SANDERSVILLE, Ga. - Only one word is on the minds of Brentwood's girls basketball players: repeat.
Brentwood went 31-1 last year on the way to its first state championship in school history. This year, they want another piece of hardware to add to the trophy case.
"We would love to repeat," third-year coach Edwin Cook said. "That would be our No. 1 goal, to win it again. It took 31 years to win that first one. We don't want it to take 31 years to get that next one. We've got an opportunity to do that, but we've also got our work cut out for us."
The Lady Eagles competed in Class AAA last year but have dropped to Class AA this season. The road might be tougher this year, though. Three starters from the state championship squad graduated, including the school's all-time leading scorer, Kena Veal.
"Anytime you lose a player like that, you have to try to find ways to replace her scoring," Cook said. "The hardest thing is going to be replacing the leadership that she gave us."
Cook said returning starters Amy Jones and Faran Veal form a good nucleus to build a championship-caliber team around.
"The nice thing about Amy is that she isn't satisfied with where her game is now," Cook said. "She's got higher expectations and high goals for herself as an individual to get to the next level. Even though she ended the year great last year, she is a better player now than she was at the end of last year."
Although they are juniors, Jones and Veal are they Lady Eagles' senior leaders.
"(The seniors) have their leadership role because they're seniors, but we try to be leaders, too, because we've been starting," Jones said.
Jones averaged 14 points, four rebounds and four assists as a sophomore and is considered the go-to player.
"All the girls realize the importance of having Amy on our team," Cook said, "but they also realize - and I think Amy realizes - that we can't expect her to do it all. The other players are going to have to step up."
Brentwood is a young team with a shallow bench. The rest of the starting five is made up of two seniors and a sophomore, and the sixth man is an eighth-grader.
"This year, we are more inexperienced than any team I've had," Cook said. "We're young, but we're still fairly athletic. But I'm hoping that the success from last year carries over."
The Lady Eagles will find out quickly whether their success will continue. Their season opener is against Mount de Sales, whom they played in the state semifinals. Their second game will be a rematch of the state title game against Deerfield.
Cook said the tough Class AAA teams Brentwood will face early on will help get the Lady Eagles ready for the postseason.
"Right now, our goal is to get better every game," Cook said.
"I think it's going to make us better," Veal said. "We are going to need to be more aggressive."