Charles City made the semifinals of the state tournament for the first time in school history last winter. After experiencing such success, the Panthers have a loftier goal this time around.
"This year we have high expectations," said coach Sharone Bailey. "We want to win the state title."
Charles City will go after the Division 1 championship with an experienced group of players. Guard Avery Jones (10 ppg, 7 rpg) is the team leader and, at 5 foot, 8 inches, is a great all-position player, according to Bailey.
Bailey expects 6-4 Daron Jones to have an outstanding year, plus junior guard Antonio Harris (18 ppg) returns as the leading scorer.
Tri-Rivers District competition will come from Surry County, which has won three straight regular-season championships.
Among the private schools, Christchurch, defending VISAA division 3 state champion Williamsburg Christian and Walsingham Academy have significan transfers. Tops is Christchurch, which added 6 foot, 7 inch Devin Robinson from the Richmond area. He's a Rivals 4-star player as a junior.
LAST YEAR: 15-9, reached Divsion 2 state semifinals
COACH: Sharone Bailey
LEAGUE: Tri-Rivers District
THE BUZZ: The Panthers have some needs going into this season. Bailey says rebounding has to improve as does outside shooting. "In order to be successful this year we need to bring the talent that we have on a very deep and athletic team to work as one cohesive unit. Also a little luck would help tremendously," he said. Still, with the players returning, the goal remains the same: the state championship.
LAST YEAR: 28-5, won Prep League tournament
COACH: Ben Thompson
LEAGUE: Virginia Prep League
THE BUZZ: The Seahorses have a talented group of returning players, led by Julian Reed (17.8 ppg), Jamie Wilson (15.8 ppg), Brendan Cole (10.2 ppg) and Prep League tourney MVP Jordan Wallace. Besides Robinson, Nick Douglas, a transfer from Hanover, joins the team. That means the Seahorses are poised to extend their string of seven straight state tournament appearances.
HAMPTON ROADS ACADEMY
LAST YEAR: 17-11
COACH: Max Gillespie
THE BUZZ: The Navigators lost their top three scorers, including Chris Tang, who is playing at Oak Hill Academy, but the Navigators do return a blend of athleticism and experience. Trent Topping, Sam Bateman and Phillip Schwarting are seniors in their third varsity season. Newcomers, Gillespie says, are solid. Gillespie has won 537 games in his 34 years as a head coach and will try to take his team to the state tourmnament for the eighth straight year.
ISLE OF WIGHT ACADEMY
LAST YEAR: 20-8
COACH: Benny Vaughan
THE BUZZ: Nathan Silvertson (6-5) and Ranier Marfo (6-4) give the Chargers good height. Silvertson is a two-time Metro Conference all-star. Austin Rogers and Hunter Triplett are the guards. Isle of Wight has seven lettermen, plus five JV graduates, including MVP Casey Williams. Vaughan, also the school's headmaster, has 567 career victories.
LAST YEAR: 3-16
COACH: Gary Smith
THE BUZZ: The core of the team has played together for three years. Matt Warren (18 ppg) was a second-team All-Tidewater Conference selection. He'll get help from guards C.J. Boykins and Cameron Bacote. At 6-7, Kevin Sullivan is the team's tallest player. He's healthy after an injury-laden season last year.
LAST YEAR: 17-7
COACH: Cyrous Bagheri
LEAGUE: 7 Cities Conference
THE BUZZ: When you lose 94 percent of your scoring from the previous season and return only two players, young and inexperienced doesn't begin to describe the team. Senior Brad Lipshy and sophomore Jeremiah McLemore are the returnees. Baheri says the team is quick and has some good ball-handlers, and should be a good team by the second half of the season.
COACH: Jake Mintz
LEAGUE: Tri-Rivers District
THE BUZZ: Surry breezed to the Tri-Rivers District regular-season title last year, then lost to Charles City in the Region A semifinals. Tre'nel Johnson returns from that team as the starting point guard. Six others are back from that team, including seniors Myron Jefferson and Devion Smith.
LAST YEAR: 23-6
COACH: Billy Barnes
LEAGUE: Tidewater Cofnerence
THE BUZZ: Walsingham lost four seniors who played key roles for three years, but Barnes says the returning group, led by Brandon LaRose, is solid. Billy Barnes and Miquel Kissoon are in their third year on the varsity, while Braden Sutton was a starter at forward. Sophomore Kai Brown is a transfer from Bruton, while fellow soph Thomas Chisam led the JV in scoring and rebounding last year.
LAST YEAR: 26-6
COACH: Chris Gann
LEAGUE: Metro Conference