East Hall girls vs. Dade County
When: 6 tonight
Where: East Hall High School, Gainesville
Records: East Hall (25-3, No. 1 Region 8-AA); Dade County (23-5, No. 4 Region 7-AA).
Coaches: East Hall, Joey Rider; Dade County, Randy Watson.
Key players: PG Jasmine Jenkins (5-8, Sr.); SG Morgan Jackson (6-0, Sr.); SF Audrianna Lindsey (5-8, Sr.); Dade County, PG Erica Wilson (5-6, Sr.); C Ansley Chilton (6-2, Jr.); G Holly Gross (5-6, Sr.).
Outlook: It doesn't get much better than this for a first round matchup. Two teams with good shooters, solid guard players and a tall player inside that can also control the flow of the game. Even though the Lady Vikings took care of business and won the Region 8-AA title last weekend, Rider knows facing Dade County is no easy task. East Hall's coach is secure, however, with the fact that his senior-heavy roster has been to the playoffs all four years of high school and is used to playing on this stage.
The Lady Vikings have been led all season by Jackson (20 points, eight rebounds) and Jenkins (18 points, seven rebounds) almost every night. In addition, Rider says that Lindsey, Holly Lester, Chelsea Dale and Latisha Shelton have all had moments during the season where they played a key role and added valuable depth.
"I have no reason to doubt what we accomplished during the regular season will be able to carry over to the postseason," Rider said.
Meanwhile, Dade County experienced a hiccup in the subregion championship game when, according to Watson, it lost after missing a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer against Calhoun. In the region tournament, the Lady Wolverines won the playoff-qualifier against Pepperell, then lost the final two games of the region tournament to enter the playoffs as the No. 4 seed.
Dade County is led in scoring by Wilson with 15 points, and Chilton with 13 points and 10 rebounds a game.
"I know our team isn't going to be scared of playing East Hall," Watson said. "And I know East Hall isn't going to be scared of playing us either.
"It should be a great first-round game."
Gainesville girls vs. Allatoona
When: 7 tonight
Where: Allatoona High School, Acworth
Records: Gainesville (16-10, No. 4 Region 8-AAA); Allatoona (24-4, No. 1 Region 7-AAA)
Coaches: Gainesville, Brenda Hill-Gilmore. Allatoona, Michael Taylor.
Key players: Gainesville, F Rebecca Webster (6-0, Sr.); F Hunter Pugh (5-9, Sr.); PG Kabree Randolph (5-5, Soph.). Allatoona, PF Alexis Ezell (5-11, Jr.); PG Elise Spann.
Outlook: Lady Red Elephants coach Hill-Gilmore sees a matchup of similar teams for tonight's first-round playoff game.
"It will be a really good matchup, because we're a lot alike," Hill-Gilmore said. "We know it's going to be hard going to their place."
The first-year Gainesville coach added that the Lady Buccaneers are a talented, veteran team that can shoot the 3-pointer.
But she also knows that any team that can play good defense always has a chance. The Lady Red Elephants pride themselves on defense and, she said, are peaking at the right time.
Webster leads the team on offense, averaging 14 points per game, although Pugh has stepped up in recent weeks as a solid scoring option as well.
Forwards Anna Walker and Angel Mickle add defense in the post, and seniors Kynika Coleman and Keke Harris on the wings for a team that allows less than 40 points against per game, a subregion best.
Allatoona's defense is just as good, averaging 39 points per game.
On offense the Lady Buccaneers are led by Spann and Ezell. In the Region 7-AAA championship game, a 47-37 win over Archer, the two combined to score all but six points in the game, as well as both posting double-doubles.
Chestatee girls vs. Gilmer
When: 7 tonight
Where: Chestatee High School, Gainesville
Records: Chestatee (18-10, No. 2 Region 8-AAA); Gilmer (19-10, No. 3 Region 7-AAA)
Coaches: Chestatee, Web Daniel. Gilmer, Herb Horton.
Key players: Chestatee, F/C Maegan Kenimer (6-2, Jr.); SG Emily Crain (5-4, So.). Gilmer, PF Brittany Lowman (5-10, Jr.); G Brittany Farlow (5-5, So.).
Outlook: From their days as rivals in Region 7-AAA, the coaches from Chestatee and Gilmer know what to expect from one another.
"They've got a solid group, and they're going to play good defense," Daniel said of the Lady Bobcats. "We're going to have to come out and play good."
Chestatee, which has won its last two first-round games (2011 and '09), has been playing some of its best basketball lately. The Lady War Eagles won five straight games before falling to North Hall in the 8-AAA finals on Saturday.
Despite the loss, Daniel said the Lady War Eagles' spirits remain high and he likes their draw in the tournament if they can get past Gilmer.
The Lady Bobcats are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2009, when they defeated Chestatee in the 7-AAA region tournament consolation game before losing in the first round of state. They've won seven of their last eight games, including a 35-34 win over rival Pickens in the third-place game on Saturday.
Buford girls vs. Kendrick
When: 6 tonight
Where: Buford High School
Records: Buford (21-7, No. 1 Region 6-AA); Kendrick (17-10, No. 4 Region 5-AA)
Coaches: Buford, Gene Durden. Kendrick, Sterling Hicks.
Key players: Buford, F Kaela Davis (6-2, Jr.); PG Andraya Carter (5-8, Sr.). Kendrick, G Aquila Towler (5-3, Sr.); G Sierra Porter (5-7, Jr.); F Jasmine Merritt (5-7, Jr.).
Outlook: Hicks likened his team's matchup against Buford as "David versus Goliath." It's an accurate characterization.
The Lady Wolves, who have won seven consecutive games, including three in the Region 6-AA tournament to capture the title, present an athletic and tenacious challenge on the court. Davis, the main offensive force, has size and shooting touch, making it difficult for opponents to match up against her.
Hicks' first task for his team, which lacks size, will be to find a way to neutralize Davis. That will be easier said than done, as Davis regularly scores in double-figures for the Lady Wolves.
Carter, who missed the first half of the season while recovering from ACL surgery, provides a spark on the defensive end of the floor. The heart and soul of the team, she is an aggressive defender that poses problems for opposing offenses.
Hicks said that he wanted to see his team show more effort than it did In its final region tournament game against Carver (Columbus), a 57-49 loss.
An improved effort will be vital to contend with one of the best teams in the state. The winner tonight will face the North Oconee/River Ridge winner in the second round.
Towns County girls vs. Georgia Military College
When: 6 tonight
Where: Towns County High School, Hiawassee
Records: Towns County (22-6, No. 1 Region 8-A); Georgia Military (17-10, No. 3 Region 7-A)
Coaches: Towns County, Jim Melton. Georgia Military, John Griffin.
Key players: SG Gabby Arencibia (5-11, Sr.), G/F Ali Bleckley (5-11, Sr.); G/SG Stephanie Patton (6-3, Jr.), PG Eryn Cochran (5-8, So.).
Outlook: The group of seniors on Towns County's roster has already had a spectacular career at the school. The Lady Indians seniors have won 20-plus games each season, advanced to the Elite 8 as freshmen and the Sweet 16 in each of the past two seasons. That's the goal again.
Towns County builds their offense around a host of strong shooters, most notably Arencibia, who has set a state record for career 3-pointers made (303). This season, she averages 18 points and five assists per game, and adds a strong defensive presence with four steals per game. Not to be forgotten, Bleckley and Patton also shoot well from long range.
Patton has set a school record for points by a freshman with over 300.
Melton said his team has prepared for this game as with any other - he wants it to set the tempo and be able to mold its style to fit the opponent.
Union County girls vs. Model
When: 6 tonight
Where: Model High School, Rome
Records: Union County (21-8, No. 4 Region 8-AA); Model (26-1, No. 1 Region 7-AA)
Coaches: Union County, David Tucker. Model, Sally Echols.
Key players: Union County, F Rebecka Merritt (5-10, Sr.); C Angie Hughes (6-0, Sr.). Model, F/C Caroline Long (6-1, Jr.); F/C Carla Clemmons (6-0, Jr.)
Outlook: Union County coach David Tucker said he's not the type of person to get too worked up about playing the No. 1 team in the state in the first round. Nonetheless, he said he respects the challenge ahead of his team.
"(Model) has got a good team, we know that," Tucker said. "But we can't worry about what they're doing. We've got to take care of what we do."
The primary task tonight will be coping with Model's physical man-to-man defense and slowing down the inside tandem of Long and Clemmons.
While Model has won 23 straight since a November loss to Darlington, the Lady Panthers have lost four of their last seven. Still, they can look to a regular-season win over No. 3 East Hall as proof they can play with the state's top teams.