By Justin Jarrett | LowcoSports@gmail.com
As has often become the case in area girls basketball, it’s Ridgeland-Hardeeville and everyone else.
But everyone else hopes to close the gap during the 2017-18 season.
The Jaguars, who are ranked third in Class 3A in the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association’s preseason poll, will try to claim their fifth straight region title – and their second since moving to Region 8-AAA – behind All-State guard Quanajia Drayton, but they’ll have plenty of challengers to their throne.
Battery Creek, ranked 10th in the preseason, returns an All-State player of its own in wing Ta’Quasia Lampkin, and May River has nine letterwinners back as the Sharks look to make a big jump in their second season. Bluffton is re-tooling but has strong senior leadership and always plays scrappy defense.
In Region 8-AAAA, Hilton Head High looks to repeat as region champion a year after coach Sean Rochester executed a remarkable turnaround, but the Seahawks lost three starters to graduation and two of their likely replacements to transfer. That could open the door for a young team like Beaufort High to become a surprise contender in the region.
FIVE TO WATCH
• Ta’Quasia Lampkin, BCHS: All-State player averaged 12.2 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.1 steals a year ago, scoring in double figures in 17 of 22 games.
• Quanajia Drayton, RHHS: Named one of top five seniors in Class 3A by SCBCA after averaging 13.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.4 steals during All-State campaign in 2016-17.
• Juddah Mitchell, BLHS: Bobcats’ top returning scorer (7.1 points) made 26 3-pointers last season.
• Miley Ray, HHIHS: Knockdown shooter made All-Region team by averaging 6.6 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 steals off the bench as a freshman.
• Casey Sullivan, MRHS: Senior post player moves well with and without the ball and averaged 7.0 points and 4.8 rebounds a year ago.
Coach: Sarah Hayes
Overall record: 47-30 (3 seasons)
Record at school: 47-30 (3 seasons)
2016-17 record: 15-7, Region 8-3A co-champions
Returning letterwinners: 6
Top returners: G/F Ta’Quasia Lampkin, Sr.; F/C Kendriana Shojgreen, Sr.
Key losses: G Brianna Tolbert, F GiGi Forehand
Top newcomers: G Trinity Coney, Jr.; G/F Starr Reed, Soph.
Coach’s outlook: Coming off a year in which the Dolphins were Region 8-3A co-champions and had an appearance in the second round of the playoffs, the team is looking to do great things this year. Returning All-State player Ta’Quasia Lampkin and a solid foundation from last year’s squad, the Dolphins are looking to improve upon the finish from last year and reach new heights.
Coach: Reggie Jones Sr.
Overall record: 38-57 (4 seasons)
Record at school: 38-57 (4 seasons)
2016-17 record: 13-11
Returning letterwinners: 7
Top returners: G Jahniya Lynch, Sr.; G Darien Watkins, Jr.; C Lillian Sumner, Jr.
Key losses: Najuaia Moyd, Imari Smalls, Terrayah Williams
Top newcomers: G Layla Warren, Fr.; F Brittany Linton, Fr.; G Micah McGrew, Jr.
Coach’s outlook: This will be a rebuilding year, but we are young and scrappy with a lot of upside. We’re very happy with the growth we have seen.
Coach: Lonnie Roberts
Overall record: 160-184 (15 seasons)
Record at school: 132-160 (13 seasons)
2016-17 record: 10-11
Returning letterwinners: 6
Top returners: G Kennedy Barber, Sr.; G Juddah Mitchell, Sr.; G Tatyana Aiken, Soph.; F Allayah Bryan, Jr.; F Deborah Bent, Sr.; F Jewel McCants, Sr.
Key losses: Diane Sargent, Xania Bryant, Ashlynn Harris, Lanitra Ferguson
Top newcomers: F Samari Mitchell, Fr.; G Essence Mitchell, Sr.; G Kaleigh Brown, Sr.
Coach’s outlook: No one player will carry this team offensively, so we need all the players to step up their game. This will be a complete overhaul with only two starters returning. We are young and inexperienced. We will rely on defense, quickness and hustle to win games.
HILTON HEAD HIGH
Coach: Sean Rochester
Overall record: 15-33 (2 seasons)
Record at school: 15-33 (2 seasons)
2016-17 record: 15-10
Returning letterwinners: 4
Top returners: G Megan MacDonnell, Sr.; G Trinity Feltner, Jr.; G Miley Ray, Soph.; F Caroline Brammer, Soph.
Key losses: G Kamryn Jackson, F Da’Nesha Miller, G Austin Seelbach, F Chynna Sneed, F Jasmine Campbell
Top newcomers: F Kristen Fielding, Fr.; G Alexis Mervin, Fr.; G Niki Farizy, Soph.; F Morgan Wright, Soph.; G Sarah Genova, Sr.; G Kiana Bolden, Jr.
Coach’s outlook: We are looking forward to defending our region title. We return two key pieces from last season – Miley Ray, who was All-Region as a freshman and voted third in pre-season Region Player of the Year this season, and Trinity Feltner, who has started 48 games entering her junior year. This year’s team will lean heavily on their defense and look to produce points with an aggressive, pressure defense.
Coach: Jermaine Bigham
Overall record: 160-226 (15 seasons)
Record at school: 4-18 (1 season)
2016-17 record: 4-18
Returning letterwinners: 9
Top returners: F Casey Sullivan, Sr.; G Emma Peluso, Soph.; G Olivia Peluso, Soph.; F Elexis Ramsey, Sr.; G Emily Meiss, Jr.
Key losses: None
Top newcomers: F Chynna Sneed, Soph.; F Jordan Bigham, Fr.
Coach’s outlook: In our second year of our program we look to improve greatly. Although we are still very young, we have great team chemistry and players that are dedicated to building a winning tradition.
Coach: Frederick Toomer
2016-17 record: 21-6
Returning letterwinners: 8
Top returners: G Quanajia Drayton, Sr.; G Jamee Mack, Sr.; G Timothea Green, Sr.; F Marlaysia Westbrook, Soph.
Key losses: G Shania Douglas
Coach: Shyronda Mifflin
Overall record: 37-38 (3 seasons)
Record at school: 37-38 (3 seasons)
2016-17 record: 6-16
Returning letterwinners: 3
Top returners: PG Tynaysia Evans, Jr.; G Tre’nasia Watson, Soph.
Key losses: F Eboni Beasley
Top newcomers: G/F Tanasia Campbell, Sr.; G Jasmine Diaz, Fr.
Coach’s outlook: We are a very young, inexperienced team consisting of two seasons, two juniors, five sophomores and six freshmen. Our goal is to get better each day in practice and compete.