* Team to beat: Gwynn Park.

* What makes them so good: They don't lose. The Yellow Jackets have won every 3A/2A League game for the past three years and hung state title banners in 2002, 2003 and 2004. This year's team may be the smallest in stature that Coach Marvin Vann has had in his 12 years, but veteran guards Lynnae Lampkins and Lakiah Hyson are experienced and talented, and sophomore Brittany Crowell looks like a star in the making.

* The contenders: Potomac has won consecutive 2A state titles, but Coach Michael Strother lost nine players from last year's 21-6 team. He does have a pair of experienced players in junior Brionna Carter and sophomore Pryncess Tate-Dublin, each of whom averaged nine points per game. . . . Friendly returns eight players from last year's 18-5 squad, highlighted by 5-10 senior F Lauren Manning and senior G Domonique Reece. The Patriots have a good chance at returning to the state tournament for the first time since 1997.

* The best of the rest: DuVal went .500 a year ago, and a similar result probably wouldn't be a disappointment considering just one starter returns in senior point guard Mbalu Forna-Delo. Glen Charlton will join her in the backcourt. The Tigers will play a lot of zone defense to overcome their lack of height. . . . Mississippi transplant Norris Powell takes the helm at Central, which went winless last year. Norris has had trouble rounding up experienced players, but has been impressed with freshman Marketa Salley, who will start at shooting guard, and senior point guard Tasia Gray.


Gwynn Park has won state titles in 2002, 2003 and 2004 with players such as guard Lykiah Hyson, above.There was plenty for Brionna Carter, left, to celebrate as Potomac won consecutive state titles.