CONYERS - The Salem girls basketball team is looking to continue a couple of impressive streaks this season.
During the 2007-08 campaign, The Lady Seminoles will be shooting for the fourth straight trip to the Class AAAA state playoffs and their fourth consecutive 20-win season.
With a talented cast returning this season, including three starters, both of those goals should be obtainable for Bill Roberts' squad.
"We have three starters returning who were three leading scorers off last year's team, Rebecca Mitchell, Jasmine Patrick and Courtney Hurt. Rebecca Mitchell has run the point for us the last couple years and done a great job. As a junior, she averaged 11 points and five assists a game," Roberts said. "Jasmine Patrick will again start at the No. 3 position. She averaged 12 points a game as a junior. Also, we have an all-state player (Hurt) back for her senior year. Courtney had a tremendous junior campaign, averaging 21 points and 14 boards a game."
The only key losses off last year's Region 8-AAAA runner-up squad were forward Joy Thomas and standout defender Chelsea Hood.
In fact, Roberts feels he has several younger players that are ready to step into bigger roles this season.
"We are looking for good things out of sophomore Ariel Wynter, a 6-foot-3 post player who has really begun to step up her game. Also, we have a freshman point guard Amber Johnson who should add some great ball-handling skills to an already talented backcourt," Roberts said. "Back from an injury in her freshman year is sophomore Jaleen Thomas who is a very good inside-out player. We are also looking for big things out of sophomore Kentrell White, whom over the summer proved to be an excellent perimeter threat.
"Kelli Anne Collins is also back for her senior year after taking her junior year off. She is an excellent soccer player with great foot work that she will use in the paint to give us some depth inside."
In a change for this season, Roberts is hoping Mitchell can move back to her natural position at the two guard, with Johnson taking over the duties at point guard.
"I look for a good year out of this team. We have a lot of kids that can put points on the board. Hopefully, Rebecca will be able to move back to the two guard, which is her natural position, and Amber Johnson can run the point," Roberts said. "Either way, it's like having two point guards on the floor. It's just a matter of putting it all together as a team. We are adding some youth to the lineup, so I look for us to improve as the season progresses."
That progress, especially by the younger players, could be the key to Salem's season.
"We are young in some areas, so we will need to grow over the course of the season," Roberts said.
The Salem girls open their season Monday night in the Heritage Bank Classic at Union Grove High School in McDonough. The Lady Seminoles, who are ranked No. 6 in Class AAAA in the Gasports.com poll, will face Whitewater at 7 p.m.
SideBar: At a glance
· Team: Salem girls basketball
· Coach: Bill Roberts
· Last year: 23-6, lost to Hillgrove in first round of Class AAAA state tournament
· First game: Monday at 7 p.m. vs. Whitewater in Heritage Bank Classic at Union Grove High School in McDonough