With nearly everybody back from last year’s state championship team, there’s no doubt that the St. Pius girls will be considered the team to beat this year.
The Golden Lions knocked off No. 1-ranked and seemingly invincible Buford last year and went on to beat Dawson County in the title game. St. Pius went 30-3 and did not lose to another AAA team all season.
The team is led by All-American Asia Durr, a 5-foot-10 junior guard who averaged 21 points. In addition to her scoring prowess, Durr has the knack of being in the right place at the right time and getting a key rebound when needed most.
Durr tried out for the USA Women’s U16 National team and competed against international teams in Mexico. She wound up being MVP as the U.S. team won the FIBA Americas Cup.
The Golden Lions also return senior guard Jasmine Carter, another all-state player. The 5-9 guard knows how to handle the ball and is a strong 3-point shooter. She has committed to play for Andy Landers at Georgia.
The combination of Durr and Carter cannot be matched by any other team in the classification.
But the strength of the Pius team may be its defense. The Lions allowed only 39 points in the playoffs and play hard for coach Kyle Snipes. They open on Nov. 21 at home against Forest Park.
Here are five other teams to watch this year:
Buford: The Wolves lost Kaela Davis, Andraya Carter, Kristina Nelson and Mackenzie Darrah from last year’s 24-5 team, but should still be a contender. Bree Horrocks, a 6-5 senior who has committed to Purdue, and Camille Anderson, a 5-8 guard who has committed to N.C. State, make up the nucleus.
Washington County: The Golden Hawks lost only one game during the regular season. Waco is led by guard Shonterria Kitchens, a 5-6 senior, but will miss Tierra Murray, who signed with Southern Union.
Sonoraville: The Phoenix went through the regular season with only one loss a year ago. Center Carrie Cheeks, a 6-2 senior, leads a solid pack of returning players. She averaged 15.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.9 blocks last year, when Sonoraville won 20 games for the second straight season.
North Oconee: The Titans return 5-10 forward Ginny Channell from last year’s region championship team. Channell averaged 14.4 points and 5.7 rebounds and was named all-area for the second straight season. Coach Donnie Byrom will definitely miss all-state forward Brooke Hubbard (19.4 points, 6.9 rebounds).
Beach: The Bulldogs rolled through Region 1-AAA last year and reached the state quarterfinals for the 10th time under coach Ronald Booker, who retired at the end of his 35th season. Beach returns all-area guard Ilyn Spann, who averaged 12.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists. Also returning is forward Jada Young.