We’ve still got football at center stage, but basketball season is now upon us. Last year was an incredible season for girls teams like Rabun (state runner-up), Banks, Dawson (quarterfinals) and Habersham. For the boys, Banks, Stephens, White, Dawson, Towns, Lumkpin and Tallulah Falls headlined the success.
Here are our Power Rankings (girls first) and brief explanation of why we have them there.
1 – Banks County
19-9 a year ago, second year head coach Steve Shedd having the girls buy in early, and four returning starters, including player of the year candidate Jaycie Bowen.
2 – Rabun County
State Runner-Up after a 29-3 historic year. Coach DeeDee Dillard at the helm, so it’s always going to be a tough team. Only two returning starters, one of which is coming off an ACL injury and may not be able to play early.
3 – Dawson County
A surprise quarterfinals run despite a 12-18 record. Coach Steve Sweat gets the most out of his team, and this one has all five returning starters, including Kaylee Sticker, a dominant force for the Lady Tigers.
4 – Union County
Bailey Daniel is one of two returning starters on this Lady Panthers team that went 12-14 last year. Corey Garrett takes over as head coach
5 – Tallulah Falls
13-13 respectable campaign last year…we see no reason why they can’t continue that success.
6 – White County
6-19 last year, but huge growth potential with all five starters returning for coach Jarvis Davenport.
7 – Habersham Central
HUGE loss in Lainey Gosnell, the school’s all-time leader in almost every category. Can’t replace her, but the Lady Raiders have a couple of starters back from the state playoff team that went 16-13. Bill Bradley takes over the program, so a rebuild pushes them down the rankings for now.
8 – Lumpkin County
A team on the up-and-up. Haven’t made state in over 25 years, but you can feel it coming. 7-19 last year was a jump for the Lady Indians, who return only two starters under head coach David Dowse in his first season in control.
9 – Commerce
Lady Tigers were 3-22 last season, but Brad Puckett has all five starters back, so it’ll be interesting to see how far they’ve come.
10 – Towns County
A 5-19 team does return three starters, but lost long-time legendary coach Jim Melton, who won over 300 games there. Brian Hunnicutt takes over, and has the team’s leading scorer Madison McClure back.
11 – Stephens County
Scott Strickland returns only two starters from a 4-22 team that plays in a tough region.
1 – Banks County
A region title and 23 wins headlined this team last year, who has become a powerhouse. Coach Mike Cleveland has four starters back, and while Kahmal Wiley is a HUGE loss for the Leopards, sophomore Carl Cleveland (incredible freshman season), senior Dylan Orr, senior Darius Bonds and senior Gabe Martin have this team picking up right where they left off.
2 – Stephens County
Chad Bridges has a great team that went 21-8 a year ago and return four starters, including player of the year candidate De’Undra Singleton, one of the best in the state in the post.
3 – White County
Coach Sam Borg (7th season) lost a big man in John Ward, but can now speed up the game and play from the Warriors’ strength at the guard position, headlined by Austin Harris, Austin Rowland, Clay Dockery and others. He has a good bench and without a “big name” on the team, it’ll be hard to zone in on just one guy.
4 – Rabun County
Might not be full force early with football stars Bailey Fisher and Braxton Hicks making a deep playoff run, but Rabun will feature four starters back for Jeff Page, including Tevan Dixon who missed a chunk of last year to injury. Add in Grayson Lane, and this team could make some noise.
5 – Dawson County
Very intriguing team that won 14 games last year and returns four starters for second year coach Chad Pittman. Playoff team a year ago, but growth can make this a team that fights for a region title in 7-AAA and make a deep playoff run.
6 – Towns County
An incredible season last year, making a Sweet 16 run. Towns won 19 games, but unfortunately only returns two starters. That’s better than nothing though, and Zach Davenport will be the go-to guy early and often for coach Rob Benson.
7 – Lumpkin County
Gone are Jack Howard (2015-16) and now Zach Pulley (2016-17), and no starters return from a team that went to state four years in a row. Still, coach Jeff Steele can make something out of a little bit…
8 – Union County
Union won 10 games last year and return four starters, so they’re primed after missing state for the first time in four years. Casey Jones has the Colwell brothers and RJ Banton to help lead his group back this year.
9 – Tallulah Falls
TFS enjoyed an unprecedented and historic 24-5 season last year. So why do they drop this far to #9? Almost every key player was a senior, and that group was so talented. They must now start over, although the winning tradition could be a great building block now.
10 – Habersham Central
Habersham went just 1-24 last season. They lost some players as well, but have new Habersham talent in AJ Curry, Donovan Curry [both former Stephens Co players], and a couple of other new faces that could make Habersham a surprise team under new head coach Jeremy York. Two starters return.
11 – Commerce
The Tigers mustered up three wins last year, and return three starters for new head coach Russ Gregg.