The days and nights are cooler, most area football teams have put away the pads for another year and Thanksgiving menus are being planned.
That can mean only one thing: It’s time to tip off on the high school hardwood.
The 2012-13 postseason was a mixed bag for basketball programs in Murray and Whitfield counties. Six local teams claimed top-four finishes at their respective region tournaments, with the boys and girls squads at Dalton, North Murray and Northwest Whitfield all doing so to advance to state. But only Northwest’s boys came away with a region title and only North Murray’s boys survived the first round of state.
Whether their finish was frustrating or rewarding, though, a new season means it’s time to move on for all of the area high school varsity teams, a number that now stands at 15 with Morris Innovative’s boys making the jump to the higher level of competition after two seasons of playing a junior varsity schedule.
Several area teams start their schedule this week, with everyone except Dalton’s boys — who in coach Mike Duffie’s tenure have traditionally waited until early December to tip off — in action by Thanksgiving weekend.
Here’s a look at what the season might hold for each of them.
With five of 11 players on the Christian Heritage boys basketball roster busy preparing for Friday’s football game at Darlington, where a first-round matchup in the Class A private school state playoffs awaits the Lions, a slow start on the court seems likely.
Nevertheless, coach Anthony Moseley, who led the Lions to an 8-14 record last season — his first with the team and the school’s first against Georgia High School Association competition — is optimistic about the Lions and their chances in Region 6-A in 2013-14.
“We should be a lot better once we get the football players with us,” Moseley said. “Playing in the GHSA last year for the first time certainly will help ... the competition is a lot better. We also have more athleticism.”
Cameron Locke, a sharpshooting 5-foot-11-inch senior guard, is the lone returning starter. Locke, who averaged 10 points per game last season, set a school record with eight 3-pointers in a game.
At least until the football players join the Lions, other likely starters are senior forward Jake Porter, junior forward/center Chase Tidwell and sophomores Will Jackson, a forward/center, and Tyler Tipton, a guard/forward. All are listed at 6-2 or 6-3. On the bench is guard/forward Eli Duncan.
Coming from the football squad will be senior center Andrew McEntyre, the team’s tallest player at 6-5, and classmates Hutch Crawford, a guard, and Nich Bartley, a guard/forward, as well as sophomore guard Tyson Cooper.
Lady Lions coach Heather Lowery heads into her 14th season leading the program expecting vast improvement from last year’s 5-20 season. The Lady Lions had several deep postseason runs during their five years of competition in the Georgia Independent School Association, making the semifinals three times and the title game once in Class 2A.
“We had graduated a lot of people from the year before, and we were playing in the GHSA for the first time,” Lowery said of last season. “We should be a lot better. We have more maturity this year. Our girls played more summer ball.”
Junior forward Sarah Massengale returns after averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds last season, while Jordan Suddath averaged seven rebounds per game. Senior guards Alexis Poag and Drew Tipton are also returning starters, while quality defense is expected from the likes of guards Molly Crawford (Sr.) and Ransley Defoor (Jr.) and forwards Julia McDonald (So.) and Megan McKinney, (Sr.).
Others on the roster are sophomore guard Baleigh McAllister and five freshmen — guards Ashley Clements, Erin Leonard and Pressley Poag, plus forwards Sydney Davis and Mikayla Russell.
Christian Heritage’s girls open their season at 6 p.m. Saturday at home against Dalton. The Lions’ season begins Nov. 26 against Murray County.