Lillie Venable

Banks County's Lillie Venable puts up a shot in the lane during the Lady Leopards' scrimmage vs. Mountain View (Nov. 4). 

The last time the Banks County Lady Leopards were on the hardwood, they were watching Douglass (Atlanta) celebrate advancing in the Class AA state tournament.

With the loss of five players, the 2019-20 Lady Leopards have new faces stepping into prominent roles, and a new wrinkle in the style in which they play also follows suit. 

"We're ready to go," head coach Steven Shedd said about the start of the new season. "It's something that you prepare for all summer long, and then you get to 4-on-1s and conditioning and stuff like that. After a while it gets to where you're ready to play somebody other than each other."

The Lady Leopards scrimmaged Nov. 4 vs. Mountain View. They won the game. 

"We're excited," he said. "It's kind of almost like a fresh start in a way. We miss our last two classes that we've had, we miss them tremendously. Having coached those girls back to fourth and fifth grade and not having them here anymore, it's different.

"But these girls are great kids. They work hard. As a matter of fact, these girls that I have right now have worked harder in the offseason than any group I've coached since I've been up here." 

With a new style of play being implemented, conditioning and practicing have been vital to its installation.

The new system for the Lady Leopards includes full-court-pressure defense as opposed to the half-court defense from previous seasons. Plus they will implement half-court traps to try and help generate more possessions on the offensive side of things. 

"We're excited about it," Shedd said. "I think it's a fun system to coach. It's a fun play. It's more fun to watch. We're going to go for it, we're going to shoot for it. It's not to say that we're not going to run up against a team that it's not very successful against, and we're going to have to adjust. 

"That's going to be our goal going in. That's going to be our identity this year." 

Shedd said all the players are "bought in" to the change. 

"If you put in a new system, and you don't have girls buy in, then it's no good," Shedd said. "We've had everyone buy into it, and it has been one of those 'either you're ready to buy in or you don't play.'"

Heather Vaughan leads the contingent of returning Lady Leopards. Vaughan will be joined by players who have some varsity experience for the Lady Leopards. She is the only returning starter. 

"I think a lot of the girls that we have now could've possibly been starting a lot of times for some other programs," Shedd said. "That's just a testament to what we had here ... These girls that are here this year helped give us depth the last two years. They were able to get a little varsity experience.

"What's neat, and what we're hoping for is people don't know these girls as much, but we do. We know what they're capable of doing. We know we've go the talent to do it. We've got the pieces. We feel like we've got more depth than maybe we've ever had since I've been here."

Shedd adds his players match the system that is being implemented. He hopes his group can "fly under the radar" as the season progresses. 

Shedd expects five teams in Region 8-AA to contend for the four playoff spots. He wants his group to get back to where it has been, which is in the region and playoff hunt, and take things "one game at a time." 

"We don't want to look too far ahead," he said. "I think sometimes when you set those goals you start looking ahead, get in these non-region games and you slip up and have some inconsistencies and stuff like that. Definitely want to play more consistent this year, too."

In the region, Banks County will go against every team twice: Rabun County, Union County, Elbert County, Monticello, Putnam County, Oglethorpe County and Social Circle. 

The non-region schedule includes games vs. Jefferson, Stephens County, Lumpkin County, East Hall and Commerce, plus the Marlin Christmas Classic in Panama City. 

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