Hoops season is already upon us, and with that we want to take time to get a sneak peek at our three GHSA basketball programs before we get too far into year.
Last week we caught a preview glimpse of Alcovy, Eastside and Newton’s boys teams. This week we will take a look at the forecast for those same schools’ girls programs. Make sure you visit our website covnews.com, throughout the week for player and team feature stories and game coverage of these teams, as well as our private school squads.
Coach: Justin Hunter, in his first season.
2015-16 Record: 13-10 overall, 3-7 in Region 2-AAAAAA
2015-16 State Tournament: None.
Key Players Lost: Alcovy graduated five seniors last season, including leading scorer Tierra Hodges, who averaged 22.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2 assists per game. Players such as Nydica Tate and Kai Patterson were valued role players.
Key Players Returning: F Quantasia Perry.
Key Games on the Schedule: Eastside (11/12); Creekside 11/26; Woodland Christmas Tournament (12/19-12/21).
Team Outlook: It’s often a toss-up whenever a new coach comes onto the scene of a team, such as Kevin Hunter is doing in his first year with the Lady Tigers, which is also his first high school head coaching gig. Compound that with a roster full of young and/or fresh faces trying to fill in the gaps of seasoned, senior players, and the unknown factor increases exponentially. However, Hunter has already seen some success against one of what he called the key opponents on his schedule. Alcovy scored a 40-31 win against rival Eastside in last Saturday’s season opener. Hunter says he wants to be known as a great defensive team with a balanced offense that doesn’t depend on one or two stars. Several early season holiday tournaments will help Hunter’s team gel in preparation for region play.
Coach Says: “For us it’s going to boil down to the two ‘E’s’ — effort and execution. We’re a team that, because we’re young, we’re going to have to give 100 percent effort every night. Execution may not always be 100 percent each night because we’re human, but we’ve got to give that effort every time we touch the floor to get better and see progression in the execution part of the game. Especially on defense. I like to play solid defense, and that’s going to require maximum effort.”
Coach: Gladys King, in her second season.
2015-16 Record: 5-20 overall, 1-10 in Region 4-AAAA
2015-16 State Tournament: None.
Key Players Lost: Four of last season’s starting five graduated, including G Teirra Brown; G Destine Smith; G Ally Chandler; and PF Sydney Mask.
Key Players Returning: F Chastity Smith; PG D’Erica Farley; G Nia Davis
Key Games on the Schedule: vs. Alcovy (11/12); L.C. Booker Tourney at Washington High (11/18-19); vs. Newton (12/2); vs. Woodward Academy (12/10, 1/24) Henry County (12/13, 1/20).
2016-17 Outlook: Since arriving from a four-year stint at Rockdale County where King went to the Sweet Sixteen her first year and made state tourney appearances every season after, the coach says that her time at Eastside brings about some different challenges — albeit challenges she embraces. Fundamentals is the name of the game for King as she continues to lay foundation for a program that hasn’t won more than 14 games in at least five seasons. The 2016-17 version of Lady Eagles basketball has no seniors, which King believes will bode well for the future. This season’s success will depend on how fast the inexperience can begin playing as a unit, and how well D’Erica Farley and Nia Davis handle their duties in the backcourt. The youth, plus being in a re-tooled Region 4-AAAA where only Henry County is a familiar foe, means lots of unknowns for the Eastside girls.
Coach Says: “Well, the difference between where I’ve been and where I am is that you have a different set of girls here on this side of town that some of them aren’t used to playing basketball year around, and what happens is you’ve kind of have to go back and pick up the basics. Some of the things you plan on doing, you have to step back a bit. And for us that means we’ve gotta do shooting drills, catching the ball off the dribble, knowing when to shoot, what to do under the basket or keeping your head up on a fast break. But we’re a young team. I see the hustle. They want to learn. They want to do it. So we’ll just take one game at a time, one thing at a time, improve our skills and compete every time we go out.”
Coach: Tiffani Johnson, entering her 11th season.
2015-16 Record: 22-7, 7-4 in Region 2-AAAAAA
2015-16 State Tournament: Lost 70-33 to West Forsyth in second round of Class AAAAAA tournament.
Key Players Lost: SF Kayla Smith (10.1 ppg last season); SF/PF Traleea Jones.
Key Players Returning: SG Lexii Chatman; PG Takiya Cotton; PG Jurnee Smith;
Key Games on the Schedule: vs. Henry County (11/18); at Grayson (12/13); at Archer (1/13).
2016-17 Outlook: In many ways, the Newton girls’ basketball program is just as solid and stable as the much ballyhooed boys. Both have a long standing head coach, in this case, it’s Tiffani Johnson, who was also once a Newton hoops standout herself. Another commonality is the fact that regardless of who leaves from season to season, there always seems to be young talent waiting in the wings. Lexii Chatman may get top billing on this year’s squad — and rightly so as she paced the Lady Rams with 16.3 ppg last season. Kayla Smith is gone, but players like junior Jurnee Smith and should step up and fill in the voids well. The Lady Rams haven’t missed the postseason since the 2008-09 season, and there doesn’t seem to be any reason to think they will miss it this season. Newton got off to a strong start to its regular season Friday with a 67-58 win over a talented Henry County squad where four players scored in double figures, including freshman Je-neya Smith who led with 19 points.
Coach Says: “Obviously it starts with our defense, but we also want the kind of offense that will get us get us production without having to depend too much on one person to carry us. The way we played (Friday), we made some mistakes and we created some turnovers. We have to get better with our execution, but I like the mental toughness we showed in how we kept them off when they tried to battle back. Je-neya Smith, I’m proud of the way she’s looking even as a freshman. That’s what we’re hoping to get out of her and all of our younger players this year.”