Even though there’s only one senior on the roster, coach John Zorn was confident his Loganville girls had the makings of something special.
Even during the summer leagues, when the Red Devils were getting hammered by some of the best teams in the state, he saw the potential. Even when the girls had their difficulties traversing the harsh non-region schedule that featured the likes of Brookwood, Grayson and Pebblebrook, Zorn was positive that the future looked bright.
“We were playing the team teams in the state, like we always had, and we didn’t have the experience that some of the other teams we had,” Zorn said. “I kept telling them, ‘Just keep and we’re going to have a shot to win the region title. There’s a reason we’re doing this.”
It all became to come together around the Christmas break – when all the experience started to pay off and when the flag football girls returned to the court. Loganville got into its Region 8 schedule and began to win, just like they’ve done since Zorn arrived in 2012.
“I told them, we have a chance to win every game the rest of the way,” he said. “Now some of those games early on, we didn’t have a shot at that point in the season, but we knew from that point we had a shot to win them all. We’ve had some downfalls and some injuries and some sickness, so we dropped a couple, but I was really proud of how they responded.”
The Red Devils won their first eight region games before losing at Clarke Central in overtime. Loganville improved to 14-8 overall and 9-1 in the region with a 47-38 victory over Jefferson, a win that secured the region title. Loganville will be the No. 1 seed in the Region 8 tournament at Winder-Barrow and is guaranteed a spot in the state playoffs.
“Around Christmas they finally started to come together,” he said. “The biggest thing was we started hitting a few shots here and there, because we were having a hard time shooting and then we finally got a few shots to start falling for us.”
The team is led by the inside-outside duo of Emaya Lewis, a 6-foot-3 junior, and Caty Beth Bolemon, a 5-3 junior.
Lewis already has 10 DI offers -- including Georgia Southern and Southern Miss -- and averages 16.4 points, 11.4 assists and 4.4 blocks. Lewis is difficult to stop when she gets the ball on the low block and is working on her mid-range game. Lewis is still getting her legs back after a bout with COVID last month.
“She’s got so much potential,” Zorn said. “She’s not even scratched the surface. She loves it and when she gets in college and gets that instruction every day, she’s really going to develop.”
Bolemon started a year ago and learned how to feed the ball to Sydney Bolden, who is now playing at Ball State. Boleman is proficient at whipping passes to Lewis in the post, is an adept ball handler against the press, and is capable of knocking down the 3-pointer. Twice against Jefferson she answered a 3-pointer with one of her own to prevent a momentum swing.
Loganville also starts senior Matelyn Genske, junior Courtney Stokes and sophomore Sophie Farmer, who often guards the opponent’s most dangerous player. The first three players off the bench are freshmen Ariyana Smith and Guilana Williams, a pair of small, quick guards, and 6-foot junior center Chloe Sherrill.
“They’re all super coachable,” Zorn said. “And we’ve done a good job of taking away what the other team does well and the fact that we’ve got the big girl in there in the middle that can affect every shot allows us to not be the best on defense around the perimeter at times because we know when they drive in there, she’s a presence in there.”
Loganville hosts Flowery Branch on Friday, has a non-region home game against Lakeview Academy, and completes the regular season on Tuesday at Winder-Barrow.
In big games this weekend
In Region 2, Eagle’s Landing (22-1, 10-1) can nail down the regular-season championship with a win on Senior Night against visiting Union Grove (15-9. 7-4). The Eagles had been tied for first with Dutchtown, but regained the top spot after the Bulldogs were beaten by Union Grove on Friday. A win would guarantee Union Grove third place, while a loss could drop the Wolverines as far as fifth place.
In Region 5, Chapel Hill (14-7, 10-3) travels to Mays (15-6, 10-2) in a critical game on Friday. Mays lost to Tri-Cities 72-67 on Friday and is tied for first place with the defending state champions. A Mays win preserves its share of first place. A Chapel Hill win would create a tie for second place. Mays won the first meeting 68-47 on Jan. 7 in Douglasville.
In Region 7, Hiram (19-2, 7-0) hosts Calhoun (12-9, 5-2) on Friday and can clinch a share of first place with a win. The Hornets won the first meeting 62-51 on Jan. 20. Calhoun lost to Cass on Tuesday, leaving those teams with two region losses and tied for second place.
In Region 8, there is a three-way tie for first place between Eastside (19-4, 9-2), Winder-Barrow (15-8, 8-2) and Heritage (16-6, 8-2). One of those teams will take the upper hand on Friday when Eastside hosts Winder-Barrow. Eastside won the first meeting 61-49 on Jan. 10, but Winder-Barrow has won five straight since then.
An Eastside win means the Eagles can finish no worse than a tie for first. A Winder-Barrow win allows the Bulldoggs to retain a piece of first place; they finish the season on Saturday against Loganville. Heritage plays at Jefferson on Friday and hosts Flowery Branch on Saturday.
In Region 7, Calhoun (18-3, 7-2) can guarantee itself the regular season title with a win on Friday at Hiram (17-4, 5-2). The Yellow Jackets won the first meeting 61-42 in Calhoun on Jan. 20.
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com