It’s not that we’re ready to move on from the gridiron, but nonetheless the hoops season is finally upon us as well. Here are our 2019-20 first Power Rankings for boys basketball, based solely on last year’s finish, returning/departing players, and preseason state rankings. Clarity will sure come in the coming weeks.
#1 JEFFERSON LADY DRAGONS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 25-4 (Region Champions; Elite 8)
COACH: Greg Brown
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Livi Blackstock, Natalia Bolden, Deshona Gaither, Chloe Hiatt
KEY LOSSES: Alisyn Ferrell
Greg Brown’s girls last year shocked many people as the very youthful team that had to replace many weapons from the prior year, went on a tear and were just about unbeatable to the Elite 8. Almost every single player is back with more experience and hungrier than ever. All-state talents Livi Blackstock and Natalia Bolden will bolster this team. Should be a special season for the preseason state-ranked #2 team in the state.
#2 RABUN CO LADY WILDCATS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 28-2 (Region Champions; Elite 8)
COACH: DeeDee Dillard
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Laken Stiles, Destiny Deetz, Hanna Cannon, Ali Ramey, Natalie Nix, Sophie Woodard, Carley Haban
KEY LOSSES: Georgia Stockton, Brooke Henricks, Kaitlin Coleman
Yes, Georgia Stockton and Brooke Henricks are gone, both collegiate players who scored over 1,000 points. Kaitlin Coleman will be missed too. However, DeeDee Dillard is used to this turnover, and Laken Stiles is an All-State returning player. Destiny Deetz and Hanna Cannon will need to continue to do what they’ve done, but at an even higher level. Look out for Sophie Woodard and Carley Haban! The defending region champs and quarterfinals team could do even more this season, and are already preseason ranked #7.
#3 DAWSON CO LADY TIGERS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 22-9 (Region Runner-Up; Elite 8)
COACH: Steve Sweat
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Madi Anglin, Marlie Townley, Sophia d’Oliveira, Mariah Benson, Bella Henson, Ellas Suita
KEY LOSSES: Kaylee Sticker, Anna Lowe
Yes, losing a generational talent like Kaylee Sticker (Clemson) is no easy task, but Steve Sweat is a legendary coach who knows how to position the next girl up to be successful. Consider in recent memory (Carly Gilreath, Ashley Parker, Sheyenne Seabolt, Karlie Bearden, Kaylee Sticker). Each overlapped as 1,000-point scorers for Dawson. Who will be next? Madi Anglin really showed up big down the stretch last season, as well as players like Marlie Townley, Sophia d’Oliveira (both seniors), Bella Henson, and Ella Suita. There’s no shortage of talent here to make a big run. The girls are ranked #8 in the state coming in.
#4 WHITE CO LADY WARRIORS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 14-12 (Region 3rd; Rnd 1)
COACH: Jarvis Davenport
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Dasha Cannon, Bentley Cronic, Naomi Crumley, Rachel Lovell, Maddie Futch, Ellie Gearing
KEY LOSSES: N/A
This team returns EVERYONE from last year. That means for Jarvis Davenport and company, the pressure is on to excel beyond last year’s round one. Dasha Cannon is next level, and she’s surrounded by so much talent with players like Bentley Cronic, Naomi Crumley, Rachel Lovell, Maddie Futch, and others. Special year coming your way!
#5 BANKS CO LADY LEOPARDS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 23-7 (Region Runner-Up; Sweet 16)
COACH: Steve Shedd
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Heather Vaughan, Jenna Reeves
KEY LOSSES: Jaycie Bowen, Amber Williams, Kailynn Gilstrap, Layna Parson, Kennedy Smith
Just like a number of other local teams, Banks County lost one of their greats to graduation in Jaycie Bowen. Really, five key seniors that were a huge part of this program’s success. However, Heather Vaughan is primed for a fantastic senior season, and we feel like Jenna Reeves could be a big complimentary piece to help make Banks once again a top-tier team.
#6 UNION CO LADY PANTHERS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 14-11 (Region 5th; No Playoffs)
COACH: Crystal Beach
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Kait McCarter, Andelin Hill, Brooke Dockery, Ava Hunter
KEY LOSSES: Adeline Dockery, Brianna Hemphill
These girls in Union had a great season, and fell just short of state with a young team. With Kait McCarter, Andelin Hill, and Ava Hunter leading the charge this season, it should be a special one in Blairsville with first-year head coach Crystal Beach.
#7 LUMPKIN CO LADY INDIANS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 17-9 (Region 5th; No Playoffs)
COACH: David Dowse
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Isabelle Davenport, Makenzie Caldwell
KEY LOSSES: Mackenzie Pulley, Ashlynn Wistoski, Raven Chester, Clara White
Last season was perhaps the best in program history, and unfortunately it didn’t result in the playoff run these girls deserved. It came with a #7 ranking, and Mackenzie Pulley eclipsing 1,000 career points. This year will be led by Isabelle Davenport and Makenzie Caldwell. Others will need to step up after a solid senior class is gone.
#8 TALLULAH FALLS LADY INDIANS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 18-11 (Region 3rd; Sweet 16)
COACH: Brandy Corbett
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Katy Corbett, Lillie Free, Sophie Alexander
KEY LOSSES: Nyah Williams
Brandy Corbett will have to turn the page from the program’s best-ever in Nyah Williams (2K points), but the pieces are in place with Katy Corbett and Lillie Free leading the way. We wouldn’t be surprised to see an even better season that goes beyond the Sweet 16.
#9 TOWNS CO LADY INDIANS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 14-13 (Region 3rd; Sweet 16)
COACH: Brian Hunnicutt
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Kennedi Henson, Vanessa Floyd, Abby Mauldin, Sophia Shook
KEY LOSSES: Taylor Cornett, Kenzlee Denton, Kristen Byers
Towns County had a solid year last season, getting to the playoffs for the first time since the ’13-14 season. Could this be a new pattern for the girls? They certainly have the roster to do the same again this season.
#10 COMMERCE LADY TIGERS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 14-12 (Region 4th; Rnd 1)
COACH: Brad Puckett
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Bryanna Sanders, Maggie Mullis, Ragan Allen, Maggie Blackmon
KEY LOSSES: McKenzee McRee, Jeanece Smith, Jada Little, Autumn Mathis, Shayoya Johnson
Commerce will count upon Bryanna Sanders to lead the way after a sensational sophomore season last year. The Lady Tigers lost a lot of leaders from last year’s crop, but still have a good many pieces to make a similar run this season.
#11 STEPHENS CO LADY INDIANS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 5-19 (Region 5th; No Playoffs)
COACH: Laura Baker
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Lindsay Moore, Mari McNeal, Tynajiah Eades, Ranajah Verdell
KEY LOSSES: N/A
The Lady Indians return just about everyone and even this year have just one senior (Mari McNeal). Still the time is now for this team to make the next step. With Lindsay Moore, McNeal, Tynajiah Eades, and Ranajah Verdell leading the way, and the team focusing on conditioning, they should come up with more wins where they fell late in games last season.
#12 HABERSHAM CENTRAL LADY RAIDERS
RECORD LAST SEASON: 5-18 (Region 5th; No Playoffs)
COACH: Bill Bradley
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Lexi Nix, Ashley Wilson, Camden Tench, McKenzie Williams, Addie Penick
KEY LOSSES: Kaley Hulsey
This is a very young team yet again this season. The girls had to hit the reboot button a couple of seasons ago, and this will mark the third year under coach Bill Bradley. We could see the Lady Raiders start to put it together a bit.