While Lovett (28-4 in 2011-12) returns most of its players from last year’s state titlists, the Lions will face a strong challenge in both AA and Region 6AA from Wesleyan — which moves up in class after winning the Class A crown the last four years.
“Wesleyan is an extremely talented team and they present a tough challenge to us,” Lovett coach Liz Kennedy said. “We only have five teams in the region, but it’s going to be a very competitive region.”
Holy Innocents’ (22-8 last season) also has state title hopes as one of the top contenders in Class A.
The Golden Bears return everyone from last year’s fourth-place Region 5A finishers, who lost in the first round of the A state tournament.
Five-foot-3 senior guard McKenzie Bolden and 5-10 senior forward Reshaundra Owens — both first-team All-Region 5A selections a year ago — return to lead a strong lineup that also includes 5-5 senior guard Bailey McBride and 5-6 junior guard Mary Hollis Schmidt.
“We are very excited about the upcoming season,” Holy Innocents’ coach Tony Watkins said. “We have a nice mixture of experience and youth.”
Pace (21-7 last winter) will be aiming for its second straight 5A title and make another run at a state crown after losing in the first round of the playoffs in 2011-12.
The Knights lose last year’s 5A co-player of the year, Morgan Batey —now playing at Vanderbilt — and Haley Zwecker, but return a talented group that includes 5-10 senior center Lindsey Zwecker and 6-2 sophomore center Olivia O’Connell.
Riverwood (19-11 in 2011-12) will try to build on last year’s breakthrough, when it qualified for the state playoffs in AAA — its first postseason trip since 2000.
The Raiders — under new coach Vanessa White — will face the challenge up moving up to AAAAA and playing without standout Jennifer Nwokocha, now playing at Austin Peay.
Senior guard Hannakohl Almire and junior guard Allie Jackson are among Riverwood’s key players.
North Atlanta (18-9 last season) will have a veteran team on the floor, with eight seniors on the roster.
The Lady Warriors will need all of that experience as it tries to remain competitive in AAAAA after playing in AAA the last few years.
Six-foot senior forward Courtney Carter, 6-2 senior center Mariah Wilson provide size in the frontcourt, while 5-2 senior point guard Ji’Sheena Robertson will be the floor general.
Westminster (9-18 last winter) will try to move forward with a very young lineup.
“We want to go for a winning record this year,” Westminster coach Heather Karvis said. “For the first time since I’ve been at Westminster as the head coach, I can honestly say that our entire team is committed to basketball and ready to make a difference.”
Five-foot-11 senior center Spencer Izlar and 5-8 junior guard Liza Linginfelter provide leadership as the team captains, while 6-0 sophomore forward Jazmine Lester and 5-9 sophomore guard Andi Carrandi are most promising of the Wildcats’ young players.
Information for North Springs, Galloway, Atlanta International and Mount Vernon Presbyterian was not available at press time.