By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
High school basketball: First-round playoff bye a mixed blessing according to area coaches
02102019 BASKETBALL 005.JPG
Riverside's Shad Dabney dribbles the ball with Lakeview's Sam Stewart defending at Commerce High School on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

The last time the Lakeview Academy boys basketball team took the court, the Lions were on a bit of a hot streak. After a slow finish to the regular season, Lakeview Academy tore through the Region 8-A tournament, taking down Riverside Military Academy in the finals and claiming the region title as well as a bye in the first round of Class A-private playoffs. 

The former is a blessing for the Lions. But the latter, according to coach Todd Cottrell, is more of a curse.

“Basketball is such a rhythm and flow game, that when you’re playing pretty well, you want to stay in that groove,” he said. “Long layoffs sometimes can be concerning.”

The Lakeview Academy boys — along with the Lakeview Academy girls and Riverside Military Academy — have not played a game since last Saturday. Meanwhile, each of their second-round opponents is riding the high of a playoff win. 

The free ride to the second round is a nice perk of a successful season, but for Cottrell and Riverside Military coach Marvin Latham, it’s not worth the tradeoff of lost momentum. 

“It’s good to get your guys some rest, but it’s also bad because you’re used to playing two or three times a week, and you don’t play for a week or so,” he said. “It’s tough. It’s good and bad, but I’d rather have been playing last week to be honest.”

In the 10 days in between last weekend’s region tournament games and Wednesday’s matchup against Walker, Latham said the Eagles have been focusing on themselves for the most part — allowing lingering injuries to heal and looking at what went wrong in the team’s loss to the Lions. 

But the lack of outside competition has opened the door for rust to accumulate, which is a serious concern according to Latham. 

“I think as coaches we’ve just got to be a little bit patient and understand to just let our guys get in the groove of things,” he said. “Hopefully it comes around.”

The time off is a little new for Riverside Military — a school that last won a region championship in 2011. Lakeview Academy has a bit more experience with the long break a first-round bye provides, but Cottrell said his team is still not immune to the negative impacts of the layoff. 

Rest is important, but too much can be detrimental. It’s a difficult line to walk. 

“For us, over the years we’ve tried to balance rest with working on us and trying to get better at some things that we’ve identified that we need to get better at down the stretch,” Cottrell said. “... But this time of year, you want to keep playing if you can.”

And while both Cottrell and Latham lamented the playoff setup that has stunted both teams’ momentum after stellar seasons from both sides, the two coaches maintained confidence that the top-end play that secured the byes for their teams will help them to advance. 

After all, just having a spot in the playoffs is more important than anything else. Having the chance to play at home doesn’t hurt either.

Considering the alternative, Cottrell said he and coaches in a similar position have little room to complain.

“You never want to have a long layoff this time of year, but it’s good to have a high seed and have a home game,” he said. “... We’ve taken the approach of let’s get us better, try to get rested and healthy and hopefully play our best basketball coming down the stretch.”

Second round schedule

Class 6A

Gainesville boys at Cambridge, 7 p.m. Thursday

Class 4A

Flowery Branch girls vs. St. Pius X, 6 p.m. Wednesday

West Hall boys at Cartersville, 7 p.m. Thursday

Class 3A

North Hall girls at Hart County, 6 p.m. Wednesday

Class A Private schools

Riverside Military vs. Walker, 7 p.m. Wednesday

Lakeview Academy girls vs. Darlington, 6 p.m., Thursday

Lakeview Academy boys vs. North Cobb Christian, 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Regional events