November 14, 2012

Prep girls basketball area previews

Aiming for a new year

Both the 2009-10 and the 2010-11 girls high school basketball seasons ended with an area team playing for a GHSA state title.

Last season ended without a local team in any of the GHSA state tournaments.

Although Christian Heritage made a strong run in the GISA Class 2A state tournament, advancing to the semifinals for the third time in five years, there was more disappointment than delight for area programs on the court last season.

However, the chance for a new start and better results is almost here. All seven local teams — Christian Heritage, Coahulla Creek, Dalton, Murray County, North Murray, Northwest Whitfield and Southeast Whitfield — will begin the regular season by this month’s end, and most will have a couple games behind them when Thanksgiving weekend comes to a close.

As those opening dates approach, teams have been dealt changes in regions and associations, not to mention starting lineups and head coaching jobs. But whatever their situation, they’ll have the chance to show who they are on the floor soon enough.

Here’s a look at what the season holds for each area program.

Christian Heritage

As they face the challenge of GHSA competition for the first time, the Lady Lions are coming off one of their best campaigns in program history — but most of the key players from last season’s run to the GISA Class 2A state semifinals are gone.

Maggie Peeples, The Daily Citizen’s All-Area Girls Basketball Player of the Year for 2011-12, is at Shorter College. Ann Marie Massengale, who averaged 14 points per game and was the team’s dominant inside presence in a guard-oriented lineup, graduated. Caroline Tarpley, who had a standout freshman season by averaging a dozen points, transferred to Calhoun.

That leaves most of the offensive load on the shoulders of senior Rebecca Leonard, who averaged just less than 11 points last year. After that, the Lady Lions are young and short.

“We are finding out everyone’s role and looking for some consistency,” coach Heather Lowery said. “We played a lot of area teams this summer at camp, and we feel like we have worked hard. It is going to be different, but we like to compete. We are anxious to get to it.”

Christian Heritage, which will compete in Region 6-A, opens the season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against host Dalton — which played for the GHSA Class 3A state title two years ago — in the Lady Cats Invitational.

The challenge for a school taking a step up in competition is daunting, and having to do it with a young, untested roster is something else. But Lowery said the girls are up to the challenge.

“Even though we are young, we feel like we will compete and do well,” she said. “The thing we like about it the most is that we will build new rivalries and that will be a big plus.”

Leonard, a 5-foot-4-inch wing who will play college softball at Samford, and point guard Alexis Poag will be on the perimeter with Sarah Massengale filling the post position previously held by her older sister. Sophomore Jordan Suddath is the other post. Drew Tipton is the tallest player on the team at 6 feet.

“They have to get experience somehow, but I really like this team,” Lowery said. “I like their work ethic, and there is something special about them. They will work hard and do well.”

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