The first six weeks of the high school basketball season didn’t go well for defending Class AAAAAA girls champion Lanier.
The Longhorns won just three of their first nine games, suffering three losses to Class AAAAAAA teams and two more against top-20 ranked opponents from North Carolina.
But the Longhorns seem to have found their footing, winning four of their past six games to improve to 7-8, and have a chance to move into first place in Region 8-AAAAAA when they travel to Gwinnett County rival Dacula for a Tuesday night game.
Third-ranked Dacula is 14-2 overall and 2-0 in region play. Lanier won its region opener Friday night, beating Winder-Barrow 59-53. They are the only remaining unbeaten teams in the six-team region.
This will be the second meeting of the year between Dacula and Lanier but the first that will count in the region standings. Dacula beat Lanier 51-47 on Dec. 31 in the fifth-place game of the Andrew Johnson Bank Ladies Classic in Greeneville, Tenn. Dacula jumped out to a 21-8 lead in the first quarter, was outscored 35-14 over the middle two quarters, then outscored Lanier 16-4 in the fourth to come away with the victory.
Lazaria Spearman led the Falcons with 13 points and 16 rebounds, and Jin Sileo scored 12 points. Lanier’s Zuiyah Davis led all scorers with 19 points.
The teams will meet again on Jan. 24 at Lanier.
Here are some of the other top games in Class AAAAAA this week:
*Forest Park at Stephenson (Tuesday): The winner of this battle between top-10 teams will emerge as the top threat to No. 1-ranked Lovejoy in Region 4. Lovejoy came into the week 9-0 in region play, followed closely by Forest Park (7-1) and Stephenson (7-2). The Panthers’ half-game lead over Stephenson is primarily the result of their 65-43 victory when the teams met at Forest Park on Nov. 14.
*Valdosta at Northside-Warner Robins (Friday): No team from outside of metro Atlanta has won the state title in the second-highest class since Glenn Hills in 2002. No. 2 Valdosta, a semifinalist last season, appears to have the best shot of breaking through this year. The Wildcats (13-2) have five wins against ranked teams and begin Region 1 play against Northside, another top-10 team.
*Chattahoochee at Pope (Tuesday): Pope lost its grip on sole possession of first place in Region 7 when it was beaten by North Atlanta 67-57 Saturday night. That left the two teams in a four-way tie for first place with Chattahoochee and Johns Creek, which both play Pope this week. Pope beat Chattahoochee 67-61 in their first meeting on Nov. 19 and lost to Johns Creek 97-81 on Dec. 16.
*Tucker at Lovejoy (Tuesday): Tucker has built a three-game lead in Region 4. Second-place Lovejoy will try to keep the Tigers within reach, but the Wildcats will need to improve upon their performance in the first meeting between the teams this season, a 71-43 Tucker victory on Nov. 14. Tucker was the state runner-up last season, losing to Tri-Cities 46-43 on a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.
*Effingham County at Brunswick (Friday): Effingham County picked up its biggest win of the season Friday when it beat Region 2 favorite Richmond Hill 67-64. The win left Effingham and Brunswick as the only remaining undefeated teams in region play. Beating the Pirates this week would establish Effingham as the team to beat, although the rematch with Richmond Hill looms on Jan. 24.
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