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High school basketball playoffs: Season zips into postseason from region tournaments
0220Basketball
East Hall's Devin Watson goes up for a shot defended by Dawson County's Lucas Pain during the Region 7-AAA tournament semifinals on Monday in Buford. - photo by Jared Putnam | The Times

High school state basketball playoffs
First round schedule

Class AAAAA

Gainesville boys vs. Miller Grove, TBA
Gainesville girls vs. Tucker,TBA

Class AAAA

Johnson boys vs. Stone Mountain, TBA
Chestatee girls vs. Grady, 6 p.m. Friday
Lumpkin County boys vs. TBA

Class AAA

Buford girls vs. Ringgold, 6 p.m. Friday
Buford boys vs. North Murray, 7:30 p.m., Friday
East Hall girls vs. North Murray, TBA
Dawson County boys vs. Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, 7:30 p.m. Friday
East Hall boys at Ringgold, TBA
North Hall girls at Sonoraville, 6 p.m. Friday
Dawson County girls at Cartersville, 6 p.m. Saturday
White County boys at Cartersville, 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Class AA

Jefferson girls vs. Lovett, 6:30 p.m. Friday
Jefferson boys vs. Lovett, 8 p.m. Friday
Union County girls at Wesleyan, 6 p.m. Friday
Union County boys at Greater Atlanta Christian, 7:30 p.m. Friday

Class A

Power ratings released Thursday will determine playoff qualifying, seeding

Tickets are $7 for single games, $10 for doubleheaders at Buford and Jefferson, per Georgia High School Association rules.

There doesn’t seem to be much of a dividing mark between the regular season and playoffs, which open Friday for 17 local programs, with first-round games.

After an extended break due to a winter storm last week, the region tournament grind pushes right up against the state tournament, leaving very little time to rest players and strategize for first-round opponents.

All in a couple of days, coaches have had to wrap up region tournaments, scramble to learn about the playoff opponent and come up with a game plan in a tight window.

“This year’s been unique with the storm pushing the region tournament back,” said Gainesville boys coach Benjie Wood, who will open this weekend against the Miller Grove/Stephenson winner. “We’ll sleep when the season’s over.”

Region champions are at a distinct advantage heading into the postseason with the first two games at home, provided they win in the opening round. That field includes the Johnson boys (23-5) and Chestatee girls (24-4).

Both Buford programs won the Region 7-AAA title on Wednesday, while Jefferson is region champion for boys and girls in 8-AA.

Should they make the state quarterfinals, all six of these teams would also host against a No. 1 seed based on the brackets.

Class A playoff brackets will be released today based on the power rating system for the state’s smallest classification.

With the rush to the postseason also comes some upside. Buford girls coach Gene Durden said playing all the games close together gave players some rhythm going into the state tournament. The Wolves play a doubleheader Friday with the girls at 6 p.m. against Ringgold, and boys to follow at 7:30 p.m. against North Murray.

“This time of year, it’s a situation where you really have to do your homework to get ready,” Durden said.

With the Region 8-AAAA championship already in hand, Johnson coach Jeff Steele aimed to learn a bit about his first round opponent Wednesday with a trip to DeKalb County to watch the Stone Mountain/Grady game in person with his coaching staff.

With the loss, Stone Mountain became the No. 4 seed out of Region 6-AAAA, and has a first-round trip to play the Knights in Oakwood. Game time is still to be determined.

“(Stone Mountain) is quick, has really good guards,” Steele said. “We’re able to see them play and they’re trying to get film on us playing, too.”

Every coach takes a different road to scouting that first-round opponent.

While Gainesville’s boys were playing a third-place game in the Region 8-AAAAA tournament Wednesday, Wood had North Hall coach Tyler Sanders, his former Trojans assistant coach, scouting the Miller Grove/Stephenson game.

Buford boys coach Allen Whitehart, who has guided his program to the postseason four straight seasons, said the process of gathering information about first-round playoff opponents started while his program was playing in the Region 7-AAA tournament this week.

He knew all the scenarios of possible opponents before it was set it stone Tuesday night with the Wolves’ region title victory over Dawson County.

“We’ve all been scrambling trying to gather information,” said Whitehart. “But it shows the brotherhood that coaches have with one another and how we’re all working together.”

Dawson County boys coach Thad Burgess has been in constant motion since Tuesday’s region championship loss at Buford. First, he worked the phones until 3 a.m. Wednesday talking with coaches to arrange information.

On Wednesday, he drove to Jasper — halfway between first-round opponent Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, to meet with other coaches he knows to do game-related planning. On top of that, Burgess is also in season as Dawson County’s baseball coach.

“It’s been a very busy day, but a good kind of busy,” said Burgess.

First-round games must be completed by Saturday night, then another quick turnaround before second-round games Monday and Tuesday.

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