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Flowery Branch, Gainesville girls part of deep Region 8-AAAAA tournament field
Buford, Dawson County and Lakeview Academy all start tourneys as No. 1 seed
Flowery Branch's Heather Moore, 2, looks for a teammate to pass to while being guarded by Gainesville's Tanai Watson, 12, during a game Jan. 9 in Gainesville. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Girls pairings
Region 8-AAAAA

North No. 4 Apalachee 48, North No. 5 Lanier 43
South No. 4 Cedar Shoals 56, South No. 5 Heritage 21
At Flowery Branch
South No. 2 Salem vs. North No. 3 Winder-Barrow, 6 p.m.
South No. 4 Cedar Shoals at North No. 1 Flowery Branch, 7:30 p.m.
At Loganville
North No. 2 Gainesville vs. South No. 3 Clarke Central, 6 p.m.
North No. 4 Apalachee at South No. 1 Loganville, 7:30 p.m.
At Salem
Flowery Branch-Cedar Shoals winner vs. Salem-Winder-Barrow winner, 4 p.m.
Loganville-Apalachee winner vs. Gainesville-Clarke Central winner, 7 p.m.
At Salem
Third seed game, 3 p.m.
Championship game, 6 p.m.

Region 8-AAAA
At Stephens County
No. 8 Monroe Area 48, No. 9 Johnson 35
At North Hall
No. 3 White County vs. No. 6 Chestatee, 6 p.m.
No. 2 North Hall vs. No. 7 North Oconee, 7:30 p.m.
At Buford
No. 4 Madison County vs. No. 5 Stephens County, 6 p.m.
No. 8 Monroe Area at No. 1 Buford, 7:30 p.m.
At Johnson
North Hall-North Oconee winner vs. White County-Chestatee winner, 4 p.m.
Buford-Monroe Area-Johnson winner vs. Madison County-Stephens County winner, 7 p.m.
At Johnson
Third seed game, 4 p.m.
Championship game, 7 p.m.

Region 7-AAA
At Banks County
No. 4 Franklin County vs. No. 5 West Hall, 4:30 p.m.
No. 3 East Hall vs. No. 6 Fannin County, 6 p.m.
No. 7 Lumpkin County at No. 2 Banks County, 7:30 p.m.
At Franklin County
Banks County-Lumpkin County winner vs. East Hall-Fannin County winner, 4 p.m.
No. 1 Dawson County vs. Franklin County-West Hall winner, 7 p.m.
At Franklin County
Third seed game, 3 p.m.
Championship game, 6 p.m.

Region 8-A
At Prince Avenue Christian
North No. 1 Lakeview Academy vs. North No. 5 Tallulah Falls, 4 p.m.
At Prince Avenue Christian
North No. 2 Commerce at South No. 3 Prince Avenue Christian, 4 p.m.
South No. 2 George Walton vs. North No. 3 Towns County, 7 p.m.

Region 8-AAA
At Morgan County
No. 3 Oconee County vs. No. 6 Jackson County, 6:30 p.m.
at Emmanuel College, Franklin Springs
No. 1 Jefferson vs. Hart County-Elbert County winner, 7 p.m.

The competition at the top in Region 8-AAAAA has been a constant battle all season on the girls’ side. From beginning to end, Flowery Branch (20-3, 12-1) and Gainesville (18-7, 10-3) have stood out near the top.

When tournament play opens today, the top-seeded Lady Falcons and second-seeded Lady Red Elephants will open play at different locations with the very real possibility of playing each other for the region championship, after facing off three times in the regular season.

However, the depth of talent in the region doesn’t end with these two. Loganville, who hosts two games today, earned the No. 1 spot out of the south portion of the region with a 10-3 record in 8-AAAAA, while Salem has also been a tough out with a 9-4 mark.

“On any night anyone can win, it just depends on who’s playing well,” said Gainesville coach Brenda Hill-Gilmore.

As the No. 1 seed in the northern portion of the region, Flowery Branch will host play-in game winner Cedar Shoals (10-16, 5-9) at 7:30 tonight. With the No. 2 spot to the region tournament, Gainesville faces Clarke Central (14-10, 7-6) at Loganville. In Region 8-AAAAA, teams have to win tonight to clinch a playoff berth. Games in the semifinals and finals will be for postseason seeding.

In Region 7-AAA, Dawson County (25-0, 12-0) is already a lock for the postseason with the No. 1 spot. The same goes for Lakeview Academy (16-8, 12-1 Region 8-A), which opens its tournament against Tallulah Falls (7-16, 3-10) at 4 p.m. today at Prince Avenue Christian in Athens.

The Lady Tigers won’t play until 7 p.m. Friday against today’s Franklin County/West Hall winner. Dawson County kept a pretty secure lock on the region all season, only three times winning a game in Region 7-AAA by less than 10 points.

In Region 8-AAAA, Buford (22-3, 8-0) dominated all season, led by North Carolina State signee Camille Anderson.

The Lady Wolves’ closest contest in the eight region contests was a 15-point win at North Hall (15-10, 6-2), which opens the tournament as the No. 2 seed. In this region, the main battle will be for the No. 2-4 playoff spots. No. 3 White County was 5-3 in region play. Four 8-AAAA programs were 4-4 in region games this season.

That’s the type of parity that North Hall coach Kristi House says could lend itself to a very competitive three-day event.

“There’s a lot of talented teams in this region,” said House. “It just depends on who goes out there and is playing their best.”

With senior Sydney Cleveland out most of the season with a knee injury, North Hall has had a collection of players step up and play well. In the regular-season finale against Stephens County, Kensi Gillespie, Katie Sayres, Taylor Anne Kelley and Sadie Cleveland were all double-digit scorers.

Flowery Branch and Gainesville already have three head-to-head meetings under their belts. The Lady Falcons won the most recent by 23 on Jan. 27. The Lady Red Elephants won the first two games, including a 45-43 win for the Lanierland title.

The talent for both squads is pretty equal, too. Flowery Branch’s Julianne Suttton, Breanna Locke and Lexie Sengkhammee are all averaging about 10 points a night. Gainesville’s Taylor Hawks is averaging 13 points, four rebounds and three assists per night, while Shikiya Brown is at nine points and three steals a game.

And they’re both playing great going into tournament time. Flowery Branch has won seven straight, while Gainesville has been on the winning end of 6 of its last 7.

“I think we’re playing really well together,” said Flowery Branch coach Hazel Hall. “We don’t have to depend on one player to carry the entire team.”

“I feel like our kids are peaking at the right time,” Hill-Gilmore added.

With a playoff spot already locked up, Lakeview Academy is out to improve its playoff seeding with brackets for the postseason in Class A, which are formulated based on power ratings.

The Lady Lions have been led all season by sophomore Hanna Grogan, who is averaging 17 points and seven rebounds a game. After missing two weeks with an ankle sprain, Schyler Miller (14 points, four rebounds) played one of her best games of the season against Hebron Christian, according to coach John Carrick.

Regional events