That is certainly the case for the North Atlanta girls, who are making the move to Class AAAAA after playing in AAA the last several years.
It appears to be a successful transition so far for the Lady Warriors, who were 6-3 overall and 3-2 in Region 6AAAAA (A) as of Thursday.
North Atlanta has played six of its first nine games against teams in its new classification, winning four of them.
“So far, so good,” coach Kerry Sarden said. “The competition is a lot different than what we’ve been playing and the girls have met the challenge well. But, there’s still room to grow.”
All six of North Atlanta’s victories have come in convincing fashion, winning each game by double figures.
The Lady Warriors have come a long way in Sarden’s three years at the helm, rallying from a 3-16 record in 2009-10 to post records of 16-9 and 18-9 in his first two seasons at the helm.
The biggest key for North Atlanta is its group of seven seniors, who have guided the team through its developmental stage the last couple of years.
“What I did when I got here is to go with youth,” Sarden said. “I stressed the importance of playing hard and practicing hard and the girls went along every step of the way and have gotten better every year. Now, those girls provide our senior leadership — we’re a senior-laden team.”
The Lady Warriors have also been stingy on defense, holding their opponents to less than 40 points a game in each of their wins.
“Our philosophy is to play solid defense, because defense wins basketball games,” Sarden said.
Six-foot senior power forward Courtney Carter leads North Atlanta in scoring with 14 points a game and is the second-leading rebounder with 10 per contest.
The Lady Warriors have also been led by a couple of other senior standouts — 6-2 center Mariah Wilson, who is averaging 10 points per game and is the team’s leading rebounder with 14 per contest, and 5-5 guard Essence Ransome, who has 13 points and four assists a game.
North Atlanta also faces a tough challenge in a competitive Region 6AAAAA that includes last year’s Class AAAA state champion, Miller Grove, as well as AAAA runner-up Southwest DeKalb.
The Lady Warriors got a taste of how strong their new region is when they lost to perennial state powerhouse Stephenson 67-39 last Tuesday.
“It is, by far, the toughest region in the state,” Sarden said. “We’re trying to get off to a good start in our region, but it’s tough when you have to play teams like Southwest DeKalb and Stephenson. We’re going to be challenged every night in that region.”
The Lady Warriors are aiming for their first state tournament berth since 2006 — an aspiration that Sarden said his team can achieve.
“That’s the goal we set at the beginning of the season,” he said. “We’re trying to grow and improve as a team every day and if we do that, we can make it to the state tournament.”