Lady War Eagles on the road again in Round 2
West Hall boys
When: 7:30 tonight
Where: Columbia High, Decatur
Coaches: West Hall, Warren Sellers; Columbia, Phillip McCrary
Records: West Hall (24-5, No. 2 Region 8-AAA), Columbia (26-3, No. 1 Region 5-AAA)
Key players: West Hall, PF Shunquez Stephens (6-5, Sr.); C William Stroup (6-7, Sr.); PG Jarquise Young (5-7, Sr.). Columbia, SG Chris Daniels (6-5, Sr.); PF Damien Goodwin (6-7, Jr.); PF Chris Horton (6-7, Jr.)
Outlook: West Hall’s back in familiar territory with a second-round matchup at top-ranked Columbia. In 2009, the Spartans traveled to Decatur to face the Eagles in the second-round and lost 65-45.
This year, the Spartans enter this game following a 69-64 win against Shaw on Saturday in Oakwood. West Hall was well balanced in the game with all five starters scoring in double digits, led by Dre Pou’s 16.
Meanwhile, Columbia, the 2010 Class AAA state champs, had no trouble getting to this point with a 91-36 first-round victory against Heritage-Catoosa on Friday. The Eagles won the region title with a 64-48 victory against Woodward Academy on Feb. 19.
During the regular season, Columbia defeated programs from Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, New York, Alaska, Texas and even Germany. The Eagles didn’t lose a regular season game against a Class AAA opponent all season.
Horton averages 10 points and 10 rebounds a game for the Eagles, while Daniels and Goodwin are averaging 12 points per game.
“This is a matchup between two very good teams,” McCrary said. “Warren (Sellers) is a good friend of mine and he has a very good ball club.
“The team that wins has a good shot of making the final four.”
vs. Heard County
When: 6 tonight
Where: Buford High
Records: Buford (25-3, No. 1 Region 6-AA); Heard County (15-10, No. 3 Region 5-AA)
Coaches: Buford, Gene Durden. Heard County, Valeree Williams.
Key players: Buford, SG Kaela Davis (6-2, So.); PG Andraya Carter (5-8, Jr.); PF Karly Fullem (5-10, Sr.). Heard County, C Aaliyah Rutledge (6-0, Jr.); SF Tiana Spearman (5-10, Sr.).
Outlook: The two-time defending state champion Lady Wolves will have their hands full tonight with Heard County, according to Durden.
“(Heard County) is a very quick, physical team. They attack the basket and rebound the ball exceptionally well,” Durden said. “They are very athletic, so if your defensive footwork and spacing isn’t right, they can get you into foul trouble early.”
Durden believes Buford has to control the pace of the game if his team is to stay in control and out of foul trouble.
“If we use the right type of pressure and create easy transition buckets, we should be able to calm them down,” Durden said. “Of course, they try to do the same thing, so it’s all going to come down to execution.”
What will help the Lady Wolves’ execution will be the play of Carter and Davis; both are committed to Tennessee and do the majority of the scoring for Buford. On the other side, Durden said that Heard County scores by committee from the inside and the outside.
“I’ve seen about three tapes of them and that was all I needed to know that they can hurt you,” Durden said.
vs. Pace Academy
When: 6:30 tonight
Where: Towns County High, Hiawassee
Records: Towns County (27-1, No. 1 Region 8-A); Pace Academy (24-5, No. 3 Region 5-A)
Coaches: Towns County, Jim Melton. Pace Academy, Regina Tate.
Key players: Towns County, G Gabby Arencibia (5-10, Jr.); F Jordan Moss (5-9, Sr); G Ali Bleckley (5-11, Jr.). Pace Academy, G/F Morgan Batey (5-11, Jr.); G Kaitlyn Dinkins (5-6, Sr.); PG Haley Zwecker (5-7, Jr.).
Outlook: Melton calls this year’s group of Lady Indians one of the most balanced teams he’s had. Considering he’s guided Towns County to now four consecutive appearances in the second round of the Class A state playoffs, that’s quite a statement.
“We can go to the outside if that’s what we need on that night,” Melton said, “Or if the outside’s not working, we can pound it inside.”
The outside game worked just fine in the Lady Indians’ first-round win over Mount Zion-Carroll on Friday, when Arencibia (20 points) and Bleckley (14 points) each buried four 3-pointers.
Pace Academy is led by Batey, Dinkins and Zwecker. Melton called the backcourt trio the heart of the Lady Knights offense. Batey, the Region 5-A Player of the Year, finished the regular season averaging 18 points, 13.7 rebounds and 4.3 steals. Dinkins averaged 13.7 points and 57 3-pointers in the regular season, while Zwecker set a school record for assists and averaged 5.6 per game.
“We’re going to have a hard time stopping Batey,” Melton said, “but as long as we contain her, we feel like we have a good chance.”