This season they will hit the court as seniors, and second-year Darlington head coach Bradley Pierson expects nothing but success from his team.
“Coming in last year, everything was new,” Pierson said. “Coming into year two, it’s just been smoother. We’re building from where we left off, and after having some success last year we have those same four guys back to build off of. It’s exciting.”
The players have grown better each year throughout their careers with first-round appearances in their freshman and sophomore years and a Sweet 16 appearance last season. The Tigers nearly advanced to the Elite Eight but lost a heart breaker in overtime to North Cobb Christian.
The four players each take advantage of a specific part of the game. Hull — last year’s Rome-News Tribune Co-Player of the Year — scored 17.7 points per game last season, Brooks set the school’s single assist record, and Wade and Land are valuable shooters from the wing.
“We’re fortunate we’ve got those four good players,” Pierson said. “They complement each other. We can plug another in there and we’ve got a really good unit.”
Here’s a closer look at the rest of the Floyd County teams:
Key returning players: Eli Brock, Sr.; Chaney Holder, Sr.; Matthew Harden, Sr.; Braden Perry, Sr.; Jacob Stanley, Sr.
Outlook: The Armuchee Indians certainly aren’t going to be lacking experience this season with eight seniors filling out the 12-player roster. Head coach Clint Decker has seen the group grow as he enters his second year as head coach after spending time with the players as a JV coach. The Indians finished 5-9 in Region 7-AA play last season, but Decker hopes his experienced group of seniors will help facilitate a turnaround.
Key returning players: Kenon Dixon, Sr.; Sean Brown, Sr.; Jalen Hodge, Sr.; Zehbien Philyaw, Sr.
Outlook: The Eagles have been state playoff contenders for eight straight seasons, and head coach John McFather expects more of the same this season. The Eagles took the fourth seed into the state playoffs last year, but McFather said he expects his seniors to keep his team in the hunt for a Region 7-AA championship.
Model Blue Devils
Key returning players: Kidron Ford, Sr.; Jared Bomer, Jr.; Jackson Mathis, So.
Outlook: With the loss of its leading scorers from last season, the Blue Devils will be looking for players to step up and lead the offense. Head coach Jacob Travis said getting the team to where they need to be will be a process, but he expects his returners, along with newcomers Robert Dubose and Jabari Burge, to make big contributions.
Key returning players: Andrew Wilder, Sr.; Payton Rhoades, Jr.; Camron Miles, Sr.
Outlook: The Pepperell Dragons lost several seniors off of last year’s team that went to the first round of state, but head coach Zach Mendence said his returning players saw a lot of playing time last season, so he expects the team to continue to improve throughout the season as they get more experience.
Key returning players: Caleb Byrd, Jr.; K.J. Brown, Sr.; Justin Ingram, So.
Outlook: The Wolves finished 6-10 in Region 7-5A play last season and haven’t been to the state playoffs since 2014, but assistant coach Lavon Grant said he expects that to change this season. The team returns its leading scorer in Caleb Byrd, and along with K.J. Brown and Justin Ingram, Grant said he hopes those players can carry the Wolves to a region championship.
Unity Christian Lions
Key returning players: Eli Wells, Sr.; Xander Beaty, Sr.; Houston Bryant, Jr.; Hudson Hill, So.
Outlook: The Lions are coming off their best season since 2009, finishing with a 15-8 record, taking second in the region, and playing in the first round of the state playoffs. The Lions lose five important seniors from last year, but head coach Matt Claytor said his team has the ability to put together a good season despite being a young squad.