Young players rule in tough Region 4-AAAA competition-Derrick Mahone Column

During their seeding meeting on Sunday, the coaches in Region 4-AAAA took the time to select an all-region team to recognize players for a great season.

Judging by the selections, the region should produce some outstanding basketball in future years.

There is definitely a youth movement in the region with several underclassmen making the first and second team list.

Seniors Rasham Suarez of Jonesboro and North Clayton's Miranda Cantrell were chosen as the top players, but it was the other members of the first team that caught my eye.

Only one other senior on the girls' side was chosen to the first team, the other four will be returning next season.

One of the most impressive players this season has been Forest Park freshman Kayla Potts.

The soft-spoken point guard plays with the maturity and poise of an upperclassman. In the few games that I have seen Forest Park play this season, she was rarely out of control or made bad shot selections.

It's a lot to ask, but Potts might be that missing piece that the Lady Panthers need to make another long postseason run.

She is surrounded by a talented cast that includes Ashlee Cole, a brilliant shooting guard who has also played with a lot of poise and maturity. She is the Lady Panthers go-to player when they need a big bucket.

Potts and Cole have formed an unstoppable backcourt this season that has led the Lady Panthers to the regular season region championship. Forest Park looks as if it is ready to make another long state playoff run, hopefully back to the Gwinnett Arena to take care of some unfinished business.

With Potts and Cole returning, the Lady Panthers could be looking at being a yearly fixture in the state playoffs. The two complement each other well. They are both interchangeable in playing either guard position.

And the rest of the team has full confidence in Potts, despite her youthfulness and varsity inexperience. She has not disappointed her teammates are coaches.

After Forest Park's win over North Clayton last week, I told coach Steven Cole that I wanted to interview her about making several key free throws down the stretch for the win. He brought her to me, and turned and walked away.

Cole turned back around and said: "You will be interviewing her a lot in the future."

Translation: She is the future of our program's continued success.

The future of the Jonesboro team is Briana Benson, an athletic sophomore who can score, rebound and lead. In the coming years, she will likely blossom into one of the region's top players as her young team matures.

Despite the graduation of some talented seniors last season, Mundy's Mill has remained competitive, and one of the biggest reasons Brianna McQueen. She might be the most skilled player in the region.

She can run both the point and shooting guard position. When the game is close, McQueen is usually the one the Lady Tigers look for. And she has rarely let the team down.

As the region tournament kicks into high gear this week, it is definitely refreshing to know that next season will be just as exciting with the return of Cole, Potts, Benson, McQueen and some other talented underclassmen.

Derrick Mahone is a staff writer of the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at dmahone@news-daily.com