Spring storylines to watch in Southern Crescent-By Brian Paglia

Perhaps it was just the season, where in the winter months, basketball and wrestling essentially have the stage of high school sports to themselves.

Maybe it was the nature of those sports, where individual players can make such an impression on fans, and an impact on a game's outcome, and coaches are so visible they become interwoven in the moment.

It must have been all those factors (and probably more) that made Southern Crescent sports so compelling during the winter months.

Seven wrestlers won state titles at the traditional state tournament. Eagle's Landing's boys' basketball team made it to the Class AAA semifinals, the first time a boys team from Henry County advanced that far ... ever. Forest Park's girls' basketball made the Class AAAA championship for the first time since 1971.

Oh, and Jonesboro's boys' basketball team faced juggernaut Miller Grove in the Class AAAA semifinals, giving the eventual state champion all it could handle for three-and-a-half quarters.

Between wrestling state titles and deep basketball runs, it was the Southern Crescent on the biggest stages for the entire state to see. And there's nothing more compelling than that.

So the question the Southern Crescent has to answer is this: Can it can live up to its winter achievements in the spring?

If it does, here are some of the potential storylines to watch in the second half of the springs sports season.

Can Luella baseball top last season's quarterfinals run?

The Lions lost to Lassiter in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals last season, but they knew they would return arguably the most talented roster in the Southern Crescent: Julius Gaines, Chase Scott, Vincent Jackson, Eric Pape, Kendall Hill, Darrius Jennings, J.T. Howard, Derek Boggess.

All started for Luella in the quarterfinals, and all returned this season.

There are plenty of good baseball teams in the Southern Crescent -- ELCA, Locust Grove, Mundy's Mill, Ola and Union Grove are a few that come to mind -- but none have the sheer depth of talent that Luella does.

Class AAAAA is always loaded, but can Luella take the next step this season?

Three straight state titles for North Clayton golf prodigy Mariah Stackhouse.

She has been called "the next Tiger Woods" by some publications, and she's never lost in the state golf tournament.

Last season, as a sophomore, Stackhouse shot a 71, one shot better than Katy Harris of Glynn Academy, to win the Class AAAA title. The previous season, as a freshman, Stackhouse shot a 72 and won by two strokes.

Since then, Stackhouse has only gotten better. She even earned an invitation to compete in the LPGA Mojo 6 event in Jamaica last summer.

Stackhouse will be the overwhelming favorite this season, and should she win, it would naturally spark talk of a four-peat.

Southern Crescent showdown at state track meet.

Eagle's Landing distance runner Zack Sims will be battling the rest of the state for Class AAA titles in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races. So will Morrow sprinter Ayrian Evans and Union Grove hurdler Jordan Moore in Class AAAA.

But the Class AAAA girls' sprint events could be crowded with Southern Crescent runners.

Brianna Vaughn (Union Grove), Ciara Simms (Dutchtown) and S'Kayia Hampton (Jonesboro) should all make it to the finals in Albany, but only one can win.

Who will step up in soccer?

In the latest polls on EurosportScoreboard.com, four teams from the Southern Crescent are ranked in their respective classification: ELCA girls, Eagle's Landing girls, Union Grove girls and Dutchtown boys.

Dutchtown boys and Union Grove girls made the quarterfinals in Class AAAA and AAAAA, respectively, last season, and returned much of their firepower. But, recently, it's been hard for Southern Crescent teams to break through the quarterfinals.

Brian Paglia covers sports for the Clayton News Daily and Henry Daily Herald. He can be reached at bpaglia@news-daily.com.