Last season, the girls of Southwest DeKalb, Columbia and St. Pius all claimed state titles in Class 5A, 4A and 3A, respectively.
“This has to be the best county for high school basketball,” SW DeKalb girls’ coach Kathy Walton said. “We wouldn’t be doing what we are doing at Southwest DeKalb if it wasn’t for DeKalb County.
“Any of the teams that made it to the state playoffs — Stephenson, Tucker, Miller Grove — could have won state,” Walton said. “It was just fortunate that we were the team that won last year.”
The Lady Panthers lost four seniors, including 6-foot-2 center Deja Clay and 6-foot-1 forward Miaya Crowder so Walton believes her team will have to adjust to not having as much height. However, leading scorer and rebounder Tynice Martin and a few other experienced players are back to defend their title.
“Tynice has really matured,” Walton said. “I actually think she is coming into her own as a junior.”
The Columbia Lady Eagles, who won their final nine games last season, will have a lot of key pieces returning except three seniors, including Miah Spencer, the Class AAAA Player of the Year.
The St. Pius Golden Lady Lions only had three players graduate from their 30-3 state championship team. Also Class AAA Player of the Year, Asia Durr, is back along with senior Jasmine Carter for the march towards a repeat.
On the boys’ side, Miller Grove is the only defending champion, and the Wolverines are currently five-time defending champions, but Columbia, St. Pius and others appear built for another successful season.
“We lost 33 points out of our lineup,” Miller Grove coach Sharman White said. “Hopefully, we can find a way to make those points up and continue to compete and put ourselves in a position to defend our championship. It never gets easy. We understand the bulls eye gets bigger.”