By James Butler
PEACHTREE CITY Ga. – After feeling they were headed into the unexpected before the start of the season, it appears that the McIntosh Lady Chiefs will play their way into contention for another run at a state tournament berth.
Despite not making it to state two seasons ago, McIntosh has been a fixture in the state tournament conversation over the last several years. The Lady Chiefs head into their final games of December with a 6-2 record overall and a 5-1 mark in Region 4-AAAAA.
McIntosh dropped its first two games of the season, with the season-opening loss being its only region setback as the Lady Chiefs dropped a close one to Morrow 44-40. They again lost by four points the next time out as they fell to South Gwinnett 48-44 in double overtime.
Since then McIntosh has won six games in a row, including a 54-28 win over a much-improved Sandy Creek squad on Saturday, and have looked to settle into a style of play absent of departed guard and current Samford freshman Cassidy Williams.
A trio of juniors in co-captain Savannah Soles, Samantha Coffey, and DeLayne Rotolo has helped lead the Lady Chiefs’ offense. Also encouraging, is that one of the five wins was a 44-37 victory over Forest Park, while another was a 42-24 triumph over Drew. McIntosh will close out the calendar year at the United Bank Holiday Classic at Mary Persons High School in Forsyth, beginning on Dec. 28. The Lady Chiefs’ first opponent will be Pike County.
Like McIntosh, Whitewater had consecutive losses to start the season. In fact the Lady Wildcats dropped their first three games, falling to Lovejoy, East Coweta, and Banneker. However, Whitewater has gone 6-1 since that start, and what makes the turnaround even more unexpected or expected (depending on your point of view) is the youth of the Lady Wildcats.
The Whitewater girls are experiencing an infusion of new talent this season as their top-two leading scorers and four out of their top-five leading scorers are freshmen. Guard Courtney Smith and wing Janiya Jones lead the way as they both average in double figures. Center Jada Claude averages just under double figures, but she does average double figures in rebounds, while guard Morgan Johnson is fifth on the team in scoring with just under a couple of baskets a game to her credit. Senior guard Jordan Barnett, who was second on the team in scoring a season ago, also averages in double figures.
Also like McIntosh, an added element of the strong play of Whitewater’s freshmen is that they are helping to make up for the loss of the Lady Wildcats’ Division I signee Jada Coggins (Jacksonville State) and appear capable of putting the program in position to make it back-to-back trips to the Class AAAA Tournament.
But first, Whitewater is looking to continue its strong play of late and close out the calendar your with a strong performance in the Chuck Miller Holiday Classic, where the Lady Wildcats defeated ELCA in their first game 57-44 on Saturday at Henry County High School. Whitewater will play a Luella team who is on a six-game winning streak tonight before wrapping up the Classic tomorrow. Afterwards, the Lady Wildcats will turn their sights towards the 2016 portion of their schedule and Region 5 play.