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Girls mid-season basketball report

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Henry County girls basketball coach Carl Caputa sees in his Lady Hawks team the potential to be "the team to beat" in Region 3-AAA.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Henry County girls basketball coach Carl Caputa sees in his Lady Hawks team the potential to be "the team to beat" in Region 3-AAA.

The first half of the season is in the books.

Most teams spent the recent holiday break playing in local and out-of-town tournaments. In between the break and tournaments, they also found a little time to practice as the second half of the season begins tonight.

Here is a look at some teams heading into tonight’s action:

Forest Park

After cruising to a 5-0 region 4-AAAAA, Div. A record, the Forest Park Lady Panthers may not be where they want to be, but are looking to get a big boost with the return of one of its promising stars.

Junior guard Kayla Potts, who has been out with a knee injury since around this time last season, should be returning in time for Forest Park to make its second half plunge into region play.

The Lady Panthers last played to a 48-35 victory against Clarke Central on December 29. Imani Richards paced them in that contest with 14 points and seven rebounds.

At 8-6 overall, and losers of three of its last five games, Forest Park is hoping that the return of Potts will mean a return to some of its old ways.

Coach Steven Cole’s young squad is no doubt feeling the heavy graduation losses from its 2011-12 state tournament team. But the Panthers will look toward its next four games against Ola, Mount Zion, Drew and Union Grove — region foes who have a combined record of 19-31.

— Gabriel Stovall

Henry County

The transition from the Brianna Williams era is finally over.

The dynamic guard, who is currently lighting up the Atlantic Sun Conference at Mercer, led Henry County back to prominence during a three-year run that included a semifinals appearance in 2009.

But Williams’ presence almost meant Henry County became relient on her production. When she struggled, so did the Lady Hawks.

That’s not an issue for this Henry County team.

“This is probably the most team-oriented team I’ve ever had,” Henry County coach Carl Caputa said. “They’re all one. With Brianna, you knew who the star was. This team, they pick each other up.”

Yes, Taylor Cistrunk filled the stat sheet for a couple games with 20- and 30-point performances, but Caputa said there’s been a different leading scorer almost every other night.

Sometimes it’s Devin Lewis, who had a 20-point game herself recently. Sometimes it’s Kiana Coleman. It could be Camreen White-Horn.

Regardless, Henry County sits at 6-4 after losing to powerhouse Redan in the championship game of the Chuck Miller Classic and starting to become a dangerous team.

“I think we’ll gel it together,” Caputa said. “We’ve been getting a lot of experience. Once we get more experience, we’re going to be the team to beat.”

— Brian Paglia

Jonesboro

With three returning starters from last season’s Final Four team, you’d think things should be easy for first year coach Lamar Harris, right?

Not so much.

The Lady Cardinals have several good wins under their belts — such as a 61-52 victory over an athletic Southwest DeKalb team, and 42-29 to former region nemesis Forest Park. But losses in crossover games with Region 4-AAAA, Div. A foes Dutchtown and Woodland have been disappointing.

Before the winter break, the Cardinals ran past Locust Grove 73-26, and then played in the Tallahassee, Fla. Indian Shootout last weekend.

Jonesboro is hoping to jump into good fortune against as it will face three Region 4-AAAA, Div. B opponents in its next four games, starting tonight against Griffin (7-6).

— Gabriel Stovall

Luella

First-year coach Michelle Smith started to see her Lady Lions’ potential at the Shane’s Rib Shack Classic holiday tournament at Union Grove last week.

Luella reached the championship game before losing 39-31 to Woodland. It was a game that featured both the team’s greatest strength (defense) and weakness (offense).

Smith, who came to Luella from an assistant coaching position at Southern Illinois University, said she’s pleased with the team’s progress on defense, especially its improved rebounding.

But the offense is a different matter.

“I want to get clicking offensively,” Smith said. “I don’t think we’ve played a good offensive game yet. I’m anxious to see that.”

Smith brought a philosophy to Luella based on the premise that the Lady Lions’ best defense would be their best offense. She envisioned a team that would cause turnovers that led to transition baskets.

But most high school defenses have played zone against Luella, Smith noted, and the Lady Lions haven’t been successful at making the most of their offensive chances.

“We’ve taken baby steps,” Smith said. “We have to start knocking down the shots. Everybody on the high school level plays zone defense, so we have to knock down those open shots.”

But Smith is pleased with the production from forward Shantay Baldwin and the consistency from the point guard position between starter Carrington Johnson, Brianna Moore and freshman Sade Jacobs, who can play three positions.

At 7-4, the Lady Lions aren’t quite where Smith hoped they’d be.

But they’re getting there.

“I really think the sky is the limit,” Smith said.

— Brian Paglia

Woodland

First year coach Ashley Maddox has the Lady Wolfpack humming to a 14-1 start after winning the Shane’s Rib Shack Classic at Union Grove on December 29, including a perfect 6-0 mark in region 4-AAAA, Div. A. Given Woodland’s recent history of success, it wouldn’t be right to call this year’s fortune surprising. But Woodland’s current 13 game winning streak — the longest in school history is definitely turning heads.

What perhaps is even more impressive than the streak is the fact that Woodland is doing it with just four seniors on its roster. Seniors Lindsey Reed and Morgan Jones have been leaders, while Zaundra Stevens has shown strong promise as a freshman.

A January 18 showdown at region rival Dutchtown should be a good test.

— Gabriel Stovall