The top-10s identify the best teams in the state. But there are plenty of additional boys and girls basketball teams that haven’t cracked the rankings, but will have their voices heard in the next two months as region competition takes over the schedule.
Here are five boys teams and five girls teams that bear watching – for the rankings and for their respective regions -- over the next two months.
Dalton: The Catamounts (9-1), who went 1-24 last year, are one of the season’s early surprises. Dalton won its first nine before falling to Kings Ridge Christian just before the break. Dalton is led by senior Chaz Ramsey, a 6-foot-6 forward who averages 21.1 points and 8.8 rebounds, and junior Eli Burt, who averages 10.6 points and 5.6 rebounds. Ramsey scored 37 points, including four 3-pointers, in a showdown win over rival Southeast Whitfield earlier this month.
Warner Robins: The Demons are 8-3 but will find the competition much stiffer in Region 2, as opposed to their former home in Region 1. They’ve already lost three region games – to No. 2 Eagle’s Landing, No. 6 Dutchtown and Union Grove. They won’t play again until Jan. 3 against Veterans. Point guard Cam Perkins and Trey Bradley lead the Demons, who were 19-8 and reached the second round of the playoffs last season.
Flowery Branch: The Falcons have some solid returning pieces with 6-foot-6 Tyleek Worth and 6-5 Fe Honors, who are both comfortable playing inside or outside. Jack Burney, Jeremiah Ware, Jackson Owens and Jayden Gudz, a transfer from Buford, are dangerous from the perimeter. Flowery Branch brings consistent intensity and will be a contender in Region 8.
Tucker: Veteran coach James Hardy has the team off to a 7-5 start and in position to challenge for the Region 4 championship. The Tigers graduated all-state guard Raylan Barrion, but return juniors Josiah Lawson, an all-DeKalb County selection last season, and Christopher Whitemore from last year’s team that went 22-5 and won the Region 4-6A championship.
Eastside: The Eagles jumped out to an 11-1 start, the only loss coming 58-53 to Tucker on Nov. 19. Senior Kassen Sanders, a 6-foot-2 swing man, leads the team with 13.8 points and is an excellent shooter. Larry Rivers (7.8 points) and point guard Brentarious Reed (5.9 points) are experienced hands who have embraced the team’s scrappy philosophy.
Statesboro: The Blue Devils went 22-6 last season and have won 20 games for the last two seasons. Statesboro lost two starters, but has plenty of size up front in 6-foot-4 Alyssa Staten, 6-3 freshman Kennedy Myers and 6-1 Azziza Flowers. The athletic backcourt of Demia Hartwell and Reya Johnson balance the lineup.
Ware County: The Gators and Statesboro appear to be likely challengers to Bradwell Institute, although the Gators were thumped by 19 points in their first meeting with Bradwell. Ware County went 19-8 last season and reached the second round. Center Charlese McClendon, who recently scored her 1,000th career point, is considered one of the top centers in the state.
Cambridge: The Bears have a new coach in Shanteona Keys, who takes over a club that went 18-10 and finished third in their region. Jordynn Dudley is the school’s all-time leading scorer who has a chance to reach 2,000 career points. Dudley is a three-time first-team all-region pick and has committed to play soccer at Florida State. Grace Barrett is a four-year and team leader who has signed to play softball at Appalachian State.
Midtown: Despite being a young team – the Knights have no seniors and nine freshmen on the roster – Midtown is off to a 10-2 start. Sinclair Richman (14.9 points, 4.1 rebounds) and Briaiah Lewis (12.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists) are the anchors, with Cate Barton, Devin Brockman and Kyla Stewart rounding out the starting lineup.
Cass: You can always count on coach Burt Jackson to field a strong team and the Colonels are off to a 9-2 start this season. Cass graduated Claire Davis, the co-Region 7 player of the year, and first-team all-region Jermiya Winston, but has a strong group returning. Kiana McDaniel was the MVP of the SMI Christmas Classic, where the Colonels beat Class 6A No. 6 New Manchester in the final. Olivia Woods was named to the all-tournament team and Cass has gotten consistent effort from Darianna Sosa, Mikaela Jackson and Nevaeh Woods, who had a rare double-double with rebounds and steals against East Paulding.
About the Author
Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com