The first weekend in February brings with it three staples of this time of year: cold temperatures, the Super Bowl and the end of the high school basketball regular season.
Friday marks the last games before the start of region tournaments, and while some teams have top seeds locked away, others stand much to gain on the final day of the season. The Flowery Branch and Lakeview Academy girls teams have nothing but continued momentum to play for, as both sit alone atop regions 7-4A and 8-A with perfect region records and no other teams in striking distance.
Things are nearly as simple for Riverside Military Academy, which leads the boys side of 8-A by a game and needs only a win over 2-21 Commerce to claim the No. 1 seed in the region tournament. The Eagles have been one of the hottest teams in the county of late, winners of their last eight consecutive region games.
“Hopefully we’re peaking at the right time, gelling, good chemistry,” Riverside Military coach Marvin Latham said. “It’s important to us. You want to go into the region tournament, you want to go into the state playoffs playing well. We’re doing that now.”
The Gainesville boys team has much the same at stake as it takes on Lanier. The Red Elephants need a win to roll over to a coin flip to determine the No. 1 spot to region.
For teams more in the middle of the pack, the Friday night finishes bring a greater variation of results.
The North Hall boys team, for example, could settle in anywhere from No. 3 to No. 6 depending on results from the Trojans’ game against Cherokee Bluff and East Hall’s season finale on the road against Dawson County.
North Hall coach Tyler Sanders said that with all the different possible scenarios that could happen, he and his team aren’t worrying about it until the games have all been played.
‘“For us to be the 3, there’s still got to be us
winning and East Hall losing,” he said. “If we lose, we can still win with some coin flips. There’s a lot going on. All we can focus on is doing our thing on Friday night. Everything else will take care of itself.”
Beyond region tournament seeding, the final night of the regular season provides every team the opportunity to gain some late momentum going into the postseason. Even off a bad year, any team can get hot late and make a deep state playoff run.
For that reason, Latham said he’s focusing on keeping his squad away from complacency, despite the success they’ve had all season.
“At this time of year, it’s the mental game,” he said. “We’re always talking about the mental part of the game, not looking at the scoreboard or looking at the record, and focusing on us. How do we move forward regardless of who our opponent is? How are we performing? We’ve been doing that.”
With the finishing of the year and the region tournaments right around the corner, each team has a good idea what to expect from every other member of its region. The time for drastic changes has long since passed, as teams prepare to fight for supremacy among region opponents.
With one last trial run before it becomes win or go home, Sanders said he remains focused on fixing the little things and making sure the Trojans are ready to bring out their best basketball for last.
“There’s no secrets anymore,” he said. “Nobody’s putting in any new magical offense or defense. The guys are in shape. Our guys, especially the ones that play football, they’ve been going since the first week of June full speed. Everybody’s in shape. It’s just a matter of who’s going to play defense better, who’s going to win the turnover battle, and at the end of the day, somebody’s got to make a few shots.”
Riverside Military Academy vs. Commerce: 6 p.m.
Lakeview Academy at Hebron Christian Academy 7:30 p.m.
West Hall vs. Blessed Trinity 7:30 p.m.
North Hall at Cherokee Bluff 7:30 p.m.
East Hall at Dawson County 8:30 p.m.
Flowery Branch at White County 8:30 p.m.
Johnson at Loganville 8:30 p.m.
Gainesville vs. Lanier, 8:30 p.m.
West Hall vs. Blessed Trinity 6 p.m.
Lakeview Academy at Hebron Christian Academy 6 p.m.
North Hall at Cherokee Bluff 6 p.m.
East Hall at Dawson County 7 p.m.
Flowery Branch at White County 7 p.m.
Johnson at Loganville 7 p.m.
Gainesville vs. Lanier, 7 p.m.