averaged 12.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.7 steals as a junior. Chanel Wilson averaged 12 points and 3.6 assists as a sophomore. Senior Lyndsey Whilby (Texas Tech) is another versatile player with size at the forward position. The No. 2 ranked Indians will still be a favorite as one of the most dangerous teams in the state.
No. 3 Archer turns to Bob Westbrook at head coach. He inherits two stalwarts in seniors Autumn Newby and Linsey Marchese. The two compose one of the best one-two punches inside in the state. Marchese, 6-foot-4, is an Indiana-commit that averaged 13.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. Newby, 6-foot-3, is a blue-chipper headed to Vanderbilt. She averaged 12.7 points and 12.6 rebounds. The Tigers have unfinished business after finishing 25-5, but being bounced in the second round by McEachern 87-49.
In short time, Coach Brian Harmon has rebuilt No. 4 Collins Hill into a force to be reckoned with. The Eagles finished 23-4 with a trip to the Sweet 16. Rising sophomore and daughter of Harmon, Purdue-commit Bria Harmon, stars in the backcourt. Collins Hill has size with 6-foot junior Nia Lee, 6-foot-3 sophomore Javyn Nicholson and 6-foot-4 sophomore Jada Rice.
Four seniors graduate from No. 5 Westlake. The Lions went 25-6 and advanced to the Elite Eight where they finally fell to McEachern, 62-45. Region rival Douglas County is now in Class 6A, giving Westlake a seemingly clear path to winning the Region 2-AAAAAAA title and earning a high seed heading into the postseason.
Lexii Chatman enters her junior season with No. 6 Newton. The rangy shooter averaged a team-high 16.3 points per game and banged in 74 threes last year. Jurnee Smith, Erianna Card and Takiya Cotton represent a bright junior class. The Rams posted a 22-7 record in 2015-16 but couldn’t stop Maryland’s Jenna Staiti and West Forsyth, losing to the Wolverines in the Sweet 16, 70-33. Newton returns the bulk of their starting lineup but will need to find a way to slow down talented size as they are placed in Region 8 with Archer’s High Major frontline.
No. 7 Cherokee racked up a 24-6 record as the Warriors advanced to the Elite Eight. West Forsyth ended Cherokee’s fine season 49-39. A young core returns. Lacie McCoy and Olivia Herrera enter their sophomore seasons; McCoy the Warriors’ leading scorer. Junior Laiken Wade and seniors Kaleigh Karl and Havyn Wilson round out an experienced group.
One of the most dominant forwards in Gwinnett County plays at No. 8 Brookwood, a team coming off a 16-9 record dripping with potential. 6-foot-2 senior N’dea Jones is a burgeoning D-I prospect. She averaged 17.7 points, 13.8 rebounds, 2.6 steals and 4 blocks per game. She has talent around her as well with 5-foot-9 Jazmin Robinson (7.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg) and 6-foot Kierra Adams (5.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 3.1 apg) both just entering their sophomore seasons. The Broncos lose no seniors off last year’s team.
No. 9 Woodstock has been a Cherokee County powerhouse for years and will try to sustain the same success after graduating the Sutton Sisters: Region Player of the Year Ashton and First Team All-Region selection Chandler, Maci Jones and Kennedy Montgomery, another All-Region pick. South Alabama-commit Devyn Lowe is healthy for her senior season after missing all of 2015-16. Seniors Taylor Reed, Erin Braxton and Brittany Burnett will be counted on to take another deep trip into the postseason after going 26-4 with a program-best Elite Eight appearance.
April Tate steps in to lead No. 10 Duluth. The former Dutchtown head coach has talent on a team that won just 11 games a year ago. A senior trio of Deja Mitchell, Endia Banks (Miami-commit) and Bree Dixon leads the way. Mitchell averaged 14 points and 7.5 rebounds while Banks chipped in 13.6 points, 7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 2.4 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. Dixon is an athletic Kennesaw State-commit.
No. 1 Winder-Barrow took a Cinderella trip to the state finals after not being ranked out of Region 8-AAAAA and earning the No. 4 seed in the playoffs. The Bulldoggs, who lose just one senior off last year’s team that fell to Southwest DeKalb in the title game 49-48, is a logical pick to open up 2016-17 as the favorites. 6-foot-5 rising junior Olivia Nelson-Ododa exploded onto the scene (17 ppg, 10.6 rpg). She is now ranked the No. 1 post in the Class of 2018 and played with Team USA over the summer. Her shot blocking, rebounding and incredible ability to finish everything inside while keeping the ball high makes her a true five-star prospect. Fellow juniors Latrice Perkins (All-Area Second Team) and Jakayla Sullivan along with senior Lexi Maddox and sophomore All-Area First Teamer Chellia Watson (12 ppg, 4 rpg) give Coach Brandon Thomas more than enough gas in the tank to get over the hump.
No. 2 Douglas County took a trip to the Class AAAAAA Final Four before falling to Tucker 79-67. The Tigers finished 28-2 in the highest classification and are set to return three of their top four players. 6-foot sophomore Amari Robinson is a highly touted prospect that averaged 16.9 points and 9.9 rebounds as a freshman. Rising senior Arsula Clark (ULM) pitched in 14.1 points and 8.6 rebounds while Ashanti Brown, another senior, controlled the paint at 6-foot-1 averaging 7.4 points and 9.2 rebounds as a junior.
Possibly the most electric scorer in the state, reigning Region 6-AAAAA Player of the Year senior guard Kamiyah Street, paces No. 3 Mays. Street poured in 47 points in a Sweet 16 victory over Grovetown before the Raiders fell to Winder-Barrow in the Elite Eight, 51-46. Mays finished 22-8 in a stingy region that was won by Southwest DeKalb. The Raiders are now housed with Douglas County in Region 5. Last season in the second game of the year Douglas County edged Mays 60-56.
No. 4 Grovetown finished 28-2, their only losses to Cross Creek and to Mays. Double-double machine Kwajelin Farrar graduates her 10.6 point, 13.6 rebound per game average, but Coach Jamie Echols returns top scorer and College of Charleston-commit Destiny Marshall. The 5-foot-10 senior averaged 20.8 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.6 steals. 6-foot junior Ayana Collins chipped in 15.1 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4 steals and 1.2 blocks a year ago. Zakira Goldsberry and Elizabeth Metress bring back experience as well. New to the fold is junior Savannah Giles who moves in from Tampa. She is an excellent distributor that averaged 9.3 points per game at Robinson High School.
Jonesboro has built a winning tradition and opens the season at No. 5 after posting a 20-5 record, but falling to Bainbridge 50-49 in the opening round of the Class AAAA state tournament. Leading scorer and Elon-commit Saadia Munford averaged 14.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.4 steals as a junior. 5-foot-11 junior Tenay Minus will have to pick up the scoring left behind by Victoria Sutton. The Cardinals will be battle-tested, playing in a difficult Region 4 which boasts Tucker, Stephenson and Lovejoy along with rival Mt. Zion-Jonesboro.
Harrison could be ranked higher, but terrible news struck the program with 6-foot-6 center Zoe Guilmette having to retire due to a heart condition. With a high D-I prospect now forced to watch from the sidelines, the Hoyas still fight on at No. 6. Harrison went 23-6 in Class AAAAAA and took a trip to the Sweet 16 where Parkview ended their season in double overtime, 47-43. A stable of excellent guards will carry the Hoyas in Rice-commit Sydne Wiggins and juniors Audrey Jordan and Harper Vick.
No. 7 Gainesville posted quality wins galore out of Region 8-AAAAA, leading to a 19-7 record and a 13-2 finish in region play. The Red Elephants faltered in the Sweet 16 against Columbus, 48-42. An important senior class has graduated, but Taylor Hawks is more than capable to carry the load her final season. The 1,000-point scorer averaged 13 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2 steals per game en route to being named All-Region.
Coach Derrick Dewitt has built No. 8 Sequoyah into a feared program that is always well coached. This year the Hartman pipeline has finally run dry, shifting the Chiefs focus to guard play which they are more than adept at. Junior Alyssa Cagle is a diminutive guard that orchestrates the offense with her cool under pressure handles and shooting (9.1 ppg, 3.1 apg). She helped advance the 25-7 “She-Chiefs” to the Final Four where Southwest DeKalb slipped by 55-47. Another junior, Peyton Satterfield, averaged 7.5 points as an efficient floor stretching guard with her three-point shooting. 5-foot-9 senior Lauren Schletty should take on a bigger role this year while 5-foot-9 sophomore Emily Seres showed potential averaging 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a freshman. They will battle in Region 6 with new addition, No. 6 Harrison.
Maria Mangram has turned No. 9 Brunswick into a South Georgia power, racking up a 30-3 record last year before falling in the Final Four to Winder-Barrow, 65-52. The Pirates like to use their high-octane pressure defense all over the floor to cause turnovers and easy baskets. They collected 18.8 steals per game as a team, but top two scorers Jomaiya Garner and Symone Palmer graduate. 5-foot-5 senior Khamiya Blackshear will head Brunswick’s defense after averaging 10.3 points, 3 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 3.5 steals. It will be up to Mangram to develop depth around Blackshear to successfully implement her system.
There is a lot to like about No. 10 Northview, a team that went 16-13 a year ago and nearly snuck past Mountain View in the opening round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs, losing 46-41. The drop out of the state’s highest classification benefits a young group that saw Forsyth’s most dominant programs: South Forsyth (20-6), semifinalist West Forsyth (25-7) and North Forsyth (18-7). Now that the likes of Jenna Staiti and Sarah Myers are no longer thorns in their side and are playing at Maryland, the Titans have a chance to emerge out of Region 7 as a top team. Sizeable rising sophomores saw major success as freshmen last year. 6-foot-2 Ashlee Austin averaged 13.5 points, 9.7 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.4 blocks while 6-footer Maya Richards chipped in 9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks her first year. 5-foot-11 senior guard Shannon Titus is a gifted athlete with D-I interest. The versatile matchup problem averaged 9.9 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 5.9 steals and 3.8 blocks. Building more depth and consistent guard play will be key for the Titans, a program that has never won a region title or made it past the Sweet 16.
Four-time state champion Buford was denied an opportunity for a repeat in Class AAAA, losing to eventual state champion Americus-Sumter in the Final Four, 51-44. It was considered a down year in a major way, as prior to the 2015-16 season, the Wolves had played in six of the last seven state championships and won five straight region titles, North Oconee ending their region dominance in the finals last year, 54-51. The No. 1 ranked Wolves now jump up to Class AAAAA and will lean on a now fully experienced roster that boasted four juniors and six sophomores a year ago. After tearing her ACL and missing her freshman season in 2014-15, 6-foot guard Tory Ozment flashed her big time potential as a sophomore, averaging 10.6 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists while being named Region 8-AAAA Player of the Year and earning Gainesville-Times All-Area Second Team honors. 6-foot-3 junior forward Jessica Nelson also suffered an injury her freshman year and made and impact last season. 5-foot-11 junior Audrey Weiner brings an outside stroke to a hungry Wolves team.
Region 8 goes 1-2, as Flowery Branch takes the No. 2 spot in the poll. The Falcons went 29-2 and 14-1 in the toughest region in the state (R8-AAAAA). They saw an early lead crumble against Brunswick’s pressure in the Elite Eight, getting outscored 21-9 in the fourth quarter, losing 52-47. A great senior class graduates, but Coach Courtney Newton, now in her second year, still has a blend of young and experienced talent. 6-foot-1 junior Taniyah Worth is a burgeoning star that can control games with her ability to do it all. She was an All-Area Second Team pick after averaging 12.1 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.1 steals. 6-foot-2 senior Julianne Sutton is a load to handle inside, another Second Team selection that averaged 10.1 points and 9.1 rebounds. Senior Queen Scott brings athleticism and scoring from the wing while junior Lexie Sengkhammee and sophomore Caroline Wysocki are skilled ball handlers that keep the offense flowing.
It wasn’t pretty (26.4% FG), but No. 3 Southwest DeKalb captured its fifth state title with a 49-48 win over Winder-Barrow. Daisa Alexander (Auburn) bailed out the Panthers on occasion with her 15.6 point per game average and will be sorely missed, but seniors Jada Walton (12.4 ppg) and Stony Brook-commit Chantz Cherry (6.5 ppg) still provide explosiveness in the backcourt. Always long and athletic inside, the Panthers also return 6-foot-3 senior Ogheneruona Uwusiaba to anchor the paint (5.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg). Rising sophomore Raven Thurman and junior Michaela Bennefield are important pieces moving forward. While Alexander (8-29 FG) and Walton (2-25 FG) struggled in the state championship, Thurman keyed the victory shooting 6-of-9 for 13 points and 7 rebounds.
No. 4 Griffin went 23-7 and lost in the Sweet 16 to Carrollton, 62-55. Everyone is set to return for Coach Veronica Lee including 6-foot-3 senior Andeija Puckett, who causes major problems inside. She averaged 17.9 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 4.7 blocks per game. Senior TyLeslie Johnson (7.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 2.8 spg) and junior Nia Flower (7.3 ppg, 3.3 spg) along with sophomore Zacoria Berry (5.5 ppg, 3.2 spg) round out a dangerous team in Class AAAAA.
In at No. 5 is Bainbridge. The Bearcats went 24-7 in Class AAAA and lost to Wayne County in the Elite Eight, 47-38. Bainbridge’s top two scorers return for their junior seasons in 5-foot-9 Nadia Marshall and Tytianna Roseborough. Marshall averaged 15.9 points, 9.8 rebounds and 3.8 steals while Roseborough pitched in 8.1 points and 3.3 steals per game.
No. 6 Villa Rica put together a 22-6 mark in Class AAAAA and lost to Winder-Barrow in the opening round of state, 53-32. The Wildcats exploded onto the scene, transforming from a 4-22 team the year prior, to a playoff contender. The main reason why? Superstar Deasia Merrill. As a freshman the 6-foot-2 forward tormented defenses for 25.4 points, 13 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 4.6 steals and 1.8 blocks per game. In their loss against Winder-Barrow, she did everything she could against Olivia Nelson-Ododa, posting 16 points and 10 rebounds. With another year under her belt, Merrill and her also young supporting cast consisting of three rising juniors, has a chance to make some more noise. Juniors Jaila Orozco (10.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.1 apg) and Emerald Parham (7.2 ppg, 4.8 apg) highlight the Wildcats’ perimeter play.
The quick guard-oriented offense of No. 7 Warner Robins helped the Demonettes to a 22-3 record. In the Sweet 16, they met their match, losing to Sequoyah 47-40. Senior guards Kezia Holmes and Le’Terria Mathis do most of the damage for Coach Tracy Fendley. Mathis, an All-Middle Georgia First Teamer, averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists and 3.3 steals per game. Third Team selection, Holmes, pitched in 12 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 1.5 blocks.
No. 8 Loganville marks the third team out of Region 8-AAAAA to be ranked. The Red Devils went 21-9 and 12-2 in Region 8 last year. In the Elite Eight it was Sequoyah who knocked them off, 43-38. Health will be important for Coach John Zorn’s team. 6-foot senior post Aryanna Gerald is on the mend after tearing her ACL in game five of the season. Seniors Imani Arnold (9.7 ppg), Daijah Cousins (8.7 ppg) and Milana Woods (5.6 ppg) are all capable scorers and defenders.
Veterans ended No. 9 Carrollton’s season in Elite Eight last year, 54-48. The Trojans went 24-6, but lose a lot including 6-foot-2 Emily Waters. Senior captain Kim McKinney will attempt to lead a team with some turnover. Bone sisters Aleea and Kayla bring experience with them into their final season.
Region 1 sneaks three teams into the top ten with No. 5 Bainbridge, No. 7 Warner Robins and surprise, No. 10 Harris County, who gets the nod over state runner-up Veterans. The Warhawks graduate seven of their top nine players giving Harris County a chance to capitalize in the small five team region. The Tigers finished 18-11 and lost to Dutchtown in the opening round of the Class AAAAA playoffs, 56-43. The Tigers have experience battling tough interior size, playing the likes of Columbus, Northside-Columbus and region champion Carver-Columbus. Harris County comes in at No. 10 thanks to their devastating young duo in the paint of 6-foot sophomore Taziha Fanning and 6-foot-5 junior Jessika Carter. Fanning averaged 19.4 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.3 blocks while Carter, who has been in camp with Team USA, averaged 17 points, 15.2 rebounds and 5.3 blocks as a sophomore. Quality guard play around the two bigs could make Harris County a scary proposition.
Everyone returns for Columbus, who stakes its claim to being No. 1 in Class AAAA. The Blue Devils went 23-6, losing to Southwest DeKalb in the Elite Eight, 65-50. Senior twin towers anchor the paint at 6-foot-3 in Tatyana Wyatt and Ariyah Copeland. The two bludgeoned teams in the post, Wyatt posting 21.7 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks and Copeland tossing in 15.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks on average. Wyatt also led the team in threes, proving to be a versatile weapon on the wing. Senior Brittany Floyd (7.6 ppg, 4.5 apg, 2.7 spg) and junior Trinity Vasquez (6.8 ppg) are among Coach Joe Cherrone’s most trusted ball handlers.
Coming in at No. 2 is Cross Creek, led by Memphis-commit 6-foot-2 senior center Alana Davis. Davis went for 22.2 points, 12 rebounds and 2.4 blocks on average last year as the Razorbacks finished 21-7, falling to AAAAA state champion Southwest DeKalb in Round 2, 62-42. A strong senior core surrounds Davis with swingman KymMya Thomas (13.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 2.9 apg), point guard Nya Daniels (11.7 ppg, 5 rpg, 5.3 apg, 1.8 spg) and forward Valen Avery (5.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg) rounding out Coach Kim Schlein’s attack.
Out of nowhere, West Hall places itself in the Top 3 at No. 3 after improving from 11-14 to 21-9 with a dance to the Elite Eight where Jackson-Atlanta ended the party 65-53 in the AAA playoffs. The Spartans move up to Class AAAA and have a chance to establish themselves as a top program behind fourth-year head coach Bryan Richerson, All-Area Second Teamer senior Macy Passmore and Gainesville-Times All-Area Player of the Year junior Anna McKendree. Passmore posted 13.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.3 steals per game as 5-foot-9 guard. McKendree, a prolific scorer, already has over 1,000 points in her career heading into her junior season. The 5-foot-8 shooter broke the school record for points in a season (678), drained 89 threes and eclipsed the 30-point barrier six times en route to averaging 22.6 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.6 steals per game. She did this in a region with powers Dawson County and East Hall along with up and comer Franklin County.
No. 4 North Oconee made a statement, beating Buford in the Region 8-AAAA championship, ending their reign of five straight titles. The Titans finished 23-7 but lost to Bainbridge in the Sweet 16, 50-45. North Oconee should be back and better than ever with All-Area First Team selections Emma Weynand and Camryn Williams both returning for their senior seasons. Weynand averaged 11.2 points, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals while Williams led the Titans with 11.5 points and 4.3 rebounds. Keller Barks and Holly Stroman are a pair of senior guards that were All-Area Honorable Mention.
Marist debuts in the rankings at No. 5 to open up the season. The War Eagles went 28-3 last year, faltering in the Elite Eight to eventual champion Americus-Sumter, 63-56 after a slew of injuries. Purdue signee Dominique Oden leaves a big hole at guard but sister Diarra enters her junior season as a key cog coming off an ACL injury in the state finals. Emma Huffstetler is the lone senior returning on a young team. The War Eagles are in Region 7 with No. 3 West Hall, giving them plenty of opportunities to rise quickly up the rankings.
No. 6 Henry County went 20-6 and 10-0 in their Region 4A-AAAA sub-region, but the Warhawks were denied entry into the state playoffs thanks to Spalding avenging an earlier 18-point loss and stunning Henry County 47-28 in the region tournament. Back with something to prove, Henry County’s top three scorers return paced by junior guard Brooke Moore (Auburn) who poured in 23.8 points per game. Senior Ashley Burks averaged 11.7 points and Janaya Wadsworth, a junior, averaged 7.3 points.
No. 7 Carver-Columbus drops to AAAA after going 12-0 in a tough Region 1 and ripping off a 24-5 record. Winder-Barrow ended their postseason hopes in the Sweet 16, 49-43. The Tigers graduate two players from their usual rotation in leading scorer Alexis Burns (12.9 ppg) and Arnesia Smith (7.8 ppg). 6-foot senior Mya Millner (11.5 ppg) along with juniors Mariah Igus (8.8 ppg) and Alycia Reese (8 ppg) power the Tigers.
Americus-Sumter rolled its way to a 31-1 record and the AAAA state championship, beating Veterans 56-38. Star guard A’tyanna Gaulden is now at Florida State after averaging 20.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 7.5 assists and 6.3 steals per game. The Panthers open at No. 8 with 5-foot-9 senior small forward Timia Swanson as the No. 1 scoring option. She averaged 13.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 1 block per game. If it’s possible, the Panthers can fly under the radar in Region 1, which houses No. 1 Columbus and No. 7 Carver-Columbus.
Four starters return from a St. Pius X team that entered last season young and inexperienced. The Golden Lions held their own in Region 6-AAAA, finishing 17-11 overall and 12-6 in region, earning themselves the No. 9 ranking to start this season. St. Pius was bounced in Round 1 by Northwest Whitfield, 61-48. Junior Macey Carson is back after averaging a team-best 9.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1 block, good enough to be named First Team All-Region. Third Team selection Kathryn McKenzie, a 6-foot junior, anchors the paint after posting 7.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. Juniors Mai Vy Madden and Tessa Lucarini bring experience to the backcourt along with senior Leah Middleton and top three-point shooter, sophomore Emma Drash.
In at No. 10 is Northwest Whitfield, who comes off a 23-6 campaign and a 42-38 loss to Wayne County in the Sweet 16. The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Player of the Year, Bria Clemmons, returns at guard for her senior season. She averaged 8 points, 6 assists and 4 steals per game. Also back is Second Team All-Area member, junior Holly Heath.
As long as Toledo-commit Tatyana Davis is still in a Morgan County uniform, the Bulldogs will remain a favorite. MoCo opens at No. 1, trying to defend their state championship, a 68-61 win over Jackson-Atlanta. Coach Joshua Reeves’ Dogs finished 28-2 and were powered by Davis. The 5-foot-9 senior dominated in the title game, going for 32 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 7 steals. Sophomore Lou Reid will be a top running mate alongside Davis. As a freshman she scored 10 points in the championship.
One of Morgan County’s victims during their run to the state title was Johnson-Savannah. The Atomsmashers lost in the Final Four to the Bulldogs, 65-49. Coach Brandon Lindsey returns his top three scorers and will open the year ranked No. 2 after a 25-7 season. Senior guards Olivia Owens and Alexis Pierce key the offense. Owens averaged 14.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3 steals while Pierce, a big shot maker, dropped in 14.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 3.2 steals. Junior Sy’Marieona Williams is the third head of the attack, averaging 13.4 points, 2.5 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 3.2 steals.
Escaping Region 6-AA and making their AAA debut is No. 3 Greater Atlanta Christian. The Spartans finished with a modest 19-10 record but a solid 8-4 record in region play against the likes over Holy Innocents’, Wesleyan and Lovett. GAC’s top seven players return from a team that saw three Class of 2018 players lead them in scoring. Robyn Benton paces the offense, scoring 14.1 points and adding 3.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 3.8 steals and 1 block per game. Versatile 5-foot-10 forward Caria Reynolds averaged 11.5 points and 7 rebounds while Georgia Tech-commit Taylor Sutton pitched in 9.4 points. The senior class is led by Tamiah Lewis (8.7 ppg, 4.1 apg, 2.8 spg) and 6-foot Kennesaw State-commit Lexi Mann (6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.2 bpg). After years of being the hunter, GAC will now be the hunted in Class AAA.
Region 3 will be a dog fight as former Region 1 rivals No. 4 Beach and No. 2 Johnson-Savannah see each other again. The Beach Bulldogs went 27-5 last year including 15-1 in region play with a 58-52 region title over Johnson-Savannah. In the Final Four, Jackson-Atlanta knocked off the Dogs 72-63. Double-double machine Dymanee Royal has graduated, but Coach Olufemi Gordon still has a slew of experience headed by junior Tatiannya Morris. She averaged 10.6 points, 4.1 rebounds and 3.3 steals while her sister Karriana added 3.1 points. Senior Judasia Hills plays forward at 5-foot-10 and averaged 7.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals. Juniors Jabrekia Bass (7.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3.7 spg) and Maryyanna Page (5.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) round out a balanced attack.
No. 5 Calhoun went 19-8 last year and lost to Dawson County in the first round, 71-54. Only two seniors are gone from last year’s team but one includes First Team All-Region shot blocking ace Sydnie Parker. Lucky for Coach Jerry Pruett, reigning Region 6-AAA Player of the Year Jana Johns is back for her senior season. Ashlyn Barnes and Ryan Brzozoski are a pair of steady guards heading into their final year.
Defending Region 6-AAA regular season champion Ringgold opens 2016-17 at No. 6 after going 23-5 and 16-0 in region play. The Tigers fell to Peach County in the Sweet 16, 61-48. Wizard of North Georgia, Head Coach Margaret Stockburger, returns First Team All-Region performer Kiwi Dale and Second Teamer Karoline Sholl for their senior seasons. Region 6 is the premier grouping for North Georgia basketball with No. 5 Calhoun, No. 6 Ringgold, Sonoraville (23-6), Haralson County (27-2) and North Murray (15-11).
No. 7 Kendrick took a trip to the Elite Eight where Beach ended their postseason run 58-51. The Cherokees went 27-3 behind an explosive offense that averaged 71.8 points per game and a swarming defense that corralled a whopping 27.1 steals per game. Sparkplug point guard Brittany Thompson graduates as well do three other major contributors. Junior Jabreia Burston will be asked to take over a leadership role after averaging 12.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.2 steals. Senior Kiara Price is coming off a season in which she averaged 8.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.1 steals. 6-foot sophomore Jada Minor was a stalwart in the paint, posting 5.5 points, 9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a night.
Much like GAC, No. 8 Lovett escapes Region 6-AA and now has a chance to flourish behind blue-chip junior point guard Jenna Brown. The 5-foot-10 playmaker played with Team USA after averaging 18.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 2.7 steals, 1.3 blocks and leading Lovett to a 17-12 mark and a postseason berth. Brown tore her ACL making her status to play this season unsure. The Lions were ousted in overtime last year at Model, 56-51 in Round 1. The Lions lose just one senior.
Just two seniors graduate from No. 9 East Hall’s 21-7 roster that fell in the first round to Ringgold, 69-50. Back is junior sharpshooter Carly Winters who averaged 16 points and hit 40% from beyond the arc on her way to being named Second Team All-Area. Senior point guard Kylah Mize is a tough guard that can score in bunches while junior Summer Lindsey is coming off a Lanierland All-Tournament Team selection.
Ready to make some noise with veteran head coach Tony Watkins Sr. at the helm for his first year with the program, the No. 10 spot belongs to Franklin County. Watkins, known for building programs, his most recent success at Grayson winning 21 games last year, has talent to work with in Carnesville. Ivey Ginn is now healthy after missing her sophomore season with an ACL tear. As a freshman she averaged 16 points per game. Also in the fold are sisters Mya and Asia Jones who join the Lions from Commerce. Both All-Region selections, Mya has been an All-State pick her first two seasons as a prolific scoring guard averaging over 20 points per game.
With the departure of Region 6-AA private school powers such as Holy Innocents’, Wesleyan, Lovett and Greater Atlanta Christian, Class AA is now open for a public school to hoist the trophy for the first time since Kendrick did it in 2014. Behind the dominant play of rising junior post Victoria Saxton, Model opens at No. 1 in the state. Saxton at 6-foot-1 led the Blue Devils to a 28-1 record, their only loss a 51-42 defeat in the Elite Eight against Putnam County. Saxton averaged 21 points, 13.5 rebounds, 2.8 steals and 5 blocks per game. Joining the All-Area Co-Player of the Year is senior Bailey Upton, who averaged 11 points and 5.4 rebounds as a First Team All-Area member. Second Teamer Moe Welch is back for her junior season along with Honorable Mention selection senior AnnaGrace Turrentine. The Blue Devils graduate only two players from last year’s team.
In at No. 2 is Putnam County. The 24-5 Eagles fell in the Final Four to eventual state champion Holy Innocents’ 80-49. Putnam County graduates their second, third and fourth leading scorers highlighted by versatile forward Ebony Hargrove, but leading scorer and Region 4-AA Player fo the Year Rykia Pennamon is back for her junior season along with junior Hailey Hyman. Pennamon, 5-foot-10, averaged 15.1 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals while Hyman, 5-foot-9, chipped in 5.7 points and 4.6 rebounds.
Legendary head coach Chunk Reid is still in search of his first state title with No. 3 Vidalia. The Indians went 23-5, but ran into Wesleyan in the second round of state, losing 77-30. All-Area Honorable Mention and GACA All-State selection Regan Norfleet is back for her senior season. Everyone else returns as well headlined by All-Region members senior post Darrielle Brinson and senior guards Maci Johnson and Destin McRae.
No. 4 Rabun County follows No. 2 Putnam County as a top five team coming out of Region 8-AA. The Wildcats went 25-4 with an Elite Eight trip, losing to Greater Atlanta Christian 67-53. Five seniors graduate from a full-court pressing team that produced easy buckets. Senior guard Savanna Scott and 5-foot-10 long armed sophomore wing Brooke Henricks project to carry the Wildcats’ winning tradition on with the help seniors Summer Fountain and Hallie Reeves.
No. 5 Swainsboro went 20-9 with a young group. The Tigers lost in the Sweet 16 to Greater Atlanta Christian 56-44 and hope the postseason experience pays dividends in the long run. Dynesha Brown is a powerful guard that averaged a team-best 17.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 5 steals and 1.1 blocks as a freshman. Fellow sophomore Charlsey Kelly was second on the team in scoring with 7.6 points while adding 4.8 rebounds. Junior Chloe Moore is coming off a 6.6 point, 6.5 rebound per game season while seniors Shykema Collins and Dequonia Royal add depth and defense.
Coach Otis Smart takes a crushing blow as No. 6 Laney loses possibly the best Class of 2018 player in the state with De’Sha Benjamin electing to leave the GHSA and play at Westminster-Augusta in the GISA. She averaged 17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 3.4 steals and 2.3 blocks as a High Major prospect that led the Wildcats to a 25-5 season with a 62-53 loss to Morgan County in the Class AAA Elite Eight ending their year. The drop down to AA benefits Laney and they likely would have opened at No. 1 if Benjamin stayed, but the Cats should still be feared as a top program in the state with Aubriana Bonner returning for her senior season after posting 14.3 points, 5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 4.7 steals a night.
Another Class AAA dropout No. 7 Dodge County returns their top nine scorers from a team that went 19-8 and lost to Westminster in the opening round of state, 55-44. Senior Tierra Hamilton and sophomore Destanee Wright pace the attack. Hamilton averaged 11.7 points while Wright chipped in 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3.4 steals as a freshman.
No. 8 Heard County put together a 23-6 season but were wrecked in the Elite Eight by Wesleyan 79-22. Junior Sage Kelley along with seniors Kimberly Harris and Hannah Sanders project to play key roles on a team that graduates just three players from a year ago. Harris didn’t play with the team in the offseason but if she returns to action, Coach Helen Akins will have a good group.
No. 9 Jeff Davis finished 25-4 with a 70-16 loss to Holy Innocents’ in the Sweet 16. Only three seniors graduate. All-Area Second Team selection Kayliah Jenkins is back for her senior season. The All-Region 2-AA pick averaged 14.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.3 steals and 3.1 blocks as a 6-foot center. She will be the anchor inside for the Yellow Jackets who face stiff competition, being the third team out of Region 2 to be ranked alongside No. 3 Vidalia and No. 5 Swainsboro.
Armuchee captures the final spot in the rankings at No. 10, looking to improve on a 17-10 record with a 74-60 first round loss to Greater Atlanta Christian. Rebekah Hammond graduates but fellow First Team All-Area selection Livia Skinner returns for her junior season. She posted 3.2 assists, 7.1 rebounds and 3 steals as a pass-first defensive-minded guard.
Class A-Private is absolutely loaded now that Wesleyan and defending Class AA state champion Holy Innocents’ join the fold. Region 5 is a nightmare with No. 2 through No. 6 all housed in the same region, but still, the state title will run through No. 1 St. Francis who bids for a three-peat. The Knights cruised to a 63-35 state title over Greenforest and finished 31-2, their only losses coming in national showcase tournaments. Blue-chip High Major stars align the Knights roster with seniors Maya Dodson, Kasiyahna Kushkituah, Taja Cummings and Nichel Tampa all known commodities on the national recruiting circuit. Dodson, 6-foot-3, is the No. 2 ranked wing in the nation, averaging 12.9 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2 steals and 2.6 blocks. Kushkituah, a 6-foot-4 post with ACC and SEC schools hot on her trail, is the No. 6 ranked interior player in the nation, averaging 10.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.5 blocks. Cummings is a Georgia Tech-commit that averaged 8.4 points and 3.8 assists at point guard while Tampa, a Western Kentucky-commit, is coming off a season as the team’s sparkplug posting 9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 3.7 steals per game.
Coming in at No. 2 is Wesleyan after a 27-5 season and a tough 66-64 overtime loss in the state championship to Holy Innocents’. The Wolves will be powered again by 5-foot-11 guard Mikayla Coombs, the No. 2 ranked guard in the nation and a UConn-commit. Amaya Register, a highly ranked junior point guard, also orchestrates the offense. 6-foot-3 center Natalie Armstrong anchors the paint her senior season as a Samford-commit.
Head Coach Tony Watkins Jr. went out a champion, leading Holy Innocents’ to an overtime victory over rival Wesleyan, recording a 27-5 record in the process. Now Nichole Dixon, a Wesleyan assistant coach, slides in to replace him. Three D-I signees graduate, but LSU-commit Khayla Pointer returns for her senior season after pouring in 33 points – half of the team’s 66 – in the state championship. Joining her are seniors Shai Blanding, a floor general and terrific passer and Grace Asbury, a shooter. Juniors Kaila Hubbard and Kennedy Suttle are highly touted juniors.
No. 4 Greenforest came out of nowhere to finish 27-1, their only loss in the state finals. Rising junior guard Chioma Nnamani poured in 17 points and 9 rebounds in a losing effort. She along with fellow junior Taylor Riggins should keep the Eagles among the toughest teams in the state. 6-foot senior wing Uloma Enyogasi is committed to Lynn University.
The No. 8 ranked guard in the Class of 2018, Morgan Jones, leads the No. 5 Our Lady of Mercy attack. Jones is the real deal, averaging 20.3 points, 13.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 3.7 steals and 2.5 blocks as a versatile playmaker. The Bobcats went 21-4 last year but fell in the first round of state to Eagle’s Landing Christian, 52-39, a team they beat by nine earlier in the year. Junior Eboni Winston is second on the team in scoring, averaging 9.4 points and 3 assists last year.
Always talented despite low participation, No. 6 Southwest Atlanta Christian is always a threat. The Warriors lost in the Final Four after a 17-12 season to St. Francis, 62-38. Seniors Tiamya Butler and Dominique Banks must be replaced upon their transfer to Maynard Jackson. Butler averaged a team-best 15.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 3.5 steals while Banks pitched in 14 points, 9.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 3 blocks as a 6-foot-5 post. Depth is always an issue for SACA, a program that suited up only six girls last year.
Out of Savannah, Calvary Day opens at No. 7 after the Cavaliers went 28-2, losing in the second round to Eagle’s Landing Christian 55-44. The Cavs should dominate Region 3 again as the team’s top three scorers, all seniors, return. Quira Porter led Calvary Day in scoring at 14.6 points and collected 9.4 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game. Catie Thomas went for 11.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.7 steals while Nyjah Parker averaged 11 points and 10.2 rebounds. Junior swingman Bria Porter brings a nice fourth option to the table after pitching in 8.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals.
No. 8 Tattnall Square comes off a 25-3 season where the Trojans picked up four wins against ranked opponents. Greenforest ended their season in the second round, 35-28. Only two seniors graduate from last year’s team. Back are All-Area Honorable Mention selections 6-foot-5 senior Abby Rouse and junior Allie Gordon.
Three seniors graduate from last year’s 23-7 No. 9 Lakeview Academy Lions, who fell to Southwest Atlanta Christian in the Elite Eight, 56-47. First Team All-Area selection Hanna Grogan returns for her senior season as the Lions’ go-to player. The 5-foot-8 guard averaged 24 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals while being named Region 8-A Player of the Year. Flanking her will be fellow senior Christen Copeland, an Honorable Mention pick.
Dropping down to Class A-Private is No. 10 Darlington. The Tigers 19-10 last year with an opening round loss to Wesleyan, 86-36, ending their season. Back in the fold for her senior season is one of the state’s leading scorers, Anna Claire Atha. The Wofford-commit is a prolific bucket-getter, averaging 25.1 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.8 steals as a 5-foot-8 guard. She will need help if Darlington plans on competing in A-Private. 6-foot-1 senior Kelsey Garrett is next in command, posting 8.1 points, 8 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game.
It would be poetic justice if No. 1 Pelham was able to finally capture their first state championship since 1997 upon dropping down to Class A-Public this year. Over the past four seasons, the Hornets have accumulated a 106-10 record, with nothing to show for it but losses to private school power Holy Innocents’ the past two seasons, 78-70 and last year 71-60, ending their season in the Final Four and Elite Eight, respectively. Now that the Hornets don’t have to worry about private schools, Pelham’s dominance against public schools may net them a title in the near future. Briunna Freeman (Arkansas) graduated in 2015 but Quadranique Franklin was able to pick up the slack and lead the Hornet to a 25-2 record. Franklin however, has graduated. Senior Destiny Thomas and junior Mahogany Randall are next in line to take the reins. Thomas was an All-Area First Teamer, averaging 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Randall, a Second Teamer, posted 10 points and four steals a night.
State-runner up Terrell County opens at No. 2, graduating just three seniors albeit a First Team All-Area pick and a Third Teamer. The Greenwave went 24-4, falling to Turner County in the title game 55-38. Jamya McDaniel, a First Team selection as a sophomore, has a chance to take her game to the next level. She led Terrell in scoring in the state championship with 15 points and 9 rebounds. On the year she averaged 14 points per game and stretched defenses with her three-point shooting. Sister Jameil McDaniel, also a junior, could have a big year after posting 10 points and 14 rebounds in the state championship.
No. 3 Taylor County was unable to defend its crown last year, tripping against region rival Greenville in the Elite Eight, 48-45. Two of the Vikings three losses on their 26-3 campaign came against the Patriots. The Vikes lose big pieces in Rasheka Simmons, Kourtney Long and Kelsie Towns but do bring back everyone else.
No. 4 Greenville lost in the Final Four to Terrell County 63-58. The Patriots finished 20-9 and lose five of their top six players, but it might not matter since junior Brittany Davis is still in the picture. Davis single-handedly carried the Patriots, averaging 29 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.3 assists 4.6 steals and 1 block as a 5-foot-9 jack-of-all-trades. If she can get any consistent help around her, Greenville will be in business. If not, they may struggle to recreate their playoff success.
No. 5 Wheeler County ripped off a 21-7 year and danced to the Final Four where Turner County was waiting, beating the Bulldogs 57-44. Wheeler County returns its top four scorers paced by 6-foot-4 senior Lakaitlin Wright. Wright was a monster in the paint (25 double-doubles), averaging 15.4 points, 15.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.3 steals and 4.8 blocks per game. Junior Brianna Hinton netted 14.4 points while orchestrating the offense averaging 6 assists and 3.8 steals. Sophomore Natera Perkins made a big impact as a freshman, chipping in 8.4 points while junior Timjaya Mackey went for 6.2 points and 7.4 rebounds.
First-Team All-Area selection La’Andrea Gillis is the engine for No. 6 Treutlen. The 5-foot-9 rising junior pumped in 22.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 2.7 blocks per game as she eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in her career and earned her second straight Region 3-A Player of the Year award. The Vikings finished 17-9 with a tight 53-50 loss at Wheeler County in Round 2.
No. 7 Telfair County lost in the Elite Eight to Turner County 56-42, putting an end to an 18-10 season. Top options junior Ny’Asia Howard, sophomore Brandy Mackey and senior TyShiana Rozier are all set to return.
No. 8 Hancock Central posted a 10-0 record in Region 7 and finished 17-9 overall, losing to Terrell County in Round 1, 45-40. Seniors Jarlescia Saffore (8.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.5 bpg) and Johnasje Birston (7.4 ppg) join junior Faith Evans (6.9 ppg) to form a strong core.
No. 9 Wilcox County enjoyed a 20-8 season ended by Taylor County in the first round of the state playoffs, 46-28. Junior center Trajata Colbert poses issues in the paint, posting 14.1 points, 12.9 rebounds and 2.9 blocks per game.
The final spot in Class A-Public belongs to No. 10 Mitchell County. The Eagles finished 18-9 with a loss at Calhoun County in Round 1, 42-39. Third Team All-Area selection Jamia Mobley heads into her junior season. The playmaking 5-foot-6 guard averaged 16 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists.