The Lady Warriors won a record 27 games, captured their first region championship and advanced to the semifinals of the state playoffs for the first time in school history.
In the process, they continued a streak of excellence for Cobb County, which has had at least one team advance to the quarterfinals in the state’s highest classification since 2004-05.
The next team to reach that threshold will likely be McEachern, which boasts two of the nation’s top juniors in guard Te’a Cooper — who was a freshman starter for the Lady Indians’ unbeaten state championship team in 2011-12 — and forward Caliya Robinson, a transfer from Kell.
According to the ESPN HoopGurlz recruiting website, the North Carolina-committed Cooper is the fourth-ranked junior in the nation — and second among point guards — while Robinson is the 11th-best junior and third-best forward.
However, they’re not the only players McEachern has.
Sophomore guard Jada Lewis complements Cooper in the backcourt. Senior forward Taylor Gordon, who grew up in the McEachern district but attended North Cobb’s magnet program and played for the Lady Warriors as a freshman and sophomore, will finally get a chance to suit up after being forced to sit out last season by the Georgia High School Association.
McEachern also added two senior frontcourt players from Cherokee High School — twin sisters Aunesha and Audrisha Williams.
While the lineup may not rival McEachern’s 2011-12 team, which went 33-0 and finished No. 2 in the nation, the Lady Indians have the kind of talent to bring home another state title by season’s end.
“I feel that we’re back,” said McEachern coach Phyllis Arthur, who led last year’s Lady Indians to an 18-12 record last season. “Mentally, these girls are ready to win a state championship. They just need to jell.
“We have more height and speed this year than we did last year, and the girls have a year of experience. They have what it takes to win it all.”
McEachern will find out just how talented its team is as the season rolls on.
“We have a tough, nationally ranked schedule with games in New York, Orlando and Tennessee,” Arthur said. “To be the best, you have to play the best, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
North Cobb won’t be a slouch either.
The Lady Warriors lost four key seniors who developed through the program, but they return role players Kyrie’ Chandler, Chantel Strahorn, Ty Broadwater, Alexis Luster and Aniya Corley.
“We lost some really good players and solid leaders from last year,” said first-year coach John Speeney, who was an assistant under Matt Williams, who went 166-66 in eight seasons at the helm of the Lady Warriors.
“I was with Matt for seven years. He did a great job with the practices, and the style that he ran suits our players. We’ll still be aggressive and athletic.
Georgia signee Mackenzie Engram is back in a bid to lead Hillgrove to another state playoff appearance, while Marietta, Harrison and Campbell will also challenge for postseason berths in Region 4AAAAAA.
In Class AAAAA, Osborne hopes to take away the Region 7AAAAA title it lost against Kell, while defending Region 5AAAAA champion Allatoona will look to make a fourth straight appearance in the second round of the state playoffs, despite losing several seniors to graduation.
After losing Robinson, Kell will be rebuilding under Kayla Oden and Brittany Stocus. Osborne, though, returns four of its five starters, including guards Zutorya Cook and Nikira Goings and post players Raven Brown and Jazzmon Rouse.
“I feel pretty good about what we can do in region,” Osborne coach Melanie Samuel said. “We have four strong players back, and we get back Alexis Singletary, who had surgery last year. We have a tough schedule to challenge ourselves and get us ready for the postseason.”
Mount Paran Christian was the lone local school to qualify for the Class A private-school playoffs last season. The Lady Eagles return three of the five starters from that team, including leading scorer Bri Brown.
“We return several starters, and I think Bri is one of the best players in the state in Class A,” first-year coach Tab Griffin said. “We have a pretty good freshman point guard in Que Morrison coming in, and a lot of the girls got a lot of experience last year. It’s a pretty determined and hungry group.”