After a breakthrough 2012-2013 campaign, the Evans High School girls basketball team will be the team other county schools in Region 2AAAAA will be gunning for in the upcoming season.
The Lady Knights finished 19-9, were second in the 2013 Region 2-AAAAA tournament then advanced to the second round of the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Playing each county team in the region three times, the Lady Knights had three memorable contests with Greenbrier; winning 47-46 on a last-second 3-pointer, losing 58-54 then winning the season series and sub-region crown with a 53-47 overtime victory with a week left in the regular season.
The Lady Wolfpack (17-8), who were second in the subregion. lost four seniors to graduation. They have a strong returning class and should battle Evans for the sub-region crown once more.
The Lady Wolfpack travel to Harlem Wednesday to open the season. Harlem then plays host to Lakeside on Saturday before every team in the county begins play on Nov. 19.
Lady Knights head coach Ryan Morningstar said he has some spots to fill, most notably at guard with the loss of Allysha McFarland (15.9 ppg), but Evans has a strong nucleus coming back that can make up for the departure.
“We had such a great season last year and then it ends and you’re ready for it to start up again,” said Morningstar. “I know the excitement level for our program is high. With a little bit of success, expectations go up. We as a coaching staff have prepared to raise the bar for our group of kids we have, and not to be satisfied.”
Leading the way is senior Jasmine Stone. The shooting guard led the Lady Knights a year ago averaging 19.3 points-per-game, finishing second in region player of the year voting and was named the Columbia County girls player of the year.
Along with Autumn Johnson (5.3 ppg, 2.1 apg), a four-year starter like Stone, the Lady Knights have a talented backcourt filled with experience and return three other players for their senior seasons.
“We’ve played with each other for a while, so we know what we’re capable of,” said Johnson. “We all have confidence in each other and our games so we trust each other.”
In the frontcourt, junior Elyssa Melton is a strong inside presence. She averaged 7.6 rebounds-per-game and 7.7 ppg and will be one Morningstar relies upon.
“She’s definitely the X-factor for us on both ends of the floor,” said Morningstar.
At Greenbrier, head coach Stefanie Basinger’s squad will be led by a trio of upperclassmen.
“I’m looking forward to a great season under the leadership of three juniors: Jennifer McMahan, Mallory Myers and Morgan Taylor who have been starters since their freshman year,” said Basinger.
Grovetown (13-12, 2-6) and Lakeside (10-16, 2-6) could play a factor in the sub-region race as well.
In Region 3-AA, Harlem returns after a 1-22 season in which they were 0-6 in the region, with coach Kim Chambers having turned the reins over to coaches Anthony Sweat and Russ Winter.
In Georgia Independent School Association, the Augusta Prep Lady Cavaliers are coming off a 16-7 campaign with high hopes for the coming year.
“We will have a young team this year but have a lot of potential to get better,” said head coach Myran Hunt, who noted the return of all-region senior Jodie Holodak. “Defensively I think we’ll be better, so we’re going to depend on our defense to force turnovers and get our points there.”
In South Carolina Independent School Association, the Augusta Christian Lady Lions (13-13) were ousted in the first round of the SCISA Class AAA state tournament a year ago, but lose just one senior and return all-state performer Anna Motes (15.9 ppg, 5.1 spg) at guard and Caroline Roberson (8.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) in the frontcourt. Roberson will miss time in the beginning of the season with an injury but senior Hannah Howard (2.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg) will step up in her absence.