Coach: Angela Hurt, second season.
Last season: 9-17.
Key returners: PG Caroline Hearn, so.; PF/C Peyton Ledford, sr.; PF/C Julie Richards, jr.
Key newcomers: PF Abbey Fagan, jr.
Outlook: It doesn’t feel like the typical second year of a coaching tenure for the Lady Bulldogs’ Angela Hurt. With the loss of three seniors, Central returns just three varsity players and only two who started in point guard Caroline Hearn (3.1 PPG) and forward Julie Richards (7.3 PPG, 5.9 RPG). The third, Peyton Ledford (2.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG), was a significant contributor off the bench. The hope is those three can take the next step together and carry the load as an influx of new and young talent get acclimated to the varsity level, like junior forward Abbey Fagan, who saw action in 10 varsity games last season but could provide much-needed scoring and toughness. And it’ll be interesting to see how Central competes in a re-configured Region 7-AAAAA. “I think this team can be very competitive in our region,” Hurt said. “They are smart girls who work extremely hard, and when it comes to coaching you really can’t ask for anything more.”
Horizon Christian Academy
Coach: Doug Markle, fourth season.
Last season: 14-6, lost in GICAA D-II championship.
Key returners: G Olivia Beals, sr.; G Audrey Clanton, C Mykalea Earnhardt, so.; PG Cassie Markle, fr.; G Annsley Marks, sr.
Outlook: After losing the finals of the state championship the past two seasons – first in ICSGA then GICAA – the Lady Warriors are motivated to finish the job this time. It helps that Horizon returns virtually its entire starting lineup in Olivia Beals, Audrey Clanton, Mykalea Earnhardt, Cassie Markle and Annsley Marks. Most of that group has played together for three or four years, so chemistry isn’t an issue. Neither is shooting or defense, which four-year coach Doug Markle points to as the team’s strengths. Depth could be a concern, and Markle said the team could still improve on its shooting. But overall, the Lady Warriors appear to be in good shape to at least get back to the GICAA D-II finals. “We’re going to do everything we can to improve on last year,” Markle said.
Coach: Jamie Fisher, first season.
Last season: 6-19.
Key returners: G Corrie Baker, jr.; F Leah Cote, so.; PG Ashley Johnson, jr.; G Kara Kidwell, so.; F Caroline Wilson, sr.
Outlook: Jaime Fisher expected to be the head coach at Lambert one day, just not this soon. An assistant last season under Tony Watkins who left in the offseason for Grayson, Fisher comes with an impressive pedigree as a player and coach at South Gwinnett, where she was head coach for five seasons that included two state tournament appearances. So she’s familiar with the Lady Longhorns program and has the luxury of returning five starters from last season. Sophomore point guard Ashley Johnson is among the county’s most athletic guards. Corrie Baker is a capable outside shooter. Leah Cote is a dependable rebounder with a balanced inside-outside game on offense. Still, Lambert remains a young team, so Fisher said she’ll continue to focus on developing team chemistry. “Our goal every year is to compete for a region championship and earn a spot in the state playoffs,” Fisher said.
Coach: Eric Herrick, fourth season.
Last season: 28-3, Region 6-AAAAAA champion, lost in Class AAAAAA quarterfinals.
Key returners: G/F Caroline Bowns, sr.; G Lochlain Corliss, sr.; G Morgan Grindle, jr.; F Okwunne Ogbogu, sr.; G Sydney Pefanis, sr.
Key newcomers: G Bella Carraciolo, fr.; G Amber Jones, fr.; F Madison Moye, so.
Outlook: Coming off the best season in program history, the Region 6-AAAAAA champions are certainly back for more with senior guards Caroline Bowns (15.1 PPG, 5 RPG) and Lochlain Corliss (12 PPG, 4 APG, 4 SPG), a duo that’s won 73 games that past three seasons. Their competitiveness will set the tone for the Lady Raiders this season, much in the same way center Avery Scarbrough’s did last season. That’s the biggest question mark for North – how to replace Scarbrough’s production in the post. Seniors and returning varsity contributors Okwunne Ogbogu (3 PPG, 4.9 RPG) and Sydney Pefanis (4.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.6 SPG) should see increased roles down low, as well as sophomore Maddie Palmer, who saw eight games of varsity action. The formula for head coach Eric Herrick remains – hard-nosed pressure defense leading to transition baskets augmented by solid outside shooting. Pencil the Lady Raiders in as a top-10 team and a region title contender. “With our two senior guards, I’d never count us out,” Herrick said.
Coach: Keith Gravitt, 13th season.
Last season: 27-6, lost in Class AAAAAA semifinals.
Key returners: G KK Storm, jr.; G Sarah Myers, jr.; G/F Shelby Threlkeld, sr.; F Ally Welch, sr.; G Mari Jonassen, so.; F Caroline Diem, so.
Outlook: These names will all be familiar, for they were the ones who helped lead South to the Final Four of the Class AAAAAA tournament. Junior shooting guard Sarah Myers (20.5 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 3.5 SPG) steals the headlines with her Maryland commitment and County Player of the Year honors last season, but she’s surrounded by experience and talent. There’s junior point guard KK Storms (6.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.0 APG, 2.9 SPG). There’s senior forward and Mercer signee Ally Welch (8.3 PPG, 7.2 RPG). There's senior guard/forward Shelby Threlkeld (8.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.4 SPG). There are sophomores Mari Jonassen (4.0 PPG, 1.6 SPG) and Caroline Diem (4.6 PPG, 2.2 RPG) who should see their roles increase this season. If there is a question mark for South, it is the Lady War Eagles’ lack of height in the post after the graduation of center Ashley Hannan. But few teams boast as much scoring power as South, and after a remarkable playoff run caught metro Atlanta’s attention, the Lady War Eagles will be firmly in the top 10 to start the season and expected to compete for a region title again.
Coach: David May, third season.
Last season: 17-11, lost in Class AAAAAA first round.
Key returners: G Conner Parker, sr.; G Abby Quincy, so.; G Jasmine Rodriguez, sr.; G Hayla Seitz, jr.; C Jenna Staiti, jr.
Key newcomers: G Jane Ortlip, jr.; G Carsen Parker, so.; F Kalie Schlegel, so.; F Bri Wilken, jr.
Outlook: By now we know what to expect from Lady Wolverines junior center Jenna Staiti. The Maryland commitment averaged 23 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks last season and was one of two all-state selections from Forsyth County. She was a big reason West won the most games in a single season in school history. But the Lady Wolverines also return a bevy of experienced players, led by guards Conner Parker, Abby Quincy and Jasmine Rodriguez. Above all else, West’s season could come down to how well it learns to handle pressure defense. That was the difference between the Lady Wolverines playing in the region championship to their fall to the No. 4 seed last season. Even so, West should find itself in the top 10 rankings before too long – if not to start the season – and be right in the mix with North and South for a region title. “We’re preparing for that,” West head coach David May said. “We talk about that on a daily basis.”