After making it to the Final Four of the GISA Class A state basketball playoffs last season, the Briarwood Academy Lady Buccaneers have a bigger goal in mind this season: winning a state championship.
Though such a feat has never been accomplished in the school's 40 year history, the Lady Buccaneers have been what head coach Clayton Parrish describes as "bridesmaids" three different times -- 2001, 2002 and 2005.
Coach Parrish, who begins his 14th season at Briarwood Academy, has all three of his top scorers returning from a year ago. They include: Brittini Phelps, a senior guard; Maria-Celeste Johnson, the starting junior point guard; and Maggie Keene, a junior forward.
"We've very pleased to have all three of our top scorers returning," coach Parrish said during an interview last Wednesday. "That's a real big plus."
Phelps, who averaged 10.7 points per game last season, has scored a total of 687 points during her prep career at Briarwood Academy.
"She's been a very solid player for us," coach Parrish said. "She's a fine shooting guard and does well from the free-throw line, too. She's a very aggressive player and an exceptional leader."
The only other senior on the team this season is Lizzie Keen, who will see duties as a guard. Keen recently was crowned the 2009 homecoming queen at the school.
"We're hoping for good things from her this season," coach Parrish said.
Another played whose services will be counted on highly this season will be Johnson.
As point guard, Johnson is the team's leader on the court.
"She's been playing basketball since she was in the eighth grade and knows the system very well," coach Parrish said. "She has amazing court awareness. And she rarely turns the ball over. She's definitely our floor general."
Keene, meanwhile, led the Briarwood Academy team in rebounding last season and "is a real hard worker," coach Parrish said. "She's also a big scoring threat. We're expecting real good things from her again this season."
Emily Henderson, a junior guard is another player who will be heavily counted on this season.
"Emily is a great defensive player for us," coach Parrish said. "She is very aggressive and works very hard, too. She never seems to run out of steam. She can go and go and go."
Other varsity players are: Marcie Rivers, a freshman guard; Ashlyn Dent, a sophomore forward; Shannon Newsome, a sophomore guard; Kristian Dawson, a sophomore guard; Rachel Coxwell, a sophomore guard; Kate Graham, a freshman guard; Morgan Reese, a junior center; and Megan Smith, a freshman center.
"We pushed them pretty hard last year," coach Parrish said of himself and assistant coach Hannah Demore. "We got a taste of success last year finished in the Final Four. We hope that taste of success will carry over into this season."
The veteran basketball coach believes "the sky is the limit" for his team this season.
Since practice began Oct. 15, coaches have established several goals for the team in terms of statistics. They include: shooting 30 percent or better, averaging more than 42 points per game and averaging less than 15 turnovers per game.
Realistically, coach Parrish would like to see his team finish with a winning record in regular season play, as well as in region play. He also is hopeful that his Lady Buccaneers can capture the Region 1-A championship, which will be hosted by Briarwood Academy on Feb. 9-12.