Last year appeared to be the season that Chamblee, 1-9 in state tournament games, would change its hard luck story in the postseason.
The Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 for three weeks and recorded their second undefeated regular season in school history. However, an upset loss to Miller Grove in the quarterfinals of the Region 6-AAAA tournament kept Chamblee (23-1) out of the state tournament.
The good news is that the nucleus of that team returns. Jasmine Camp, now a freshman at Stanford, graduated but three top players return. Lucy Mason was the third-leading scorer in the county last season at 16.5 points per game and Bre McDonald, who has signed with Georgia Tech, averaged 13.1 points. Also returning is forward Chelsea Adams.
Winners of their first two games this season, the Bulldogs begin region play Nov. 29 at home against Lakeside. Chamblee has only two regular-season region losses over the past two years—and both came against Southwest DeKalb.
The Bulldogs were one of the top defensive teams in the county a year ago, allowing only 38 points per game.
As in years past, the Bulldogs’ top competition in the region should come from Southwest DeKalb, Miller Grove and Redan.
Olivia Gibbs and Nekia Sockwell, Southwest’s top scorers from a year ago, are back this season. Gibbs averaged 13.8 points and Sockwell averaged 11.7 points per game.
Miller Grove will be strong again inside, with juniors Aniefiok Udofia and Klarissa Weaver, and senior Tabitha Fudge leading the way. Fudge, a 6-foot-2 post player, averaged 9.8 rebounds and helped the Wolverines rank second in the county in blocked shots a year ago with 136.
Redan, which lost six seniors; including Kierra Paige (Alabama State) and Aneesah Daniels (Alabama), will rely on a roster that includes five sophomores and four freshmen. Sophomore Jada Byrd, a 5-7 wing, led the county last season by shooting 62 percent from the field as a freshman and averaged 6.8 rebounds.
Coach Jerry Jackson also will look for production from Brea Elmore and Jamesa Abney.
“We had a good offseason and the kids have spent a lot of time together,” Jackson said. “The chemistry of this team is strong and they pick each other up.”
In Class AAA, St. Pius returns all five starters after winning the Region 5-AAA championship and finishing 25-6. The Golden Lions defeated 2010 state champion Columbia in the region finals and advanced to the AAA state quarterfinals.
Senior Sydni Payne returns as the Golden Lions’ leading scorer. Also, Emma Ucinski and Anna O’Donnell were voted to the 5-AAA all-region team, with O’Donnell voted the region tournament MVP.
Columbia will be attempting to make another strong run in the state playoffs led by senior guard Zuri Frost. The Eagles, 25-7 a year ago, won their first state championship in 2010 and advanced to the state semifinals last season.
Frost, one of the top defensive players in the county, had 130 steals and averaged 10.6 points per game last season. Also returning is junior Miah Spencer, who averaged 11.7 points per game last season.
In Class AAAAA, Stephenson won the Region 2-AAAAA tournament and finished 22-6. The Jaguars, however, lost in the first round of the state tournament.
Senior Joylyn Strauss and junior Kaliyah Mitchell will be among the leaders this season. Mitchell, a 6-2 post players, is regarded as one of the top underclassmen in the area and averaged 11.3 points and 7.6 rebounds as a sophomore.
“Once we get some games under our belts the girls will have some confidence,” coach Dennis Watkins said. “Hopefully, we can get further [in the state tournament] this year.”
In Class AA, Decatur returns one of the top players in the state in Queen Alford. The 5-8 senior guard has signed with Jacksonville University. She scored 41 points in the Bulldogs’ first two games this season. Decatur finished 21-9 last season and advanced to the state tournament.