Girls Basketball Preseason Preview & Power Rankings

We are just about ready for the opening of the 2021-22 girls hoops season. This year, girls hoops in North Georgia is flexing! Enjoy our Preseason Power Rankings & team-by-team preview for the girls!

#1 » LUMPKIN COUNTY

COACH: David Dowse (5th Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 25-5, Region 7-AAA Champions, Class 3A Final Four, #1 State Ranking
KEY DEPARTURES: Isabel Davenport (all-time leading scorer; UNG), Makenzie Caldwell (Emmanuel)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Lexi Pierce (G/All-State), Averie Jones (G/All-State), Mary Mullinax (F), Kate Jackson (F)
TEAM STRENGTHS:
Skill Level. “We have some very skilled kids who can handle the ball and shoot,” says Dowse. Motivation. “This team is motivated to take another step toward the ultimate goal of a region and state championship,” adds Dowse. Competitiveness. “I believe these kids will compete hard every night.”
EXPECTATIONS:
The expectations for the preseason #1-ranked team in 3A is as high as it’s ever been.

The Lady Indians were agonizingly close to a state title game appearance, leading by a single point in the last second before a buzzer-beater ended their season. Losing Isabel Davenport especially (the program’s best-ever player to date) is a major blow, but don’t be fooled. This team could be even better this time around, as both Averie Jones and Lexi Pierce (both All-State talents) will guide this team. Add in that fellow All-State honoree Kate Jackson returns after missing all of last season, and Mary Mullinax is a legit All-Region type of player as well. The girls will once again be short in numbers, but strong nonetheless. Hanging another banner is the bar this season. The preseason Class 3A #1-ranked team is in for even more this season.

#2 » RABUN COUNTY

COACH: DeeDee Dillard (16th Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 19-7, Region 8-AA Runner-Up, Class 2A Sweet 16, #2 State Ranking
KEY DEPARTURES: Beth Payne, Natalie Nix, Ellie Southards (out for season w/ ACL injury)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Gracie Deetz (F), Carley Haban (G), Sophie Woodard (G), Lucy Hood
TEAM STRENGTHS:
“Smaller but quicker this year,” says Dillard. “Seven seniors hopefully add experience to help our younger players out. And defense!”
EXPECTATIONS:
“To improve each day/game so that we can compete for a region championship and a playoff run,” adds Dillard.

The Lady Cats under DeeDee Dillard just continue to be among the best in North Georgia. Rabun County comes in ranked #3 in Class 2A in the state, and return the solid group of athletes, led by Gracie Deetz, Carley Haban, Sophie Woodard, and Lucy Hood. Look for the Lady Wildcats to be the favorites throughout to win a region title, and make yet another deep playoff run.

#3 » JEFFERSON

COACH: Greg Brown (4th Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 23-5, Region 8-AAAA Champions, Class 4A Elite 8, #1 State Ranking
KEY DEPARTURES: Livi Blackstock (UNG), Courtney Kidd, Allianne Clark
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Deshona Gaither (All-State), Ellie Kinlaw, Natalia Bolden (injury), Kendall Bailey (injury), Jyesha Butts, Tylia Brown, Hailey Triaga
TEAM STRENGTHS:
“We have 7 seniors who have all contributed in the past, some outstanding underclassmen that will provide depth to allow us to play at a very high pace,” says Brown.
EXPECTATIONS:
“The expectations at Jefferson are always high and we embrace those expectations…we don’t talk about rebuilding around here we just talk about reloading,” adds Brown. “We are excited about the upcoming year and can’t wait to get going!”

The Lady Dragons always are in the mix for a region and state title, and this year is no different even after losing a player like Livi Blackstock and great support players like Courtney Kidd and Allianne Clark. All-State guard Deshona Gaither and the 6 other seniors around her will make sure this team is once again a powerhouse. Jefferson is ranked #5 in the state in 4A.

#4 » WHITE COUNTY

COACH: Jarvis Davenport (6th Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 11-10, Region 7-AAA Runner-Up, Class 3A State Rnd 1, #8 State Ranking
KEY DEPARTURES: Dasha Cannon, Maddie Futch, Makenna Moose, Madison Adams
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Naomi Roberts, Claire Beckman, Chandler Weaver, Chesnee Freeman, Kendyl Cantrell, Maci Shelnut, Kinsey Dockery. “Also several sophomores and freshmen with an opportunity to have a great season too,” adds Davenport. “We don’t have a ‘superstar’, we all carry the load nightly which will make us tough to defend.”
TEAM STRENGTHS:
“We are experienced, quick and have a lot of depth,” says Davenport. “This team shares the ball like no other has before and can make the open opportunity when it presents itself. We play a variety of defenses and pressure the ball the entire game. We will try to push the tempo and force other teams to be uncomfortable with the pace of play for 32 minutes.”
EXPECTATIONS:
“We expect to compete night in and night out and do things the right way,” states Davenport. “We expect to compete for a shot a region title and to be a tough out in the state tournament as well.”

The Lady Warriors won’t have the luxury of Dasha Cannon anymore, and Maddie Futch was awesome last season too. However, Cannon missed a lot of time last year, which gave a glimpse of the future of the program. Many girls got early playing time last year, and that bodes well for this year. Naomi Roberts and Maci Shelnut specifically shined last year, and will be among the team leaders in 2021-22. The Lady Warriors are ranked #7 in the state in 3A heading into the season.

#5 » HABERSHAM CENTRAL

COACH: Bill Bradley (5th Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 19-6, Region 8-AAAAAA Runner-Up, Class 6A Sweet 16
KEY DEPARTURES: Addie Penick (Emmanuel), Liz Pollitt, Nykerria Brown
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Taylor Wade, Kyia Barrett, Kelsey Banks, Hailey Wade, Sataria Cantrell, Gabby Santiago, Jazky Bantaum
TEAM STRENGTHS:
“Experience and depth,” states Bradley.
EXPECTATIONS:
“Last year’s team went to the Sweet 16 in AAAAAA,” recalls Bradley. “We continue to have high expectations although we play in a very tough region with Buford, Dacula.”

The Lady Raiders can go toe to toe with anyone, as evidenced by last year’s Sweet 16 run and Runner-Up finish in a very tough region. Losing Addie Penick is a hit, but Taylor Wade and all the key players returning are a big plus, especially since they are all better than they were a year ago. Habersham is set for yet another great run in 2021-22 under coach Bill Bradley.

#6 » COMMERCE

COACH: Brad Puckett (8th Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 19-11, Region 8-A Public Runner-Up, Class 1A Public Final Four, #4 State Ranking
KEY DEPARTURES: Bryanna Sanders (1K points, 4-time leading scorer), Maggie Mullis (leading rebounder), Emma Davis (physical player)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Lauren Massey, Anna Taylor, Carson Hobbs, Grace Hobbs, Raven Parks, Malay Mitchell, Graci West
TEAM STRENGTHS:
“We have 3 of 5 starters returning from last year’s team,” says Puckett. “Coachable kids who are craving a repeat season from last year’s historic run for Commerce girl’s basketball.”
EXPECTATIONS:
“Short term goals are to go out and ‘win’ every play….not scoreboard watch, but to go out and play as hard as we can every second of every quarter,” states Puckett. “Long term goals are to be region champions and return to the Final 4.”

Brad Puckett’s Lady Tigers bring back 3 starters from last year’s Final Four group. Granted, one of the starters that is gone is a HUGE loss in Bryanna Sanders, who left as one of the best players in program history. Lauren Massey is ready to return as the starting PG, and much is expected of her. Anna Taylor earned a starting spot midway through last season, and Carson Hobbs (9.2 points, 6.8 rebounds) is a deep threat and big-time player for this team. Sophomores Raven Parks, Malay Mitchell, and Graci West came off the bench last season and will look to take on more this season. Grace Hobbs is back after missing last year due to an ACL injury. The expectation is high for this Commerce team, ranked #8 in the state in 1A Public going in.

#7 » TALLULAH FALLS

COACH: Lowell Hamilton (1st Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 16-8, Region 8-A Private Region Champions (Reg Szn), 1A Private State Rnd 1, #9 State Ranking
KEY DEPARTURES: Katy Corbett (one of leading scorers), Iray Adeleke (leading rebounder)
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Denika Lightbourne (All-Region), Veronaye Charlton (All-Region), Barrett Whitener, Macy Murdock, Molly Mitchell. “Haygen James and Breelyn Wood are two freshmen who have shown great potential to help us this season,” adds Hamilton.
TEAM STRENGTHS:
“We are a tough rebounding team with the ability to transition quickly both offensively and defensively,” states Hamilton.
EXPECTATIONS:
“We expect to play hard with high intensity for 32 minutes without letting up,” adds Hamilton. “With that said, to be in great physical condition!”

The Lady Indians are set for a fourth consecutive playoff-bound season. A lot of the team’s success will start with Denika Lightbourne and Veronaye Charlton, a pair of junior All-Region members. Others will be relied on to help in a quest to reach the playoffs and battle for region supremacy. Barrett Whitner, Macy Murdock, and Molly Mitchell all return from last year as well, and freshmen Breelyn Wood and Haygen James will be key pieces as well in coach Lowell Hamilton’s first season.

#8 » BANKS COUNTY

COACH: Steve Shedd (6th Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 16-12, Region 8-AA 3rd Place, Class 2A State Rnd 1, #7 State Ranking
KEY DEPARTURES: Jenna Reeves, Hailey Seahorn. “Both were starters and gave great leadership to our team,” says Shedd. “You can never replace losing seniors but we feel we have strong players returning that can fill those roles.”
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Kamryn Grier, Addison Hoard, Carley Segars, Kalyn Beasley, Kylie Hopper, Reese Murphy, Ryleigh Murphy 
TEAM STRENGTHS:
“Size (we have 2 posts returning that are 6-0′ and 6-1′),” says Shedd. “We also have some good shooters and capable ball handlers returning. We feel like our depth might be a strength this year. I really believe our defense will be a strength for us this year as well.”
EXPECTATIONS:
“We finished the season fairly strong last year but had numerous injuries in our starting lineup and some of our first players off the bench,” states Shedd. “We hope to get all those players back to full strength this year. We feel like we will probably be slightly underestimated this year which is fine with us because sometimes it’s good to fly under the radar and prove everyone wrong. We have a majority of our team returning and feel as though we can make a real run this year with our tough non-region schedule which should set us up well in the region. Our region is always tough but we feel that we have the talent to get one of the top two spots going into the playoffs.”

Banks County is always a physical bunch. That trend continues with Steve Shedd returning such players as Kamryn Grier, Addison Hoard, and others. With the size Shedd mentions (a pair of 6-footers in the paint), the Lady Leopards are going to be hard to handle for any team in the region and beyond.

#9 » DAWSON COUNTY

COACH: Eric Herrick (2nd Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 13-12, Region 7-AAA 5th, No Playoffs
KEY DEPARTURES: Madi Anglin, Moriah Benson
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Kirklyn Porter, Ella Siuta, Abby Slaton, Morgan Chester
TEAM STRENGTHS:
“I feel we are a very balanced team,” states Herrick. “We have good perimeter shooters, but also several kids who give us an inside presence.”
EXPECTATIONS:
“We feel we are a playoff team and hope to compete with the top teams in our region,” adds Herrick. “We have a good combination of experience and youth that will get better as the season goes along.”

Losing a player like Madi Anglin makes for BIG shoes to fill. However, Kirklyn Porter is another year experienced and another year better, which is scary for other teams to think about. Ella Siuta will be a player to be dealt with, as will Abby Slaton and Morgan Chester, who got their feet wet last season as freshmen. Dawson’s expectation is to win, so this Lady Tigers group won’t be an easy opponent to face. As the season goes on, look for the team to continue to improve.

#10 » TOWNS COUNTY

COACH: Shea Taylor (1st Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 12-13, Region 8-A Public 3rd, Class 1A Public Sweet 16
KEY DEPARTURES: 1,000-point scorers Vanessa Floyd & Kennedi Henson, 3 other SRs
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Sarah Shook (G), Tabitha Barnes (G), Laura Mauldin (P), Emily Vargas (G)
TEAM STRENGTHS:
“The girls are adapting well to the new system being installed,” says Taylor.
EXPECTATIONS:
“We want to be competitive every night we step on the court,” adds Taylor.

Perhaps no team lost more points than Towns County. You can’t easily, if at all, replace two 1,000-point scorers and 3 other seniors. Still, Sarah Shook stood out last season and will be relied on heavily. With a new coach, a new system, and new starters, there could be early growing pains before you can see the improvement in wins and losses, but it will come in time.

#11 » UNION COUNTY

COACH: Mandy Hunter (1st Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 2-13, Region 8-AA 4th, Class 2A State Rnd 1
KEY DEPARTURES: None
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Ava Hunter (F; UNG Commit & 8-AA POY), Rebeka Chambers (P), Corrine Hill (G). “Also many underclassmen that will contribute HUGE minutes,” says Hunter.
TEAM STRENGTHS:
“Powerful post presence and defensive speed,” adds Hunter
EXPECTATIONS:
“Each player has to DO THEIR JOB,” exclaims Hunter. “A very hungry group excited to hit the floor.”

One of the top post players in the state comes back in hopes of guiding Union County back into contention. After just a 2-win season, new coach Mandy Hunter and star Ava Hunter are hungrier than ever to get the Lady Panthers back to what we’re used to seeing. Rebeka Chambers and Corrine Hill also return. This team has the talent and experience to make a run in 8-AA.

#12 » STEPHENS COUNTY

COACH: Laura Baker (4th Season)
2020-21 RECORD & ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 19-7, Region 8-AAA Champions, Class 3A Elite 8, #6 State Ranking
KEY DEPARTURES: “We lost seven seniors from last year’s team, all contributors to the team in all areas,” says Baker. Also SC lost a would-be senior this year starting at guard.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING:
Makiya Knox (PG), A’Niya Mayweather (P), Manisha Colbert (P), My’Angel Carter (P/G), Ky’Leah Brown (P), Kiara Lopez (G), My’lazia Pope (G), Sonada Brown (G), Constance Brown (G), Tytiunna Tukes (G), Jaziya Harbin (G)
TEAM STRENGTHS:
“Hustle, they will hustle and compete, this group will hustle and get after it, that is what we are stressing in practice and games,” says Baker.
EXPECTATIONS:
“The expectations are the same as they have been, make it to the State Tournament,” adds Baker.

No doubt one of the best senior classes to come through Stephens County is gone. That group, which consisted of such talents as Ranajah Verdell, Tynajiah Eades, Kiki Howard, Savana Broska, Lindsay Moore, Bre Taylor, and Brooklyn Steeple, is all gone. After an Elite 8 run and regular season region championship, the program looks to reload with a cast of young players who are built to hustle and compete. Right now, it’s an entirely new group with little to no varsity experience under their belts. They’ll have to earn it early.

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