This it the time of year that high school basketball coaches dream about.
“It’s the best time,” said Riverwood coach Buck Jenkins. “Basketball is a tournament sport. The regular season is great, but it can be a grind. It’s easy to be motivated and excited for tournaments and a chance to extend your season.’
The regular season comes to an end this weekend and region playoffs begins next week.
Here’s a look at the region leaders and scenarios that will play out this weekend, as the teams begin their march toward the state championship at the Macon Coliseum.
Region 1: Boys – No. 7-ranked Veterans (22-2, 6-1) has clinched the regular season title and finishes the season Friday against Harris County. No. 8 Warner Robins (18-4, 5-2) will finish second. The two teams split during the regular season Girls – No. 3 Veterans (22-2, 7-0) has nailed down first place and takes a 14-game winning streak into the playoffs. Region tournament at Veterans.
Region 2: Boys – No. 10 Statesboro (19-5, 7-0) is easily the class of the region. The Blue Devils take an 18-game winning streak into the final game of the season against South Effingham. Wayne County (12-2, 4-4) and New Hampstead (11-7, 3-4) are in a tussle for second place. Girls -- No. 4 Wayne County (21-1, 7-1) has won eight straight and is tied with Statesboro (19-5, 6-1). The two teams split their two regular-season meetings. Statesboro must beat South Effingham (13-11, 4-3) to secure the first-place tie. Region tournament at Statesboro
Region 3: Boys – Jonesboro (15-7, 8-2) has won five straight and has surged into first place. The Cardinals can nail down the regular-season title this weekend with wins over McIntosh and Starr’s Mill. Fayette County (14-9, 9-3) and Whitewater (16-8, 7-4) are in pursuit. Girls – No. 9 Starr’s Mill (19-3, 10-0) brings a 17-game winning streak into the final weekend. The Panthers have a showdown against second-place Griffin (17-8, 10-1) on Friday, then play Jonesboro on Saturday. Starr’s Mill defeated Griffin in their first meeting.
Region 4: Boys – No. 2 Dutchtown (22-3, 13-1) and No. 3 Eagle’s Landing (19-3, 11-1) must both be considered contenders for a state title. They split during the regular season, with both games going into overtime. Eagle’s Landing still has games against Woodland and Stockbridge. Jones County (17-8, 8-6), Woodland (11-12, 7-5) and Union Grove (11-11, 6-7) are all solid teams. Even last-place Locust Grove is 13-11. Should be a fun region tournament. Girls – No. 5 Jones County (22-3, 12-2) has won 13 straight, but is likely to finish second in the region to Eagle’s Landing (15-8, 11-1). Eagle’s Landing will win the regular season if it defeats last-place Stockbridge on Friday. Woodland (16-7, 10-2) and Jones County meet in the final game and the winner will finish no lower than second. Region tournament at Union Grove
Region 5: Boys – No. 1 Lithonia (23-1, 11-0) has been the top dog all year in this very tough league. The Bulldogs will try to run the table Friday against rival Miller Grove (17-8, 9-2), the league’s second-place team. Southwest DeKalb (12-12, 7-4), Columbia (13-10, 6-5) and Arabia Mountain (11-12, 4-7) will vie for the final two spots in the state tournament. Girls – No. 8 Southwest DeKalb (18-6, 11-0) has clinched the championship and has won seven in a row. The Panthers will be challenged on Friday by second-place Arabia Mountain (20-3, 9-2); SWD won the previous meeting. Columbia (12-8, 8-3) is another solid team. Region tournament at Arabia Mountain
Region 6: Boys – Riverwood (18-6, 11-2) can clinch first place in the region with a win over Decatur (17-8, 9-4) on Friday. The Raiders have been led by high-energy Nathan Henderson and Jonathan Brown, two of eight seniors on the veteran roster. Maynard Jackson (15-7, 10-3) can sew up second place by beating Lithia Springs (12-12, 7-6). Girls – Riverwood (18-5, 11-2) and Jackson (16-8, 11-2) are tied for first going into the final weekend. Riverwood finishes with Decatur (10-13, 6-7), while Jackson’s last game is against Lithia Springs (16-8, 10-3). Region tournament at Maynard Jackson
Region 7: Boys – No. 5 Kell (20-4, 14-1) has won 10 straight and clinched first place in this deep region. Hiram (18-6, 12-3) is on a six-game roll and finishes at Rome. Carrollton (17-7, 11-4), Cass (14-11, 9-7), Villa Rica (17-7, 8-7) and Paulding County (15-9, 7-8) all have a chance to make noise. Girls – No. 1-ranked Kell (24-0, 15-0) is the only unbeaten team in the state. The Longhorns complete the season Friday against last-place Paulding County. No. 10 Carrollton (15-9, 11-4), Rome (17-7, 10-5) and No. 6 Villa Rica (19-5-10-5) are jostling for the other seeds. Even Hiram (13-11, 8-7) and Cass (17-8, 8-8) have credentials needed to make the state tournament. Region tournament semifinals and finals at Carrollton; early rounds at school sites.
Region 8: Boys – No. 4 Cedar Shoals (22-2, 8-1) hosts No. 9 Walnut Grove (13-7, 5-4) in the season finale. Defending state champion Buford (18-5, 7-2), the No. 6 team in the state, has won six in a row and closes the season at Clarke Central (13-7, 5-4). Girls – Defending state champion and No. 2-ranked Buford (23-1, 9-0) lost its first game of the season last weekend against Wesleyan, but heads into the playoffs in fine form. Loganville (18-6, 7-2) has emerged as the second-best team. Region tournament at Clarke Central
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