The Brentsville girls bring back three starters and two top scorers from last season's Region II quarterfinalists and seemingly are one of the better teams in the AA Northwestern District.

But Coach Eugene Baltimore isn't buying it -- yet.

"We have a ways to go," Baltimore said.

The team is as young as the season. The Tigers (18-7 a year ago) lost six seniors, including two-time all-Northwestern first-teamer Kathleen Steele, and have just two seniors on this year's roster.

Two of the key Tigers -- guard Kimmy Hopkins and forward Aly Jacobson -- are sophomores. Last season as freshmen, Hopkins averaged 9.5 points and Jacobson hauled in seven rebounds a game.

One of the seniors is point guard Rachel Leake, whom Baltimore calls "the heart and soul" of his team. Leake hit two key free throws last season to clinch a region berth for the Tigers in only their second year as a AA program.

"Her leadership is second to none," Baltimore said. "She doesn't score a lot, but her leadership is very important. I can't say enough about her."

On the boys' side, Chris Southcott takes over as head coach after serving as an assistant to former coach Doug Poppe in his six seasons at Brentsville. It's the second head coaching stint for Southcott, who was the Fauquier girls' basketball coach from 1994 to 1998.

Southcott has revamped the team's traditionally controlled offense and has his players pushing the ball and fast-breaking more to make better use of their athleticism.

"We spent the majority of the offseason working on conditioning, and we feel like we are in optimum condition," Southcott said. "Knowing we wanted to go that way, we headed into the offseason knowing our primary focus was to be in shape the first day of tryouts."

Despite returning just one starter (senior guard Matt August) and losing the school's all-time leading scorer (forward Jake Lavely), Southcott is optimistic.

Sophomore guard Dalonte Mason, who played his freshman season at O'Connell, scored 13 points in the team's 75-59 season-opening win over Stonewall Jackson.

"He is fundamentally sound, quick, and he adds a dimension to Brentsville basketball that we haven't had in quite a while," Southcott said. "He can find his way to the basket, he can penetrate well, is unselfish, but at the same time looks to be a scorer, too."

Junior forward Mark Khoury, who started for the Tigers as a freshman, is back after sitting out almost all of last season with a broken hand.

Brentsville's Rachel Leake, middle, looks to pass against Handley last season. Coach Eugene Baltimore called her the heart and soul of the team.