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Atlanta high school sports news from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Top boys, girls teams to watch

The new year is looming, and with 2018 comes the thick of region play in Class AA basketball. As the coming weeks and months will determine playoff seeding, here's a look at five AA teams to keep an eye on from both the boys' and girls' side.


Glenn Hills Spartans

2017 finish: 16-10, missed playoffs

2018 update: What a difference an offseason makes. The Spartans have gone from unranked and missing the playoffs to becoming AA's top-ranked team. They were 6-0 heading into the Augusta Round Ball Classic, including 3-0 in Region 4 competition. Notable wins include AAAAAA's No. 8 Greenbrier (64-57) and Laney (62-61). Six-foot-four senior point guard Tim Williams leads the team in scoring with an 18.5 points average.

Banks County Leopards

2017 finish: 23-5, lost 77-68 to Josey in the second round of the AA playoffs

2018 update: The Leopards are off to a 9-1 start and 1-0 in Region 8, including a 66-61 win over No. 9 Monticello, though they're coming off an 84-65 loss to AAAAAA's Apalachee. They've beaten Hart County, East Hall and West Hall twice each.

Jeff Davis Yellow Jackets

2017 finish: 20-8, lost 88-67 to Butler in the opening round of the AA playoffs

2018 update: The Yellow Jackets are 7-2, with both losses coming to Region 2 opponents Vidalia (62-59) and No. 8 Swainsboro (66-54). Notable wins include 74-71 in overtime over AAA's Long County and 74-73 over region foe Metter. Sophomore Jaqueze Kirby, who stands at 6-foot-5 and can play the guard and forward positions, is averaging 19.4 points, 13.6 rebounds, 3.6 blocks, 2.8 steals and 3.8 assists.

South Atlanta Hornets

2017 finish: 29-1, defeated Swainsboro 68-33 in the AA title game

2018 update: The defending state champs have a new look after graduation claimed a number of last season's key contributors, but the Hornets are off to a winning start. They're owners of an 8-1 record including three Region 6 wins over Hapeville Charter (69-67), Douglass (78-38) and KIPP (85-56). They also beat AAAAAAA's Westlake 74-70 on Nov. 25.

Dublin Fighting Irish

2017 finish: 26-6, lost 68-64 to Dublin in the AA semifinals

2018 update: The Fighting Irish are sitting at 8-1 and have yet to play a Region 3 opponent. Their lone loss was 71-67 to Wilkinson County, which is ranked No. 6 in A-public. They traveled down to Florida to play in the Kruel Classic and went 3-0 against Sunshine State schools. They also have two wins each against Twigg's County and Truetlen.


Laney Lady Wildcats

2017 finish: 31-1, defeated Rabun County 85-76 in the AA title game

2018 update: The Lady Wildcats are on a 38-game win streak dating back to last season, when they ripped off 30 straight wins to take the state championship. They're 8-0 so far this season, including 3-0 in Region 4. All of their wins have been double digits thus far and they've put up 80 or more points in six of their games, surpassing the 90-point milestone three times. Senior De'Sha Benjamin, who can play guard, forward and center, is averaging 26 points to go with 9 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 2.6 steals and 2.4 blocks. Junior guard Jaiden Hamilton and senior guard-forward Jhessyka Williams each average 18 points.

Rabun County Lady Wildcats

2017 finish: 29-3, lost 85-76 to Laney in the AA title game

2018 update: The Lady Wildcats were 8-1 heading into Thursday, with their lone loss coming 82-53 to Putnam County in Region 8 action. They have two wins over Union County (48-45, then 54-41) and Walhalla (87-53 and 80-49). They are currently in a holiday tournament in North Carolina.

Swainsboro Lady Tigers

2017 finish: 17-10, lost 70-44 to Laney in the first round of the AA playoffs

2018 update: The Lady Tigers are off to a 9-0 start and are 4-0 in Region 2 action. All but one of their wins have been double digits — they beat Statesboro 50-43. Four of their wins have been by 30 points or more. They are led by junior guard-forward Dynesha Brown, who averages 7 steals, 21.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.3 blocks.

Fitzgerald Lady Purple Hurricane

2017 finish: 22-3, lost 70-54 to Rabun County in the AA quarterfinals

2018 update: The Lady Purple Hurricane are 4-1, with their loss coming 60-55 to Cook of AAA. Notable wins include 58-55 over Oakleaf (Florida) and 79-64 over Turner County. They have a balanced scoring attack led by Kirstin Crook (14 points), Hayleigh Ross (11), and Keyara Boone and Shalynn Thornton (12.5 points each).

Model Lady Blue Devils

2017 finish: 25-6, lost 65-49 to Laney in the AA semifinals

2018 update: The Lady Blue Devils have already played half of their regular season schedule, going 10-2 with a 4-0 record in Region 7. Their signature win thus far is 63-59 in overtime against Lovett, the No. 6 team in AAA. They also beat North Georgia power Dalton 59-51. They are led by senior 6-foot-1 forward-center Victaria Saxton, a South Carolina commit who is ranked as the No. 50 player in the country for the class of 2018 by ESPN.

Note: All records and stats are according to those posted to MaxPreps.

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