2016-17 Hoops Preview: Canes tabbed preseason Top 10
The 2016-17 high school basketball season is just around the corner and all five local schools in Cartersville and Bartow County are busy with preparations for their respective schedules.
In this feature, we present a brief look at each team.
Kyle Sandy, of Score Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and SandysSpiel.com contributed to this feature with the boys preview.
With only one senior last season, the Lady Canes return the majority of a team that finished with a 6-20 record. Kimora McClinic, Madison McKinney, and Monica Motuba each return with three years of varsity experience.
Coach Cindy Moore expects important contributions from sophomores A’Maya Davis, DeAsia Jefferson, and London Shaw.
Cartersville will play in a new region that includes traditionally strong teams at LaGrange and Sandy Creek. Coach Moore also stated that Chapel Hill returns the nucleus of a good team from last season. “We will challenge for a state playoff berth if we play consistently,” said Moore. “We have to hit the high percentage shots, make free throws, and reduce turnovers. We believe we have the athleticism and speed to create scoring opportunities from our defense.”
The Lady Colonels return their top four scorers from a team that went 14-13 last season. Jana Morning led the team with 12 points per game and was the County Player of the Year. Esmeralda Thoas, Payton Stoddard, and Kyla Michienzi averaged 11, eight, and seven points, respectively.
Cass girls head coach Burt Jackson is looking forward to elevated contributions from Lyric Curtis, Chanel Clemmons, and Sharia Wade. Curtis, a junior, is a physical player that Jackson believes will help his team with rebounding and defense. Clemmons, also a junior, received quite a bit of playing time toward the end of last season. Jackson likes Clemmons’ ability to play defense, block shots, and rebound. Wade was a JV player last season that is a scorer and has exhibited the ability to shoot three-pointers.
The Lady Colonels find themselves in a tough region that includes a pair of pre-season, top-ten teams in Villa Rica and Carrollton. Rome and county rival Woodland are also in Region 7-AAAAA.
“We will compete for a state playoff berth if we stay healthy, keep improving, and play as a team,” noted coach Jackson.
The Lady Cats return three of their top performers from last year’s team that finished 5-20. Seniors Jamison Kilgo and Lexie Robinson return along with sophomore Madgie Robinson. Coach Kyle Morgan is hopeful Lexie Robinson will be available around the Christmas break and able to make a positive contribution at that point.
Morgan will be seeking contributions also from newcomer, seniors Danielle Downes and McKenzie Hobbs. He will also be evaluating several sophomores and freshmen that may be able to contribute at the varsity level.
Woodland — like Cass — will compete in Region 7AAAAA with ranked teams Villa Rica and Carrollton. Morgan also expects Rome and Kell to be among the top contenders in the region.
“We will challenge for a state playoff spot if we come together as a team, play to our strengths, remain and get healthy, and continue to improve daily at practice and in games,” coach Morgan summarized.
Adairsville girls head coach Lee Whitaker returns four starters from last year’s team and is excited for the 2016-17 campaign.
Senior Chloe Powell, juniors Emily Collum and Josie Summerville, plus sophomore Nakiyah Washington return for a team that finished 13-17 a year ago.
Washington was All-County and All Region 6AAA 1st Team last season and led the Lady Tigers in scoring. Collum was an All-County selection that led the team in assists and steals from her point guard position. Summerville was an All-County honorable mention player last year that averaged more than eight ponts and nine rebounds. Powell returns as the vocal leader and one of the team’s most intelligent defenders.
Whitaker also expects key contributions this season from Taylor Greene, Havyn Isaac, and Zay Harris.
Greene, a senior, had a solid off-season and adds an inside and defensive presence. Harris is a junior that Whitaker thinks will add ball handling skills and three point range, and Isaac is a sophomore expected to have another solid season as a defender and three point shooter.
The Lady Tigers will compete in Region 6AAA South where the Sonoraville girls are the defending champions. Calhoun returns the region Player of the Year in Jana Johns and Haralson County and Bremen are coming off quality seasons. Haralson County was a Sweet Sixteen team and Bremen qualified for the state playoffs.
“Our plan is to progress from being competitors to champions in our sub-region and region,” noted Whitaker. “If we continue to make the game-by-game progress, I like our chances as much as anybody.”
EXCEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY GIRLS
Coach Eric Harris returns several key members to a team that finished 12-14 last year including seniors Lindsay Mauldin and Brighton McCollum; juniors Whitney Harris and Kalli Beth Scheff; and sophomores Landry McCollum, Anna Lane Hattaway, and Rylie Boston. Newcomers for the Lady Eagles will be senior Hannah Lee and freshman Victoria Boulier.
Defending state champ St. Francis will be labeled again the team to beat among Region 6A private school teams. Mt. Paran Christian and Fellowship Christian also made the state tournament from this region last season.
(Boys Basketball Previews content courtesy Kyle Sandy, SandysSpiel.com)
Cartersville moves out of Region 7-AAAA, which they dominated, and now faces a step up in competition. Jaylon Pugh guides the Purple Hurricanes his junior season. The 5-foot-10 guard was the Region Player of the Year as a sophomore, averaging 15.6 points and 4.6 assists per game. Pugh’s court vision and deft three-point stroke (97 made; school-record of 10 in a game) makes him the catalyst on offense. TJ Horton brings back starting experience after averaging 6 points and 3.3 assists per game. 6-foot-5 sophomore Isaac Gridley and 6-foot-6 junior Trevor Lawrence will anchor the paint. Lawrence, who is ranked the No. 1 player in the entire country for the Class of 2018 in football as a 5-star quarterback, enters his first season with the Hurricane basketball team. He had an outstanding summer rebounding and blocking shots for Coach Mike Tobin. Another newcomer, Avery Showell, transfers in from St. Francis. The Wake Forest football commit is an athletic 6-foot-1 forward that can slash to the basket.
With no defending state champions residing in Class AAAA, the classification is truly wide open and up for grabs. Henry County, Sandy Creek, Upson-Lee, and St. Pius X will open the year as the teams to beat in Class AAAA. Thomson, North Clayton, LaGrange, Westover, Perry, and Cartersville will round out the preseason top 10.
Cass scrapped its way to a 10-16 mark under first-year head coach David Brock. The Colonels showed signs of improvement coming down the stretch despite the under-.500 record. Gone is Bartow County Co-Player of the Year Mike Sims, but Ashton Burley and CJ Bennett compose a steady and often explosive backcourt. Burley enters his junior season after putting together a nice summer with 17U Active Elite while Bennett is back for his senior season following an All-County selection along with Burley. Hiram, Villa Rica, and Carrollton were all state tournament teams last season and are now in the newly formed Region 7-AAAAA. Cross-county rival, Woodland, is also in the region with Kell, Rome, Paulding County, and East Paulding.
Top players Jonathan Pritchett, Jarvis James and Brady Jernigan all graduated from last year's team. Returning starters senior guard Camden Royal and sophomore Justice Hayes will play big roles as the Wildcats’ most experienced duo. Seniors Trevor Knowles, Jaden Pressley and sophomore Jaylen Ballard project to get major minutes. Colman Roberts, former girls head coach, looks to build a winning culture with the new-look Wildcats.
Adairsville returns it top core of a nine-win team, bringing back the team’s Offensive Player of the Year (Sr. Cole Hewatt), Defensive Player of the Year (Sr. Juan Perez) and Most Valuable Player and All-County selection senior Ronald Hardin. Junior guards Hunter Hice and Ethan Belcher also hold promise moving forward.
Calhoun reached the state quarterfinals from Region 6AAA last season and will again one of the teams to beat. North Murray, Coahulla Creek, and Ringgold were also state tournament qualifiers from this region.
EXCEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY BOYS
Not only does Excel Christian lose head coach Matt Sanders to North Cobb as an assistant, but the Eagles saw Bartow County Co-Player of the Year Darius Thrower graduate along with All-County picks Caleb West and Chris Hale. Excel Christian, 12-14 last season, will seek a new identity under coaches Eric Collins and Gary Boulier. The Eagles will have 6-foot-3 senior Joseph Cuomo and sophomore Hunter Johnson return as two of the most experienced players on the roster. North Cobb Christian, St. Francis, King’s Ridge Christian, and Whitefield Academy will be among the favorites that are Region 6A privates.