Boys: S. Atlanta-Johnson an unfortunate first-round game

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Credit: Stan Awtrey

One untimely loss in the region tournament can be costly when it comes to the state tournament.

The prime example in the Class AAA boys tournament was No. 5 South Atlanta, which lost to previously unranked Cedar Grove in the Region 4 semifinals. The result? Instead of hosting a game on Wednesday, the Hornets get to ride on a bus for five hours so they can play No. 9 Johnson. (Of course, Johnson probably wasn’t thrilled with the idea of playing a state contender like South Atlanta in the first round, either.)

Here is a look at five of the best first-round boys matchups in Class AAA:

South Atlanta at Johnson Savannah: What a pity this is a first round game. It is much more befitting of a Final Four matchup.

South A

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Credit: Stan Awtrey

tlanta (22-6) is extremely deep – coach Michael Reddick had 12 players score in the Region 4 consolation game against Jackson. The Hornets are one of the quickest teams in the state and have the ability to hurt you in a hurry. They erased a 12-point deficit to Jackson in about three minutes. Powerful Artavious Banks and powerful Tyler Thornton are talented inside forces and Korbian Bell and Devonta Pullins are dangerous scorers. Then there’s Devontae Dean, who brings a high level of energy all the time.

Johnson

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Credit: Stan Awtrey

(20-7) has been slugging it out in Region 1 all season. Da’Monte Greene, a 5-8 senior guard, has been the go-to guy all season (17.4 points) and sets the pace for the offense. Johnson is a disciplined team that has had some wars with defending state champion Jenkins, losing two of three meetings. The Atom Smashers have played a tough schedule, losing twice to Class AAAAA Brunswick, Class A No. 6 Southwest Atlanta Christian and Class AAAA No. 4 Liberty County.

Dodge County at Cedar Grove: No. 7  Cedar Grove (18-7) is playing at a very high level right now and beat No. 5 South Atlanta and North Clayton in the Region 4-AAA tournament. The Saints always play some of the most intense defense under coach James Martin and have overcome the loss of their best returning player (who transferred) and the late arrival of their football players. Dodge County (19-8) has been tested by a difficult Region 1 schedule and beat traditional power Savannah to reach the state playoffs.

Southwest Macon at Laney: This may be the only game in the state that matches two teams that each have a pair of 20-point scorers. Southwest Macon (16-8) emerged as the fourth seed from strong Region 2-AAA and features Nick Hargrove (21.1) and Justin Slocum (22.4).  Region 3 champion Laney (24-2) has won its last nine games and hast two players who average 20 points – Christian Keeling (24.0) and Zephaniah Jasper (20.6).

Tattnall County at North Clayton: Tattnall County (18-9) upset Islands to get into the state playoffs and beat Dodge County for the second straight time to take the third spot. North Clayton (18-10) has been one of those under-the-radar teams all year, a club that's not particularly flashy but plays hard and is well coached. North Clayton's signature win was an overtime victory against South Atlanta.

Banks County at Coahulla Creek: Banks County (23-4) was ranked ninth in the state last week, but lost to surging West Hall in the Region 7-AAA semifinals and must hit the road to Dalton to play Coahulla Creek (21-6). The Colts took No. 1-ranked Calhoun to overtime the last week of the regular season before coming up short, but lost to the Yellow Jackets by 18 in the Region 6-AAA final.