CHICKAMAUGA, Ga. - The Gordon Lee Lady Trojans will hit the basketball court for the first regular season game next week with a little extra hop in their step and a few more smiles on their faces.
The split of public and private schools for the postseason in Class A arguably could benefit the Lady Trojans more than any other program in any sport in the state. Gordon Lee, despite regularly winning 20-plus games, hasn't made it out of the second round of the playoffs since Atlanta-area Class A private schools began building powerhouse programs over the past 10 years.
In fact, the Lady Trojans have been eliminated by private schools in six of the past seven postseasons, so it's no wonder the team is giddy about the season.
"It's really exciting because we feel we have a shot to go far this year," said senior point guard Kassidy Blevins, an all-state performer a year ago who is signing Friday to play collegiately at Samford University. "We do have a lot of optimism, and I think this season is going to be fun."
As coach Lester Galyon points out, his team will likely have a more difficult time winning its region than the state title. Top-ranked private school Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy -- the team which eliminated Gordon Lee last year -- No. 2 Darlington and No. 3 St. Francis are all in Region 6.
"We'll be tested, and though we have some very good players returning, we probably won't have as good a record as last year," Galyon said. "It's nice to know that we won't have to deal with the private schools in the playoffs and we know, at least, that we have a chance to compete for a state title.
"In some ways it puts more pressure on us to perform because you know the opportunity to get there and win it is there. That's just fine with me."
Gordon Lee, fresh off a 26-4 season, also returns 6-foot-4 post Katelyn Lee and shooting guard Katie Barger to go with Blevins and a supporting cast including Kalei Kimbrell, Sara Clayton, Taylor Hartline and Tiffany Holland. Finding rebounding help for Lee will be an early goal for the team, which opens against Class AAAAAA Meadowcreek on Tuesday and has a pair of early games with Class AAAA's Northwest Whitfield.
"The key for us is playing team defense and making sure we rebound," said Blevins, who averaged 15 points, five assists and five steals a game last year. "All the ingredients are there. We just have to do it."