There may be a new voice leading the charge, but the formula for success hasn't changed for the Haralson County High School girls' basketball team in 2017-18.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Levi Wigley, who was promoted to the top spot after former Rebelette leader Tammy Norred accepted the same position at Villa Rica, HC hasn't missed a beat through the first stretch of the winter campaign, racing out to a 7-0 record overall and 2-0 clip in Region 6-AAA play heading into the holidays.
Currently ranked No. 8 in Class AAA, Haralson County is focused on defending its region title behind a trio of senior captains and multi-year starters in Tori Causey, Alexis Boykin and Claire Robinson.
Wigley said the competitive nature of the senior class, and the team as a whole, is what ultimately drives this group to be even better than it was last year.
"It's fun to coach a group of girls who are so competitive and just have a desire to win. That makes it real fun," Wigley said. "They show up to practice ready to go, and that's always a plus. They're just a good group of girls, a lot of leadership. Alexis Boykin, Tori Causey and Claire Robinson, they provide so much leadership on and off the court. We're just glad to have that leadership."
Haralson County graduated two seniors — Dea Harbison and Katie Flanagan — but the Rebelettes have received strong play beyond their big three from fellow returnees such as Kayleigh Bagwell, Indiya Smith, Abbey Michalke and Katherine Bridges.
Wigley noted how things are coming together nicely thus far this season, but added that his squad is far from a finished product.
"We're moving in the right direction. There's still some things that we've got to clean up and do better. We've got to be more consistent with our decision-making, especially on the offensive side of the floor," Wigley said. "We're headed in the right direction, but we're not there yet."
One of the biggest developments has been the strong play from Causey in her return to the court after going down with a torn ACL during the region tournament last February.
The senior sharp-shooter endured extensive rehab to get back to top form for her senior campaign, and Wigley said she's really starting to hit her stride.
"Tori's finding her game. These last few games, she has really started to attack the basket. She's getting a lot more confident with contact and taking the ball to the hole and finishing," Wigley said. "I'm real pleased with where she's at and I think she's only going to get better."
As for his own transition from assistant to head coach during the offseason, Wigley said it's been as smooth as he'd hoped and now the mission is to keep the program competing at a high level year-in and year-out.
"Being a part of it and knowing the girls definitely made it easier than having to come in and build those relationships. But it's a new team and we lost two good players from last year. So we're trying to find girls to replace them on both ends of the court has been challenge," Wigley said. "Coaching under Tammy last year and being able to kind of move in and take over this year, it's been a big plus."
With the target on their back this winter in Region 6-AAA, the Rebelettes are preparing to take everyone's best shot and they understand that nothing is going to come easy in pursuit of a second straight league crown.
"This region is a tough region. I feel like any given night, anybody can beat anybody," Wigley said. "You have to practice with that in mind, you have to show up every night with that mindset. Fortunately, so far we've been able to get it done. We've got to continue to get better. There's things that we can't continue to do and expect to win a region championship."
Before the Rebelettes return to the rigors of region play in January, they're gearing up for one of the biggest events of the season for the program, as the 42nd Annual Hilburn-Patterson Haralson County Invitational Tournament tips next week in Tallapoosa.
The four-team girls' bracket pits the host squad against Central on Wednesday, while Troup and Bremen will lock horns in the other contest leading up to Friday's championship.
"It's going to be fun. Bremen is right there down the road. They're in our region. So it'll be fun to see them play. Troup County is coming in and I don't know if they've ever been in the tournament. I don't know a lot about them, but I know they're athletic," Wigley said. "It's shaping up to be a pretty competitive four-team bracket. I think it will be a benefit for us to play those games."