It took an extra day thanks to weather wiping out days of the region tournaments, but they all came to an end on Monday and the seeding is now complete for the boys and girls Class AA tournaments.
(Go here for complete AA region tournament results)
Tournament action begins on Friday, with the higher seed hosting through the first three rounds. In the quarterfinals, if both teams are the same seed, a universal coin toss will be administered by the GHSA to determine the host school. Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville will host the semifinals on Feb. 29.
The championships will be played on March 5 at the Macon Centreplex, with the girls tipping off at 2 p.m. followed by the boys at 4 p.m.
But enough about the details, it’s time for my annual predictions. We’ll start on the boys side.
Here are the rankings heading into the playoffs:
1. Swainsboro (25-2)
2. Glenn Hills (20-7)
3. Therrell (21-7)
4. Douglass (19-8)
5. Butler (18-6)
6. Jeff Davis (18-8)
7. Spencer (21-3)
8. Laney (20-8)
9. Washington County (18-6)
10. Banks County (23-4)
And now, the predictions:
As you can see, I have a number of upsets — most notably defending state champs and No. 3 Therrell exiting in the second round. They barely scraped by Douglass, 49-48 to win Region 6, and they suffered a two-game losing streak to Douglass and Hapeville Charter at the end of January. Perhaps that was the Panthers getting their losses out of the way before the postseason starts but they haven’t been the same dominant team they were last year.
Top-ranked Swainsboro, who I have winning their first state title since they won AA in 1996, hasn’t lost since Jan. 4, when AAAAA’s No. 8 Statesboro beat them 62-58. On Nov. 11, the Tigers beat Statesboro by the same score. Should the Tigers reach the title game, it would be the second time in the last four seasons. It would be quite the turnaround for the Tigers from last season, when they failed to qualify for the state tournament.
You may also notice that I have three of the quarterfinalists coming from Region 4 in No. 2 Glenn Hills, No. 5 Butler and No. 8 Laney. Will that actually happen? It could.
In the upper-right quadrant, keep an eye on the potential matchup between No. 4 Douglass and Glenn Hills in the second round. I consider that game a toss-up. I gave Glenn Hills the benefit of the doubt, and did the same with the other 4-AA teams, because they came from what I believe is the most competitive region in AA. I could easily see Douglass taking Glenn Hills’ spot in the bracket and riding that wave at least the semis, however.
In the lower-left quadrant, Swainsboro has a tough road. Perennial power South Atlanta is having a down year by its standards, but longtime coach Michael Reddick and his experience can never be overlooked in the postseason. Northeast is another perennial power having a down year, and I have Rockmart advancing to the quarters to face Swainsboro.
In the upper-right quadrant I have Butler going all the way to the semis, but they get a stiff challenge right off the bat in Vidalia, which is the higher seed and hosts. Though the Indians are unranked, they’ve reached the championship game in each of the past two seasons. From there, the Bulldogs could face No. 10 Banks County in the second round.
In the lower-right quadrant I have Laney knocking off two ranked teams, though it’s possible they’ll have to knock off three if No. 9 Washington County can reach the quarters, though I have Callaway upsetting the Golden Hawks in Round 2. Laney must first get past No. 6 Jeff Davis in Round 1, then knock off the defending state champs on the road, assuming Therrell beats Putnam County. It’s a long shot, but Laney reaching the finals as a No. 8 seed is conceivable. Laney beat Butler the last time they played, which was in the 4-AA semis.
- Potential sleepers: Callaway, No. 7 Spencer, No. 4 Douglass, Chattooga, No. 10 Banks County
On the girls’ side, here are the final regular season rankings:
1. Laney (25-2)
2. Early County (23-4)
3. Rabun County (23-4)
4. Southwest-Macon (21-3)
5. Douglass (20-5)
6. Vidalia (22-4)
7. Putnam County (22-4)
8. Josey (22-5)
9. Washington County (21-4)
10. Bryan County (22-5)
Here are my predictions:
On the boys side, I picked Swainsboro but I don’t see them as a clearcut favorite to win it all. I feel like a handful of teams have a real shot. I don’t feel that way on the girls side. Hands down, I think top-ranked Laney is in a class of its own once again, and that the Lady Wildcats will win their third state title in the last four years.
Had a few bounces gone the Lady Wildcats’ way earlier this season, we might be talking about them posting their second perfect season in three years — they went 32-0 on the way to the 2018 state title. They lost their season opener 64-61 to AAAAAA’s Grovetown on Nov. 15, and 45-44 to AAAAA’s No. 5 Jones County on Dec. 30. That’s two losses by a combined four points. With a balanced scoring attack led by seniors Rocquana Drayton (13.6 points), Whitney Anderson (13.1) and Nekiyah Booker (10.5), the team has scored 80 or more points 10 times and 90 or more points twice. Laney will likely have to beat No. 4 Southwest and No. 7 Putnam County to advance from the upper-left quadrant.
I have unranked Rockmart advancing from the lower-left quadrant, upsetting No. 6 Vidalia — the only ranked team in the quadrant — along the way. To get that far, they will lean heavily on one of AA’s best players, junior Keyarah Berry, who is averaging 31.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.7 steals and a block. Vidalia is riding the momentum of a 67-58 double-overtime win over No. 10 Bryan County in the 2-AA championship, which earned them the No. 1 seed.
In the upper-right quadrant, I have No. 2 Early County emerging and advancing all the way to the title game for a second year in a row. They lost to No. 5 Douglass in last season’s championship. They’re led by four-star recruit and junior Makayla Timpson, who is being heavily recruited by Power 5 schools and is averaging 23.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, five blocks and 4.4 steals. To win their quadrant, the Lady Bobcats will likely need to be Bryan County, who has senior Olonna Rawls, a Columbus State signee averaging 26 points, nine rebounds and 3.7 steals.
In the lower-left quadrant, I have No. 9 Washington County escaping past a No. 8 Josey that upsets Douglass. Josey twice came within five points of beating crosstown rival Laney and appears poised to make a deep playoff run. No. 3 Rabun County is also in this quadrant, though shockingly as a No. 4 seed after a disappointing Region 8 tournament showing. Washington County needs a miracle to win it all, but the good news is they have one in Miracle Parker, a junior averaging 20.2 points.
- Potential sleepers: Gordon Central, Union County, Banks County
Check back on Friday when I preview the best of the first round matchups.
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