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High school basketball: Region tournament week will determine playoff qualifiers
Flowery Branch girls have already locked up postseason spot in Region 7-4A
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Flowery Branch senior Ashley Scotts weaves past Chestatee's Nicole Sedwick on Friday, Dec. 28, 2018 at West Hall High School during the Lanierland semifinals. - photo by Austin Steele

The past two months have gone just about as well as they possibly could have for the Flowery Branch girls basketball team. The Lady Falcons won their fourth straight Lanierland title, and finished the year on a 15-game winning streak. 

They did not drop a single game against a Region 7-4A opponent. 

But as is the case with every team, no amount of regular-season winning will mean much of Flowery Branch falters in the postseason.

“Obviously, we’re excited about the fact that we finished strong, finished undefeated (in region play) in the regular season and worked hard to get that first-round bye,” Flowery Branch coach Courtney Newton-Gonzalez said. “Our girls know that our work’s not done.”

The same is true for teams that struggled in the 

regular season. 

The Gainesville girls team dropped its last four games to close out region play, but Lady Red Elephants coach Alan Griffin said he’s staying optimistic about his team’s chances of competing for a region crown.

“The biggest thing is what we’ve been preaching all year, and that’s positivity: believing in yourself, believing in your teammates, believing that we’re absolutely good enough to make a run to the region championship,” he said following the team’s Friday night loss to Lanier. “That’s what our goal is, and we’re going to work as hard as we can to get to it.”

Region tournaments will kick off for all area teams next week, and for every squad — from the top seeds to the weaker teams — this is a crucial time of preparation. 

The Lakeview Academy boys team enters the Region 8-A tournament as a lower seed than No. 1 for the first time in the last four seasons. The Lions were dethroned as regular season region champs by Riverside Military Academy this year. 

Still, Lakeview coach Todd Cottrell said they’ll approach the tournament just like any other year. 

“We’ll probably try to keep it as normal as possible,” he said. “This time of year, there’s not a whole lot to do. Maybe tighten up some things here and there. Maybe adjust your game plan a little bit. Practices typically aren’t as long. We’re probably going to stay as close to normal as we can.”

Teams like Lakeview Academy — which feature several senior starters — have plenty of tournament experience, which Cottrell said should be helpful in the coming weeks. 

“I think that seniors in high school are very important,” Cottrell said. “They’ve invested the most. They’ve been around the longest. They’ve experienced some good things. That applies to our group as well.”

Newton-Gonzalez’s team also has plenty of senior experience, and the Lady Falcons’ perfect regular season record against region foes certainly bodes well for their chance win this week’s region tournament.

That, combined with victories over every other team in Region 7-4A gives the Lady Falcons as good a chance of taking the region title as any team. 

Still, Newton-Gonzalez knows that this time of year, it’s unwise to take anything for granted. 

“People are going to bring their best effort,” she said. “We can’t assume that because we’ve played teams before that it’s just going to happen for us. We’ve got to continue to focus on the scouting reports and the game plan. We’ve got to lock in and play and bring our best game each night.”

It’s a sentiment all coaches can agree on. No matter how well or poorly the regular season has gone, there’s still plenty of time for every team to change the trajectory of its season. All that starts with this week’s region tournaments.


Region tournament schedules

Monday

Chestatee girls vs. Blessed Trinity, 5 p.m. at Marist

West Hall girls vs. White County, 6:30 p.m., at Marist


Tuesday

Cherokee Bluff girls vs. Lumpkin County, 4:30 p.m. at Dawson County

Chestatee boys vs. West Hall, 5 p.m. at Blessed Trinity

Lakeview Academy boys vs. Tallulah Falls 5:30 p.m. at Commerce

North Hall girls vs. East Hall, 6 p.m. at Dawson County

Johnson girls vs. Loganville, 7 p.m. at Loganville

Flowery Branch boys at Blessed Trinity, 8 p.m.

Johnson boys vs. Clarke Central, 8:30 p.m., at Loganville


Wednesday

Cherokee Bluff boys vs. East Hall, 4:30 p.m. at Dawson County

North Hall boys vs. Lumpkin County, 6 p.m. at Dawson County

Riverside Military Academy vs. Towns/Athens Christian Academy 8:30 p.m. at Commerce


Thursday

Flowery Branch girls vs. Chestatee/Blessed Trinity winner, 7 p.m. at Chestatee

Gainesville girls vs. Habersham Central, TBA, at Winder-Barrow

Region 8-A tournament brackets are pending Sunday’s meeting to determine seeding


Regional events