The lineup: Brunswick, Camden County, Coffee, Colquitt County, Lowndes, Tift County, Valdosta
Teams to watch: Lowndes, Tift County, Colquitt County, Valdosta
Players to watch:: Tashia Brown, 5-11 forward, Lowndes; Raven Burden, 5-7 guard, Camden County; Dee Dee Deshazer, 5-5 guard, Tift County; Storm Phillips, 5-8 guard, Valdosta; Makeba Ponder, 5-8 guard, Colquitt County; Alexis Johnson, 5-7 guard, Tift County
Strength of region: 1.5
Last season: Region champion Lowndes (25-4), Valdosta (19-7) and Colquitt County (16-12) made the second round. Tift County (16-13)and Camden County (15-13) lost in the first round.
The skinny: All the top contenders return a first-team all-region player. Colquitt’s Makeba Ponder, who averaged 19.3 points as a sophomore, was the Region 1-AAAAA player of the year. Tift has two in Deshazer (Columbus State recruit) and junior guard Johnson (all-region as freshman and sophomore). Only two schools from this region have advanced to the quarterfinals in the past 10 years (2006 Colquitt County, 2007 Camden County). None has made the semifinals. Though the region looks stronger for 2012-13, it is not good being matched up against power Region 4 in the first round of the state playoffs.
Teams that could win state: None
The lineup: Alcovy, Druid Hills, Lovejoy, Luella, Morrow, Newton, Rockdale County
Teams to watch: Alcovy, Lovejoy, Rockdale County
Players to watch:: Brianna Patton, 5-9 guard, Rockdale County; Precious Price, 5-6 guard, Newton; Breanna Richardson, 6-1 forward, Rockdale County; Meagan Tucker, 5-8 guard, Alcovy; Ashley Williams, 5-11 center, Alcovy
Strength of region: 2.0
Last season: Alcovy (27-5) reached the Class AAAA semifinals, losing to Miller Grove. Newton (21-8) and Luella (18-11) lost in the AAAAA first round. Lovejoy (14-11) lost in the AAAA first round. Rockdale County (20-6) was upset in the 8-AAAA playoffs.
The skinny: Five teams in this newly configured region made the state playoffs or won 20 games last season. Alcovy has the most high-end firepower as point guard Tucker has committed to Auburn, and forward Williams is headed to Alabama. Williams is the one who had 20 points and 24 rebounds in the quarterfinals against Warner Robins last year. Alcovy did graduate two four-year starters, though. Rockdale has only two returning starters, but one is Richardson, who is about to commit to Mississippi State, and she joins several experienced players, plus a crop of four freshmen. Newton returns only one starter in Price. Luella lost its top two players, both all-Southside selections, and has a new coach in Michelle Smith, who came from the college ranks.
Teams that could win state: Alcovy
The lineup: Douglas County, East Coweta, Hughes, Newnan, Tri-Cities, Westlake
Teams to watch: Douglas County, Westlake
Players to watch:: Maya Benham, 5-11 forward, Douglas County; Amadi Brooks, 5-10 guard, Douglas County; Anriel Howard, 6-0 center, Westlake; Bre Tiggs, 6-0 center, East Coweta; Lauren Turner, 5-11 guard, Westlake
Strength of region: 1.5
Last season: Westlake (23-7) lost to eventual AAAAA champion McEachern in the first round. Douglas County (26-3) lost to Chamblee in the first round.
The skinny: Westlake and Douglas County are the only teams in this newly fashioned region that had winning records last season, and neither advanced in the playoffs. Westlake, which has reached the semifinals three times (2001, 2008, 2010) under coach Hilda Hankerson, doesn’t have a full-time starter back, but two key players were Turner, a big guard who causes matchup problems defensively, and Howard is an athletic sophomore post who can run the floor and appears destined for high-level college ball. Douglas County lost its best-ever player in Christin Mercer to the University of Florida. Two other all-county players return in Brooks, who can play most any position, and Benham, who averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds as a freshman. Among the others, perhaps watch East Coweta, which lost only one player from a 10-16 team. Coach Paul Jones has ‘’more talent than I have had in years’’ led by seniors Tiggs and Lexy Zelczak.
Teams that could win state: None
The lineup: Campbell, Harrison, Hillgrove, Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta, McEachern, North Cobb, Pebblebrook, South Cobb
Teams to watch: McEachern, North Cobb, Hillgrove, Harrison, Marietta
Players to watch:: Mia Cooper, 5-7 guard, McEachern; Te’a Cooper, 5-6 guard, McEachern; MacKenzie Engram, 6-2 forward, Hillgrove; Taylor Gordon, 5-11 guard, McEachern; Amber Reeves, 5-10 forward, North Cobb; Asia Vettar, 5-4 guard, Marietta
Strength of region: 5
Last season: McEachern (33-0) beat Hillgrove (26-5) in the Class AAAAA championship game. North Cobb (22-9) and Harrison (16-15) made the quarterfinals. Marietta (24-5) made the second round.
The skinny: This is essentially the region that put four teams in the quarterfinals and two in the finals, in 2012. Add to that Marietta, the Region 5-AAAAA regular-season champion, and it’s the deepest region in the state. McEachern’s 33-0 team was one of the state’s best of all-time and probably didn’t get its due. Four seniors that signed with Division I schools have graduated. Back are the Cooper sisters. Mia has committed to South Carolina. Te’a, a sophomore, has committed to North Carolina. McEachern also picked up North Cobb’s best player, Taylor Gordon, as a transfer. North Cobb returns its other four starters. One is Reeves, a 1,000-point scorer who suffered a torn ACL in the state playoffs and is about 95 percent healthy. Also back is senior Jordan Gray, who missed last season with a torn ACL. Hillgrove returns Engram, one of Cobb County’s top 10 players as a sophomore, but graduated eight seniors. Harrison returns six of its top eight, but not Nikki Hegstetter, who signed with Alabama. Marietta has made the sweet 16 or better seven of the past eight seasons, but lost three starters who are now starters as freshmen in college. A fourth starter had knee surgery and is out for the season.
Teams that could win state: McEachern, North Cobb
The lineup: Cherokee, Etowah, Lassiter, Milton, Roswell, Walton, Wheeler, Woodstock
Teams to watch: Woodstock, Cherokee, Roswell, Wheeler
Players to watch:: Makensie Block, 5-6 guard, Woodstock; Andreona Keys, 5-10 guard, Roswell; Brianna Lakes, 6-1 center, Woodstock; Aunesha Williams, 6-2 forward, Cherokee; Clara Young, 5-7 guard, Woodstock
Strength of region: 2.5
Last season: Woodstock (21-9) won the Region 5-AAAAA tournament and advanced a round in the state playoffs. Cherokee (18-11), Roswell (12-16) and Wheeler (13-15) were one and done.
The skinny: Woodstock has four starters returning from a team that upset Marietta in the region championship a year ago and played North Gwinnett pretty tough at state. Young (point guard) and Block (3-point ace) each have scored more than 1,000 points in their careers, and Lakes is a powerful presence in the post. Cherokee also returns four starters, and junior Williams is an elite post player headed for major college basketball. Roswell junior Keys is perhaps the region’s best all-around player. Etowah had a young team of only one senior and should be a playoff contender again.
Teams that could win state: Woodstock
The lineup: Alpharetta, Centennial, Chattahoochee, Johns Creek, Lambert, North Forsyth, South Forsyth, West Forsyth
Teams to watch: Alpharetta, North Forsyth, Chattahoochee, Johns Creek
Players to watch:: Kim Blake, 5-5 guard, North Forsyth; Caroline Bowns, North Forsyth; Lauren Brown, 5-10 guard Alpharetta; Allie Buchalski, 5-8 forward, Johns Creek; Peyton Card, 6-0 center, Lambert; Paige Elliott, 6-0 center, Centennial; Cassidy Gaillard, 5-11 guard, Chattahoochee; Kylee Smith, 6-0 guard, Alpharetta
Strength of region: 2
Last season: Alpharetta (24-4) won Region 6-AAAAA and lost to Mill Creek in the second round. West Forsyth (9-16) snuck in the state playoffs but lost in the first round. North Forsyth (21-9) lost in the second round, and Lambert (18-11) lost in the first.
The skinny: Alpharetta has a new coach in Mike House, who led Jonesboro to the Class AAAA semifinals last season. He’s getting a well-stocked cupboard that includes a Vanderbilt-bound guard in Smith and Elon-commited guard Brown. Junior forward Nicole King, at 6-0, is another big prospect. While Alpharetta is the clear favorite, almost everybody seems to have a good player. Bowns at North Forsyth was first-team all-Region 6-AAAAA as a freshman.
Teams that could win state: Alpharetta
The lineup: Collins Hill, Duluth, Habersham Central, Meadowcreek, Mill Creek, Mountain View, Norcross, North Gwinnett, Peachtree Ridge
Teams to watch: Norcross, North Gwinnett, Mill Creek, Duluth
Players to watch:: Stephanie Amichia, 6-1 center, Peachtree Ridge; Lexie Brown, 5-9 guard, North Gwinnett; Jasmine Carter, 5-8 guard, Mill Creek; Shayla Cooper, 6-1, guard, Norcross; Diamond DeShields, 6-2 guard, Norcross; Haley Gerrin, 6-2 center, Habersham Central; Katie Powell, 6-4 center, Duluth; Peyton Whitted, 6-2, forward, North Gwinnett
Strength of region: 5
Last season: Norcross (26-6) and North Gwinnett (26-4) reached the AAAAA semifinals. Norcross lost to eventual champion McEachern 64-61. North Gwinnett lost to Hillgrove 56-51. Mill Creek (21-10) made the quarterfinals, losing to North Gwinnett. Duluth (17-12) lost in the first round. Habersham Central (23-7) made the second round in AAAA.
The skinny: DeShields, a former all-class player of the year who has committed to North Carolina, is back for her senior season and is considered the state’s top player. With her, Norcross has won two state titles (2010, 2011). Teammate Cooper is rated the No. 35 college prospect nationally by HoopGurlz and is headed to Georgetown. Norcross did lose three starters to college basketball. North Gwinnett brings back three college-committed prospects in Brown (Maryland), Whitted (Penn State) and junior point guard Baylee Rexing (Ole Miss). Mill Creek’s Carter, who has led her team in scoring since she was a freshman, is among three starters back. Duluth’s Powell is rated the No. 11 post player in the class of 2014 by ESPN.
Teams that could win state: Norcross, North Gwinnett
The lineup: Archer, Berkmar, Brookwood, Central Gwinnett, Dacula, Grayson, Parkview, Shiloh, South Gwinnett
Teams to watch: Parkview, Brookwood, Archer, South Gwinnett
Players to watch:: Courtney Gardner, 5-11 guard, Brookwood; Victoria Harris, 6-3 post, Parkview; Marissa Mandledove 5-4 guard, Parkview; Mia Marshall, 6-2 forward, Parkview; Madison Newby, 5-7 guard, Archer; Rebecca Walker, 6-2 guard, Brookwood
Strength of region: 2.5
Last season: Parkview (30-1) lost to defending champion Norcross in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals. South Gwinnett (18-11), Archer (18-11) and Brookwood (16-13) lost in the first round to teams from stout Region 7-AAAAA.
The skinny: Parkview should be at the top again but is younger with only two seniors, two juniors on its 15-girl roster. Parkview gets a boost with the return of Marshall, who missed last season with a torn ACL. She has committed to Appalachian state. The best and most highly recruited player in the region is Parkview sophomore post Harris. Brookwood has two four-year players in Rebecca Walker and Courtney Gardner but nine on the roster with no varsity experience. Archer, an up-and-comer in its fourth season, graduated only one senior from its first-ever state qualifier and is in good hands with point guard Newby, who haveraged 12 points and 5 assists as a freshman.
Teams that could win state: Parkview