The high school basketball playoff field was significantly pared down after an exciting weekend of first-round games. Seven local programs will play in the second round Wednesday, Feb. 21, or Thursday, Feb. 22 (five boys teams, three girls).
Coming out of the first round, local programs out of Region 8-5A were the big winner with a 4-0 mark. The biggest upset came when Patsheko Lutumba hit the go-ahead free throw with 1.6 seconds left to play as the Flowery Branch boys (18-11) topped the state’s sixth-ranked Villa Rica 45-44 in Carroll County.
Meanwhile, the Lady Falcons (23-6) started the postseason in dominating fashion with a 78-63 victory against an athletic Rome program.
At Buford, it was no problem advancing to the second round with the Lady Wolves (25-3) coming away with a 34-point win against Kell, while the Wolves’ boys (24-4) topped Cass, 82-50.
In Region 8-6A, the Gainesville boys (21-6) started the postseason with an impressive 83-47 win against Pope. The Red Elephants will have the only second-round playoff game in Hall County when they host Alexander at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Five scorers for the Red Elephants hit double-digit points in the 36-point victory, led by senior KJ Buffen with 16 points and 13 from Rafael Rubel.
Gainesville coach Benjie Wood has his program playing in the second round for the fourth consecutive season. With a victory this week, the Red Elephants are assured a state quarterfinal game at home with the two possible opponents being a No. 2 seed Richmond Hill and fourth-seed Lakeside-Evans, which pulled a first-round upset of top-seeded Stephenson, 65-63.
In Class 3A, East Hall’s girls (17-12) advanced with a gritty 63-52 win against Hart County, thanks to a season-high 24 points by Ivey Shadburn, who knocked down six 3-pointers.
Next up, the Lady Vikings visit Lovett (24-4) on Thursday in Atlanta.
In Class A, Lakeview Academy’s boys (21-7) are rolling in the private-schools bracket and looking to match their state semifinal success from 2017. In the opening round, the Lions cruised past Landmark Christian, 85-49, to set up a date against Holy Innocents (16-9) on Thursday in Atlanta.
Flowery Branch girls at Lithia Springs, 6 p.m.
Buford girls vs. Maynard Jackson, 6 p.m.
Gainesville boys vs. Alexander, 7 p.m.
East Hall girls at Lovett, 6 p.m.
Flowery Branch boys at Lithonia, TBA
Lakeview Academy boys at Holy Innocents,
Buford boys vs. Miller Grove, 7 p.m.
Tickets are $7, per GHSA rules