Coming off their first state playoff berth in three years, Roswell will look to continue its success under a new head coach.
Antonio Wade comes to the Hornets via Thomasville, where he led the Bulldogs to a 61-55 record and playoff appearances in all four years while at the helm.
Wade said the team’s talent and maturity has stood out as he has acclimated to the program. He is implementing his own system which relies on conditioning and speed.
“The plan is to play fast with a lot of motion,” Wade said. “You’re going to see a lot of energy, a lot of effort and execution. We’re going to play hard for 32 minutes and longer if we need to.”
Wade said his offense will focus on a mix of forcing good looks under the basket while also having solid 3-point shooting.
Most of last year’s squad has returned to learn the new system. Sisters Yana and Ally Seklick are back, along with Catherine Sandridge, Lindsay Pruitt, Kate Manley and Sophie Burke, all of whom will contribute, Wade said.
Roswell’s roster also includes six seniors providing varsity experience, up from just one last season.
Senior guard Lindsay Priutt said last year’s region tournament win and playoff berth is the goal to exceed this season.
“We have played with each other for three years now, so it’s a benefit to know where everyone is going to be,” she said.
After a 28-4 season, the program’s first region title and a trip to the Final Four, the expectations are higher than ever for the Titans.
But last year’s 57-39 loss to Harrison in the state semifinal game was motivation enough to exceed expectations this year.
“I definitely feel our Final Four loss really has pushed us this year,” said senior guard Megan Cistulli. “It was a big disappointment for us, but we have higher expectations this year.”
Junior forward Maya Richards said coming so close to the state title has fueled the team in the offseason.
It’s a team junior forward Ashlee Austin described as different from last year. But the Titans are still loaded.
Austin led the team in points and rebounds last season as a sophomore. Richards averaged 10.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and two blocks per game. They are joined by Cistulli, an accurate outside shooter and point guard Asjah Innis, who is coming off an impressive freshman season.
The Titans will be without standout Shannon Titus, a force on both sides of the ball, and role-player Erika Hama, who both graduated.
“It’s not one person that is going to help replace that production, it’s going to be everyone,” head coach Chris Yarbrough said.
In starting four underclassmen most of last year, the Titans are also more seasoned.
“I’ve said for so long that we were young, but now we have a lot more experience,” Yarbrough said.
The Titans are also banking that their challenging regular season schedule will prepare them for another deep playoff run.
But Yarbrough has stressed that his team cannot identify itself solely by wins or titles this year.
“We have to control what we can control and the results might be there for us,” he said.
Cambridge struggled to an 11-15 finish last season with an undersized and young squad, but the Bears are banking on an added year of experience and team chemistry to lead them to their first winning season. The team returns all of last year’s squad.
The offseason has been spent working on defense, which head coach Lesley Broadwell said will mainly be man-to-man again this year. The Bears are also focusing on creating high-percentage shots.
“We have to work on shot selection versus just taking the first thing that opens up,” Broadwell said. “We also have to be solid with the ball and take care of it.”
Cambridge will lean heavily on senior Reagan Dunwoodie and junior Audrey Smith. Both have been with the program since their freshman year.
“We will let them feed off each other and drive the rest of the team,” Broadwell said. “We know we have some new players coming in, but until we have everyone together, we have to build off [Dunwoodie and Smith].”
A goal for this year’s squad is to be in contention for a playoff spot.
“We’re not conceding anything,” Broadwell said. “We have a lot of competitors.”
In the talent-rich Region 7-AAAAAA, the Bears’ will rely on a team-mindset in their aim to make the playoffs.
“Where we might not be as deep or experienced or have players ranked as high as other teams, there’s something to be said for playing for each other,” Broadwell said.
Lining Centennial’s gym are banners designating each sport’s region and state championships. The girls basketball banner is blank.
Head coach John Domville said the goal for this season is to put numbers up there.
“That’s something we need to talk about and not run from,” he said.
Centennial’s youthful squad struggled to a 4-12 region record last season, but Domville’s roster returns healthy and more experienced.
“We had a lot of freshman we relied on last year,” he said. “Everyone that’s back has varsity experience which is a huge deal.”
It’s also year three under Domville’s system which will be advantageous for his upperclassmen who are now acclimated to his schemes.
Seniors Shekinah Guthrie, a Florida Gulf Coast commit, London Carr and Jannah Moede will provide leadership for the team.
“It starts with [those] three and trickles down,” Domville said.
Guthrie led the Knights in points, rebounds and steals last season.
Moede missed all but three games due to a torn ACL, but sitting on the sidelines gave her a new perspective.
“She was already a cerebral player, so for her to have that year off is a very scary thing for everyone else,” Domville said.
Along with their senior core, the Knights return Divine Guthrie on post, last year’s assist leader in Ariel Nathan and shooter Summer Lemcoe.
It is that core that the Knights will rely on to put numbers on the gym’s banner.
“In our region we are the underdogs,” Moede said. “I’m ready to get out there and get back to state.”
A year after the program’s winningest season, Chattahoochee will have a new look with a new batch of players and a new head coach.
Coach Randy Clemons comes on for Haaris Quirashy who led Hooch to a 22-7 record and quarterfinals berth in the state playoffs.
Lost to graduation are a number of key players that made that run possible, including Alayna Ford and Siena and Marissa Gore.
That leaves a young team to acclimate itself to Clemons’ schemes, which include a motion offense and man-to-man defense.
“We’ve got a young hungry group,” Clemons said. “We have a lot of younger girls realizing how they are going to build their legacy. There’s a lot of optimism around that.”
Clemons said his team will face bigger and more experienced teams, so a focus in the offseason has been preparing to be mentally and physically tough.
But the main goal is for his youthful team to improve each day.
“We’re going to see a lot of improvements through the season with this team,” Clemons said. “I think it’s good that they were able to see that success of last season and that’s the kind of goal we’re aiming for this season.”
Even with an inexperienced team, Clemons said he expects his team to be in the running for a playoff berth.
“I definitely think we can compete in the region,” he said. “I think that fourth spot is up for grabs from a lot of teams and we’re going to push and hopefully be in the fight for that [spot].”
In returning 85 percent of their production from last season, the Raiders are looking to build off last year’s 18-11 overall record and second place finish in the region tournament.
“The girls know our philosophy and our system,” said head coach David Walden. “We want to build off of what we started last year.”
Returning are twin sisters and post players Gogo and Juju Maduka for their senior campaigns.
Walden said Juju is a “force” under the basket and is a top defender on the team. In addition to being a solid defender, Gogo has worked on her inside presence and has developed her outside shooting and ball handing.
The Maduka sisters will be joined by Jaylen Tillerson who Walden said brings a lot of heart and will stand out as the team’s top guard defensively.
Croix Bethune, who had an impressive freshman campaign last season, also returns to lead from the point.
While Walden said he will rely on Tillerson and the Maduka’s for leadership, most of the bench should contribute.
“We’re deeper than we ever have been,” he said.
While the Raiders look to build off last year, they will do it with a chip on their shoulder.
The Raiders successful region run came to an end in the region title game against Northview. Their season then came to an end in the first round of the state playoffs against Mays.
“The experience we had last year is going to help us be more successful,” Walden said. “They now have been there, and they have the belief they can get where they want to be.”
Johns Creek has two goals this year — make the state playoffs and play for each other.
Those were the same goals as the 2016-17 season when the Gladiators went 12-4 in region play. However, their playoff bid came up short when they were eliminated from the region tournament by eventual champions Pope in the first round.
But the Gladiators expect their team-mindset will bring them their program’s first playoff berth.
“Anytime you go into a competition and you know the person next to you has your back, it fires you up a little bit more,” said head coach Kirk Call.
Call said the team mindset brought about the success of last season, and he has challenged his returning players to implement a close-knit roster for their newer players.
“We’re going to work twice as hard to [reach our goals] this year,” he said.
Johns Creek lost four key seniors from last year’s squad to graduation, including Region Player of the Year Sydney Tanguilig. With those losses, Call is turning to three upperclassmen to lead the Gladiators.
Senior forwards Ashley Alexander and Markeilla Lancaster return for their final year.
Call said Lancaster brings athleticism and is stout defensively. Alexander brings a physical presence.
“She dominates inside,” Call said. “Her physical attitude and presence on the court really opens up everything we try to do.”
Junior point guard Jillian Davis also returns.
“[Davis] really developed as the (last) year went on and got a lot stronger on the ball,” Call said. Davis shot 36 percent from outside the arc last year and Call said she will be relied on for her shooting and ball handling.
The Gladiators will have a tough road to the state playoffs in Region 7-AAAAAA, facing some of the top teams in the state.
“It’s going to be a challenge for us right off the bat,” he said. “We’re going to have to be prepared and focused. Hopefully if we can battle with them. That can prepare us for our goal of making that state playoffs.”