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Area basketball teams brace for second round of state playoffs this week
Lower-seeded teams have lengthy road trips, while No. 1 seeds enjoy homecourt advantage
Flowery Branch's Caroline Wysocki (3) dribbles around West Hall's Danielle Hinkelman (23) Friday during the championship game of the Lanierland Tournament at Gainesville High School. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Second-round playoffs schedule:

Gainesville vs. Effingham County, 5:30 p.m. Thursday

Buford boys vs. New Hampstead, TBD
Buford girls vs. Ware County, TBD
Flowery Branch girls at Statesboro, TBD

Class AAAA
West Hall girls vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Class AAA
Dawson County girls at Monroe, TBD Wednesday
North Hall girls at Johnson-Savannah, 6 p.m. Thursday
East Hall boys vs. Islands, TBD

Class A-Private
Lakeview Academy girls vs. Greenforest, TBD Wednesday
Lakeview Academy boys vs. Wesleyan, TBD Thursday

Kristi House couldn’t recall ever having to travel this far for a second-round state playoff game.

Her North Hall High girls basketball team faces Johnson-Savannah at 6 p.m. Thursday, which House estimated will require a five-hour drive from Gainesville. To mitigate the fatigue of such a trip, the Lady Trojans are taking a charter bus to Savannah on Wednesday and staying overnight.

“I’ve never played a second-round game more than a couple hours away, so this is something a little different,” House said. “With this trip, we’d like to try to make it something special and memorable for the girls.”

North Hall is one of three area teams hitting the road for the second round of the playoffs, which is slated for Wednesday and Thursday.

The Flowery Branch girls will travel about 200 miles to face Statesboro at a time and date to be determined, while the Dawson County girls have a matchup with Monroe-Albany on Wednesday at a time to be determined.

The GHSA recently changed its playoff format to match teams from the northern and southern parts of the state in the second round as opposed to the quarterfinals, adding another hurdle for lower-seeded teams.

But the No. 3 seed Lady Trojans have already handled the rigors of the road, winning 44-25 at No. 2 seed Pace Academy last Saturday in Atlanta.

“In the first half, the pace was really slow,” House said. “In the second half, we picked it up defensively and got the ball up and down the court. Their strength was their guard play, and our guards played really well. We didn’t give up a lot of rebounds or second-chance baskets.”

North Hall (19-10), however, will have much farther to travel for Thursday’s game.

That won’t be an issue for the seven other local teams still alive, which all host second-round games this week.

The Buford boys and girls, West Hall girls, Gainesville boys and East Hall boys all earned No. 1 seeds and have a chance to play at home in the quarterfinals, as well. The Lakeview Academy boys and girls claimed the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively, in the Class A Private playoffs, meaning they’ll have homecourt advantage until the semifinals at the Cobb Civic Center.

As teams progress deeper into the playoffs, a rowdy home crowd can play a huge role in advancing one round further.

“That’s a huge advantage, especially with (Ware County) coming to our new facility,” Buford girls coach Gene Durden said after his team beat Decatur 76-38 in the first round last Saturday. “Ware County will have to travel probably four-and-a-half hours, so that will be a big advantage for us.”

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