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Boys teams have plenty on line in region basketball tournaments
Even top seeds can't rest easy with postseason on line
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Johnson's Roderick English looks to make a play against Buford on Jan. 13 at Buford High. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Region 8-AAAAA

Monday

At Apalachee

North No. 4 Lanier 51, North No. 5 Winder-Barrow 37

South No. 4 Salem 64, South No. 5 Loganville 55

Wednesday

At Gainesville

South No. 2 Cedar Shoals vs. North No. 3 Flowery Branch, 6 p.m.

South No. 4 Salem at North No. 1 Gainesville, 7:30 p.m.

At Heritage

North No. 2 Apalachee vs. South No. 3 Clarke Central, 6 p.m.

North No. 4 Lanier at South No. 1 Heritage, 7:30 p.m.

Friday

At Salem

Gainesville-Salem-Loganville winner vs. Cedar Shoals-Flowery Branch winner, 5:30 p.m.

Heritage-Lanier winner vs. Apalachee-Clarke Central winner, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday

At Salem

Third seed game, 4:30 p.m.

Championship game, 7:30 p.m.

Region 8-AAAA

Tuesday

At Johnson

No. 4 North Hall vs. No. 5 Madison County, 6 p.m.

No. 8 Stephens County at No. 1 Johnson, 7:30 p.m.

At Buford

No. 3 Monroe Area vs. No. 6 White County, 6 p.m.

No. 7 Chestatee at No. 2 Buford, 7:30 p.m.

Friday

At Johnson

Monroe Area-White County winner vs. Buford-Chestatee winner, 5:30 p.m.

North Hall-Madison County winner vs. Johnson-North Oconee-Stephens County winner, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday

At Johnson

Third seed game, 5:30 p.m.

Championship game, 8:30 p.m.

Region 7-AAA

Wednesday

At Banks County

No. 4 Franklin County vs. No. 5 Dawson County, 4:30 p.m.

No. 3 Lumpkin County vs. No. 6 Fannin County, 6 p.m.

No. 7 West Hall at No. 2 Banks County, 7:30 p.m.

Friday

At Franklin County

Lumpkin County-Fannin County winner vs. Banks County-West Hall winner, 5:30 p.m.

No. 1 East Hall vs. Franklin County-Dawson County winner, 8:30 p.m.

Saturday

At Franklin County

Third seed game, 4:30 p.m.

Championship game, 7:30 p.m.

Region 8-A

Monday

At Prince Avenue Christian

North No. 4 Commerce vs. South No. 5 George Walton, late

Tuesday

At Prince Avenue Christian

Commerce-George Walton winner vs. Athens Christian, 8:30 p.m.

Wednesday

At Prince Avenue Christian

North No. 2 Lakeview Academy vs. South No. 3 Athens Academy, 5:30 p.m.

South No. 2 Providence vs. North No. 3 Towns County, 8:30 p.m.

Region 8-AAA

Wednesday

at Hart County

No. 3 Elbert County vs. No. 6 Jefferson, 6:30 p.m.

No. 7 Jackson County at No. 2 Hart County, 8 p.m.

Region 8-AA

Tuesday

At Rabun County

No. 3 Union County vs. No. 6 Oglethorpe County, 5:30 p.m.

No. 7 Riverside Military Academy at No. 2 Rabun County, 7 p.m.

Johnson coach Jeff Steele is leading a group that completed the first unbeaten regular season in program history. Gainesville’s Benjie Wood lauded how his team has grown up and overcome obstacles this season in compiling a 23-2 record.

Both coaches have led their teams to No. 1 seeds in this week’s region basketball tournaments. Now their mission is to make sure their players don’t put too much stock in what they’ve already accomplished.

That’s because the Georgia High School Association awards state playoff spots and seeding through region tournaments, and both the Knights and Red Elephants are in large enough regions that nothing is guaranteed now.

Johnson (24-0) opens the Region 8-AAAA tournament by hosting Stephens County (8-18) at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Knights also host the boys and girls 8-AAAA semifinals and finals Friday and Saturday.

Steele said Stephens County could push Johnson, as the Knights needed two overtimes to prevail in Toccoa last week.

Steele hopes being in an elimination game will have his team on its toes after not being sharp down the stretch.

“We’re just going to try to play one game at a time,” Steele said. “That’s been our motto: ‘Play every game like it’s a championship game.’”

Gainesville hosts Salem at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday before the boys and girls semifinals and finals of the 8-AAAAA tournament shift to Salem on Friday and Saturday.

Wood pointed to Southwest DeKalb, a top-10 Class AAAAA team that lost in its region tournament to Dunwoody last week and won’t make the state playoffs.

“These things happen,” Wood said.

Both Johnson and Gainesville have the talent to make runs in the state tournament, but they need to get there first.

“Our kids need to feel that sense of urgency,” Steele said.

Wood said the top four of Region 8-AAAAA are really good but that he wouldn’t be surprised to see any of them get upset.

East Hall coach Joe Dix can breathe a little easier than his counterparts at Johnson and Gainesville. As the No. 1 seed after a 12-0 mark in Region 7-AAA, the Vikings (20-5) have a bye into Friday’s region semifinals at Franklin County and a guaranteed playoff spot.

East Hall will be looking to take advantage and claim its first region championship since 2011. Dix noted that no current Vikings player has won a region title or a Lanierland championship.

“Hopefully they’re hungry this week in our preparation and doing everything we can to give ourselves a chance to get one,” Dix said.

Dix said an unselfish group that likes playing together has made for a strong regular season. He added that the region tournaments are important preparation for the gauntlet of the playoffs. Teams that reach the state semifinals will play four games in 11 days.

While some of the top seeds could see a season’s work go by the wayside if they aren’t prepared, this week’s region tournaments provide teams such as Region 8-AAAA No. 4 seed North Hall a chance to make good on a season’s worth of improvement.

The Trojans (13-12) have already more than doubled their win total from last season’s 6-20 mark, and they could clinch a postseason berth with a victory in Tuesday’s 6 p.m. matchup with fifth-seeded Madison County (14-11) at Johnson. North Hall won 60-52 on Jan. 13 in the teams’ matchup in Danielsville.

“The kids are obviously excited about what they’ve accomplished,” Trojans coach Tyler Sanders said. “But they’re not just satisfied with having more wins than we had last year. They’re wanting to make the state tournament and make something good happen.”

Lakeview Academy (16-9) fell to No. 2 in the North sub-region of Region 8-A with Friday’s loss to Hebron Christian, but Lions coach Todd Cottrell is optimistic about his team’s chances of making the playoffs. Lakeview opens the region tournament against Athens Academy at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Prince Avenue Christian in Athens.

Lakeview has regularly been in the top 16 of the Class A private school power ratings and needs a strong performance to cement its postseason status. Cottrell said his team is getting good senior leadership and contributions from sophomores with plenty of experience.

“We’ve competed pretty well night in and night out for the most part all year,” Cottrell said. “I like where we are.”

Regional events