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Basketball teams return to action

Jeff Davis High’s basketball teams return to the hardwoods this week after the Christmas break and both the Jacket boys and the Lady Jackets are in hopes the 2023 section of their seasons produce better results than they got in 2022.
The teams host Berrien County this Friday night and travel to Eastman Saturday to face Dodge County as they get their Region 1-AA schedules underway. Next Tuesday they’re at home again as they host Worth County in the third straight region encounters.
Both teams are 1-9 on the season under new head coaches who are faced with massive rebuilding jobs after graduation depleted both teams’ rosters.
Girls Coach KatyBeth Rentz’ team has only four players who were on the roster last season. And those four players — Kamariyah Robinson, Beautiful Thomas, Destiny Ivory and Le’shantie Lewis — saw only limited action last season as sophomores.
Lost to graduation were starters Morgan Yearty, Jasmin McNeely, Tia Cornish and Jakiya Smith. And the top returnee from last season, sophomore Autumn Rhodes, transferred to Dodge County.
There are three seniors on the squad — Amahi Ornelas, Analese Poole and Kelsey Parlor — but none those played last year. Nor did juniors Bentlee Metts and Jenna Miles. Rounding out the roster are five freshmen — Latrice Shivers, Alera Vann, Markyla Durden, Jaynee Mosley and Trinity Smith.
The Lady Jackets’ only win this season was a 39-15 victory over 0-9 Wheeler County. Their nine losses have come by an average of 31 points.
Boys Coach Will Johnson inherits a team especially hard hit by graduation. The Jackets lost CJ Parker, Brandon Sturgis, Mike Dotson and Bran Swain who were all multiple-year starters from last season.
Bobby Jones and Lamontae Deeds are the only players returning from last year’s team for their senior seasons. The only other senior on the team is newcomer Ty Weaver.
Of the seven juniors on this year’s team, only Amari Jackson, Reggie Merritt and M.J. Hankerson have limited game experience, while the other four — Layton Varnadoe, L’Earl Conaway, Jaquan Adams and Caleb Jarell have little experience.
There are two sophomores on the roster — Malachi Smith and Mason Ragland — and six freshman round out the team — J.J. Benjamin, Latrell Sellers, Caleb Brown, Elijah Tobler, JT Bryant and Jaylen-Wilson Gamble.
The JD boys’ only win came over 2-7 Pierce County 51-48. The Jackets have had some close losses — 61-60 to Ware County, 54-47 and 47-46 to Montgomery County and 67-65 to Appling County.
Their nine losses have come by an average of 11 points.

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