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Basketball season gets underway this week

Openers to begin this week

Posted: November 11, 2015 - 12:08am
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Aaliyah Russell (center) converts a layup during a drill surroundered by Hannah McIntire (from left),  Abbey Steele and Iman Andrews.  The Lady Wolfpack will face Harlem this week.   Photo by Scott Rouch
Photo by Scott Rouch
Aaliyah Russell (center) converts a layup during a drill surroundered by Hannah McIntire (from left), Abbey Steele and Iman Andrews. The Lady Wolfpack will face Harlem this week.

The county’s basketball season gets into gear across three different leagues this week.

In what has become an annual Georgia High School Association opener, Harlem High School will play host to Greenbrier in a girls and boys doubleheader tomorrow with the girls slated to tip off at 6 p.m.

On Saturday, the Georgia Independent School Association Augusta Prep Lady Cavaliers will travel to crosstown rival Augusta Christian to face the Lady Lions in both teams’ season openers at 1:30 p.m.

The Lady Wolfpack are coming off a 26-4 campaign with a second consecutive Region 2-AAAAA title and trip to the second round of the Class AAAAA state
playoffs.

Junior Sydney Grayden is the lone returning starter, but Greenbrier coach Stefanie Basinger likes the makeup of her team that returns seven juniors and one senior.

“These girls that are juniors have been part of the program since their freshman year,” Basinger said. “There’s a good strong core at that junior level.”

While Grayden will rule the middle, Basinger noted she will be as deep at the guard position as she has in the past.

“Daisa McClendon has been around, Aaliyah Russell has played really well this summer, Iman (Andrews) even ran the point some,” Basinger
said. “We’ve got options there and we’re still guard strong. We have a guard, Natalie Wilson that was part of our program last year that came from Hawaii and I don’t think anybody will be quite ready for her. (Sophomore) Yazmine Avery has really come a long way and picked up a lot of guard skills but we’ll be looking for her to give us a lot of points and rebounds inside, too.”

Basinger said the road is not easy with teams like Grovetown (22-6) and Cross Creek (24-6) in the mix.

“There are so many good teams in our region,” she said. “In basketball we had three teams ranked in the top 10 and things didn’t go our way, but if we play the game right and do what we’re supposed to do it could end up that way, it could be any three or four of us.”

Greenbrier will be facing a Lady Bulldogs team with its fourth coach in four years, but one who is familiar with Harlem.

Crystal Strickland graduated from Harlem in 1991 after playing basketball all four years and played college ball at Brewton
Parker.

She was a coach for 19 years in south Georgia and returned to the area as an assistant coach at Thomson High School a year ago before taking over the Lady Bulldogs.

While they’ve only had three weeks together so far, she said she likes what she’s seen.

“The kids are working real hard, they’re learning a new system and they’re catching on quick and things are going great,” Strickland said.

At the end of the 2015 season, it was the Region 2A-AAAAA champion Grovetown (17-7) boys that were the only ones to finish with a winning record. Like the Lady Wolfpack, the Warriors lost a group of seniors that accounted for 49 of their 65 points-per-game and will open at Harlem on Friday, Nov. 20.

Coach Daniel Jordan said he likes the way the team is coming together.

“This is the closest group we’ve had and that’s important,” Jordan said. “As the team continues to develop, I think we can be very successful.”

While JV risers Trent Bowdre and Eric Graham are up-and-comers, it will be Jordan’s seniors he expects big things from.

“We’ve got Ziquane Sandford who’s returning, he started a lot of games for us last year,” Jordan
said. “Shamar Barrett’s been playing really well. Braylon (Hogan) moved in kind of end of the season last year, now I have him for a full year. Rudy Valentine is definitely kind of a emotional, great team player, very positive. A glue guy I guess you would
say.”

Jordan thinks this year’s squad will be relying a bit more on its athleticism.

“We like to shoot, we like to run. We’re smaller than we were before but we’re faster.” Jordan said.

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