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New season brings two new coaches
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There were plenty of changes in the offseason for Rockdale County's high school girls basketball teams, which will lead to much excitement during the 2011-12 season.

For Salem and Rockdale that change starts at the top. Both schools have new coaches leading their girls this season with Sherri Williams helming the Bulldogs, and Rachone Dillagard leading the Seminoles.

Williams inherits a team that finished in third place in 8-AAAA last year and fell to Miller Grove 45-38 in the first round of the state playoffs.

The Bulldogs, coming off a 17-10 season, return most of last year's team, with the exception of leading scorer Portia McCray. McCray has moved on to play college ball, while Breanna Richardson, Brianna Lawrence, Kree Clark and others help form an experienced core.

Heritage also returns its share of players in 2011-12, but won't get to see all of them on the court together until possibly after the holidays.

Leading rebounder Aujana Dawkins is out with an injury, as is sophomore Shanique Heard. The Patriots will have just seven strictly varsity players to open the season, with four of those on junior varsity a year ago.

"It will probably be mid season before we see what we're going to actually look like," Heritage coach Chris Pennamon said. "Right now we're taking it game by game."

The Patriots will also be playing a new point guard in Heard. However, there will also be players who contributed during Pennamon's first year in 2010-11.
Sierra Crasson and Che' Hardaway are returning starters, along with Breanna Mitchell.

Across town, Salem is almost starting from new after not having a junior varsity program in 2010-11. Only one starter, Autumn Smith returns from last year's team that went 5-19.

Salem has a junior varsity team this year, but as a whole the program is young with 10 freshmen, four juniors and three sophomores.

Among those freshmen are Ayanna Mitchell and Shay Tarp, who are expected to contribute a lot.

The Salem Seminoles are not only working with mostly all new players, but also a new coach. Dillagard comes to Salem after serving as an assistant with the Eastside boys' program a year ago. But she doesn't see any difference in coaching boys or girls.

"Guys of course can run faster, jump higher and are more athletic," Dillagard said. "Girls really, really want to work hard, and with a lot of girls their athleticism has changed over the years."

Dillagard will look to expose that athleticism in a style she describes as, "controlled chaos."

"We're going to come at you for four quarters offensively and defensively," Dillagard said. "We're very attack oriented."

Rockdale will open up the season at Collins Hill today, and Salem and Heritage will start on Tuesday. Salem will welcome Henry County and Heritage will travel to Dutchtown.