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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