The basketball season got under way this past weekend, with nearly all of the county schools in action.
Lakeside's Perrin Fryer shoots during Friday's game against Hephzibah. Lakeside's girls could have a shot at making the playoffs this season.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
With the start of any new season, question marks surround the area schools. To clear up some of those questions, The News-Times has put together a list of 11 players or story lines to keep an eye on.
Harlem coach Kim Chambers smiles when he talks about getting Woodard in for a full season. Circumstances have prevented her from playing a full season, but she should be with the Lady Bulldogs all season.
Woodard is probably the most athletic guard in the county this season.
"She's real good," Chambers said. "You have to key on her because of her athleticism and her shooting ability."
Woodard can make the Bulldogs a legitimate contender in Region 3-AAA North with steady play.
Traditionally, Columbia County public school basketball teams spend the postseason at home. Greenbrier has never sent a team, boys or girls, to the playoffs.
Greenbrier sophomore Michelle Swiec,one of the best returning players, has become a strong leader.
Photo by Jonathan Heeter
All of that can change this season.
With new region realignments, a number of teams have playoff aspirations. Both Greenbrier squads can make playoff pushes. The Evans boys look to have a playoff contender. Lakeside and Harlem girls both should have a shot at the playoffs.
Last season, the Greenbrier girls came out clicking with three freshmen (Michelle Swiec, Tiffany Blackburn and Brooke Jackson) contributing heavily.
This year, Lakeside girls coach Drew Shelton will hope for a similar effort. He will give two freshmen, Aubern Marshall and Alex Cassagnol, plenty of minutes. Marshall responded with 17 points off the bench in a season-opening victory over Butler.
Private school boys
This could be a very tough year for the Augusta Prep and Augusta Christian boys teams. Both will be in heavy rebuilding modes.
The Lions lost all five starters, with a number heading off to collegiate or prep school basketball.
Prep suffered a similar fate, losing most of its starters, and its lone returning star, Glen Miller, transferred to Evans.
Miller's transfer hurt Augusta Prep and will help Evans. Miller is a marksmen from the floor, and his scoring will help the Knights. During a summer league game against Laney, the junior poured in 28 points in the second half.
"There is no doubt we are a better team with Glen," coach Kevin Kenny said. "He might be the best shooter in the county, and his offense is much-needed."
Evans, others move down
Harlem's April Woodard is expected to be one of the top players in the county. She and her teammates hope she won't be sidelined.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
There is good news and bad news for Evans and Harlem during the reclassification process.
The good news is that Evans moved down from Region 7-AAAAA, away from Redan, Stephenson, Lithonia, Douglass of Atlanta, Tri-Cities and Southwest DeKalb. The boys and girls teams had to deal with being outsized every game and couldn't match the athleticism of the region. Moving down will benefit both teams, with the boys having a good shot at a playoff run this season.
The bad news for Harlem is Thomson, Hephzibah, Butler, Glenn Hills and Cross Creek also moved down.
The girls team can stay competitive in the new Region 3-AAA, but the boys are in a bad spot.
"There are a lot of talented teams in our region," Chambers said. "I'm not sure if we can play at the level some of those schools do. But nobody can say we don't work hard, and anything can happen when we step on the court."
The Augusta Christian junior often gets lost in the shuffle with the other "big" name players in the county.
But nobody pulled down the rebounds like McKinney did this past winter. The 5-9 center averaged 17 rebounds a game. She added 13 points a game with little notoriety, making her the most underrated player in the county.
Coach Garrett Black already won a state softball title this season and could be looking at more postseason success with his girls basketball team.
The Lady Wolfpack won't rise to the level the softball team did, but they can still make the playoffs. Greenbrier went 17-8 last season and lost only one starter off a team that missed the playoffs by one game.
The Wolfpack returns a loaded lineup of Melissa Lewis, Michelle Swiec, Tiffany Blackburn, Alisha Simmons, Brooke Jackson, Brittany Leverett, Amanda Glover and newcomer Sara Oland. Any or all could be All-Region performers by year's end.
Middleton, like Swiec, Jackson and Blackburn, burst onto the scene as a freshman. The 5-11 sophomore averaged eight rebounds a game against some of the best teams in the state and will only benefit from playing against girls her height.
Knee surgery will force the junior to miss at least the start of the season. He led the way with about 17 rebounds a game last season and would have been a County Player of the Year candidate. Coach Casey Dees hopes he will get the big man back after Christmas.
Poythress' return could be the final piece needed for the Wolfpack to make their first playoff appearance. But Poythress will not play if further damage to his knee is a possibility.
He can't risk hurting himself because he is a legitimate high-round draft pick in baseball.
Augusta Prep girls
New coach Moe McCormack has a great deal of talent returning. Point guard Abby Alexander has played high school basketball since eighth grade. She teams with Katelyn Gibbs, Mary Hannah Lynn and Caroline Hull to form a potent team. The Cavaliers will have a chance to go deep into the Georgia Independent Schools Association Playoffs.
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