DeKalb County has dominated girls basketball lately in the state’s second-largest classification, winning eight championships in the past 10 years.
Last season, Southwest DeKalb and Miller Grove played an all-DeKalb state final for the second consecutive season. Miller Grove won the three regular-season meetings, but Southwest DeKalb won in the region championship game and the state final to claim its fourth title in six years. In 2012, Miller Grove won to complete a boys/girls sweep of the championships.
The county’s dominance goes back to 2004, when St. Pius claimed its first of three titles in four seasons. During the 10-season run, DeKalb’s championships have come from St. Pius (2004, 2006, 2007), Southwest DeKalb (2008, 2009, 2010, 2013) and Miller Grove (2012). Only Etowah in 2005 and Fayette County in 2011 have taken the championship away from DeKalb.
Look for this year to be no different. In a preseason poll produced by Score Atlanta last week, four of the top five girls teams in Class AAAAA are DeKalb County schools, led by Southwest DeKalb at No. 1.
Here are five teams to watch this season:
*Southwest DeKalb: The Panthers will be led again this season by Tynice “Nicole” Martin. As a sophomore last season, Martin was second-team all-state and first-team all-DeKalb. She finished third in the county in scoring (16.7 points per game) and second in rebounding (10.3) and was the only DeKalb player to average a double-double. The Panthers also return junior Davion Wingate, who averaged 10.3 points and was among the top 10 in the county in 3-point percentage.
*Miller Grove: Coach Renee Breedlove has turned the Wolverines into one of the state’s top programs, and they are ranked No. 5 in the preseason poll. The task this season will be replacing a strong group of graduated seniors that included Tashi Thompson (13.1 points per game), Klarissa Weaver (11.2 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Katie Hunt (9.5 points).
*Tucker: The Tigers, ranked No. 2 in the preseason, are led by Erykah Davenport, a first-team all-state player as a junior last season, when she averaged 14.8 points and 7.3 rebounds. The Tigers also return Naima Jackson, an honorable mention selection in DeKalb. Tucker, which lost to Miller Grove in the quarterfinals, faces defending AAAAAA champion Norcross in a scrimmage on Thursday.
*Kell: Much like Miller Grove, the Longhorns will have a bit of rebuilding to do this season after losing Naomi Stuger, China Henderson and Erin McKinney (graduated) as well as Caliya Robinson (transfer). The Longhorns were ranked No. 1 entering the state tournament last season but lost to DeKalb school Stephenson in the first round.
*Forest Park: The leader for the Panthers will be senior guard Kayla Potts, who missed more than a year with a knee injury. Forest Park was 8-6 without her last season but went 16-2 after her return in January. Potts scored a game-high 19 points in a 43-41 loss to Southwest DeKalb in the state semifinals. It was the closest game the eventual champions had during the tournament.
*Other teams to watch: Stephenson, Allatoona, Osborne, Effingham County, Cedar Shoals, McIntosh, Creekview, Flowery Branch