It was a breakthrough year for the Lions, who won the Class AA state championship — the first in school history — and compiled its best record ever (28-4).
While Lovett now has a bigger target on its back as the defending state title-holders in AA, coach Liz Kennedy and her team are not concerning themselves too much about that.
“We don’t think about it much,” Kennedy said. “Our goal is the state championship this year, but we don’t think about having the bull’s-eye on our back. We’re just concentrating on one game at a time.”
Lovett loses four seniors from last year’s titlist squad, including Division I signees Tatianna Jackson (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) and Chris Johnson (Northwestern).
However, the Lions return most of their core from last year — including a strong veteran group in the backcourt.
“We have two or three experienced guards, and that helps a lot,” Kennedy said. “In the past, we have had very young and inexperienced guards and it’s tough. But, now, we have veteran guards who can lead us in the backcourt.”
Returning to lead the way will be a couple of seniors who have committed to Division I schools — 5-foot-8 guard Taylor Brown (Princeton) and 6-2 forward Sydney Umeri (Virginia).
Umeri gives Lovett a versatile presence in the frontcourt with her effectiveness both under the basket and on the perimeter, especially from the 3-point line, according to Kennedy.
“She is so versatile,” the coach said. “She can post up under the basket and rebound and she can go out in the perimeter and shoot the three.”
Brown is a dangerous presence at the point guard position with her speed and ability to drive to the basket as well as the veteran leadership she provides.
“Taylor gives us speed and ball-handling skills,” Kennedy said. “She can pass and shoot the ball equally well. She can penetrate to the basket, but she can stay out on the perimeter and hit the jumper. She gives us a whole new dimension in the backcourt.”
Providing a strong presence in the middle will be 6-0 sophomore center Carrie Mutombo, the daughter of former Atlanta Hawks star Dikembe Mutombo.
“She played on the varsity as a freshman last year,” Kennedy said. “Chris Johnson was our center last year and she took Carrie under her wing and Carrie learned a lot from her. She is really developing fast and by the time she is a junior or senior, she could be one of the best players in the region.”
Five-foot-6 sophomore guard Te’Erica Eason and 5-6 junior guard Julia Selmon are the other starters.