A look at area boys basketball teams ahead of the high school season

Daniel Mayes/Daily Citizen-News

Christian Heritage School's Jax Abernathy makes a move with the ball in a February game.

Team: Christian Heritage

Coach: Tyler Watkins

Last year's record: 23-4

Christian Heritage, which won Region 7-A Private last season, made the deepest playoff run of any area girls or boys basketball team last year, reaching the Final Four before bowing out to eventual state champion Mount Pisgah Christian.

Two starters from that team — guard Nash Bingham and forward Evan Lester — have graduated, but a trio of super sophomores that started last year as freshmen are set to return.

Jax Abernathy, last year's player of the year in Region 7-A Private, is back, along with guard Zundra Jackson and forward Cash Hare. Coach Tyler Watkins will likely lean on his young core that should only continue to get better.

Team: Coahulla Creek

Coach: Matthew Legg

Last year's record: 9-13

Coahulla Creek started last season by winning five straight games, but the Colts went 4-13 after that point and finished sixth in Region 6-3A.

The Colts return Will Locke, a senior forward who averaged 13.3 points per game last season on the way to an All-Region 6-3A first team nod.

Riley Mutter, a second team all-region performer last year, was lost to graduation.

Team: Dalton

Coach: Ryan Scoggins

Last year's record: 14-14

Dalton made a run in the Region 5-6A tournament last season to earn its first appearance in the state playoffs since 2012.

If the Catamounts want a repeat playoff performance this season, they'll have to do it with a new-look roster.

Franklin Almonte, the two-time Daily Citizen-News All-Area Player of the Year, is now playing at Dalton State College after starring for the Catamounts. Ashton Blackwell transferred out after picking up an All-Region 5-6A third team nod last year, and the Catamounts lost senior contributors Grayson Boyd and Sam Tidwell.

Team: The Dalton Academy

Coach: Jeff Hutchinson

Last year's record: N/A

The Dalton Academy gets basketball started this season after opening this fall.

The Pumas will play against competition from Region 6-A public. The inaugural team is coached by Jeff Hutchinson.

Team: Murray County

Coach: Greg Linder

Last year's record: 17-6

Murray County had just six losses all of last season — just three in region play — but the last one hurt the most.

After a 17-6 season, Murray was upset by cross-town rival North Murray in the Region 6-3A tournament and missed out on a trip to the playoffs.

Murray lost a couple of last year's key contributors as it vies to get back into the playoffs. Haden Newport and Brannon Nuckolls, both All-Region 6-3A first-teamers last season, are gone to graduation. The Indians do bring back Carson Weaver, a senior who earned an All-Region 6-3A second team nod after averaging 13.2 points per game.

Team: North Murray

Coach: Tim Ellis

Last year's record: 12-15

North Murray started its season 0-6 last year while it waited on a few contributors to finish their run with the Mountaineer football team, but North Murray ended up going 12-9 after the winless start and reaching the state playoffs.

The Mountaineers lose JaNyious Ross from that team, who was named All-Region 6-3A first team after averaging nearly 19 points, nine rebounds and three steals as a senior last season. Michael McDade, who stepped up during the Mountaineers' region tournament run last year, will miss his senior season after sustaining a leg injury during football season.

North Murray brings back sharpshooter Seth Griffin and starting forward Noah West.

Team: Northwest Whitfield

Coach: Ryan Richards

Last year's record: 12-10

Northwest Whitfield finished just short of a playoff appearance in 2020-21, finishing fifth in Region 7-4A before falling in the region tournament with a chance to advance.

The Bruins hope an experienced group can lead them further this season. The Bruins bring back seniors Payton Baker and Chandler Jackson, both of whom were named All Region 7-4A last season.

Baker averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game last season.

Team: Southeast Whitfield

Coach: Ben Oliver

Last year's record: 4-19

Southeast Whitfield showed progress last year after a winless 2019-20 season, going 4-19.

Forward Cal Rich is the reliable Raider offensive threat.

Last season as a sophomore, Rich averaged 15.7 points, 8.7 rebounds and two blocks per game for Southeast. He was named to the All-Region 7-4A team last season.

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