It's a day Marquita Lacey and the Glenn Hills Lady Spartans had been looking forward to since last March.
As a senior, Lacey couldn't wait for the day that she could finally set foot on the basketball court for one last season of play.
Her wish was granted Monday afternoon when Georgia high school basketball teams could begin practice.
Even though Monday's practice was only for conditioning, that was still all right with her. As long as she was back on the court with her teammates, things couldn't be better.
"Everybody goes through this," said Lacey, who helped lead Glenn Hills to the girls state basketball tournament last year for the first time in school history.
"But this is something you have to do to get prepared. We've got to work hard to get in shape."
Teams are allowed a week of conditioning -- without basketballs -- before embarking on full practices. Teams can begin playing Nov. 13.
The expectations are sky-high for the Lady Spartans after they caught fire in the middle of last season, captured their first region tournament and advanced to the state sectionals before losing to Morrow.
Glenn Hills lost only one senior in Ashaki Brown and return a strong nucleus, including leading scorer Marian Whitfield, who led the team with a 19.8 average as a freshman.
"We're ready to get going," Whitfield said. "Hopefully, we can make it back to state and go all the way."
Glenn Hills isn't the only area girls team with high expectations. As usual, Hephzibah and Josey will contend in Region 3-AAAA while Laney should be favored in Region 3-AAA.
"We've got a lot of young girls and some that came up from the middle school," said Glenn Hills' girls coach Bernard Bowman. "They're excited about what we did last year. But I told them it's not going to be an easy road."
On the boys side, Hephzibah returns a solid nucleus and features one of the area's most versatile players in Bobby Carter. Glenn Hills, which finished second in the league with a team full of underclassmen, should also be a contender.
In Region 3-AAA, Laney, Richmond Academy and Westside are expected to be strong contenders for the region title.
Reach Tim Morse at (706) 823-3216.
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