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High school basketball programs looking to improve playoff seeding in remainder of region tournaments
2020Basketball

Basketball state tournaments are right around the corner, and as teams finish off their region tournaments, the playoff picture is starting to come into better focus. 

The playoff fate of some teams has already been decided. The Cherokee Bluff boys will be a No. 3 seed in the Class 3A tournament, while the North Hall boys and girls teams will be No. 4 seeds. All three will play in road playoff games on Feb. 23 or 24. 

Others are still up in the air when it comes to when and where they may play their first playoff games. 

The Flowery Branch girls, and Gainesville and Lakeview Academy boys have all already punched tickets to the state tournament, but are still jockeying for positioning in the bracket with games still left to play. And even though none of those teams are fighting for contention still, Flowery Branch coach Courtney Newton-Gonzalez said the way a team finishes the season is always integral to setting it up for a playoff run.

“These region tournament games are very important,” she said. “Obviously, your body of work through the year is important, but at the end of the day, how you finish in the region is how you set yourself up for state playoffs.”

Here’s a quick look at what’s at stake in this week of high school basketball. 

FLOWERY BRANCH GIRLS 

The Lady Falcons will finish the regular season with a losing record for the first time since 2012, but maintained their playoff streak with a win over Jefferson in the first round of the Region 8-4A tournament on Monday, and they will now play for a chance at a home game to start the state tournament Thursday afternoon against North Oconee. 

Flowery Branch finished 10-13 on the year, but won four of its last five games to close out the season. The Lady Falcons lost both regular season matchups against North Oconee, but improved in their second shot at the Lady Titans in a narrow, 4-point defeat to the Lady Titans at the end of January. Newton-Gonzalez said she hopes her team’s recent momentum will help carry it to a region tournament victory. 

“We had to fight hard to get into the state playoffs, and we’re happy with the win that we got on Monday, but not satisfied,” she said. “We want to get a big win tomorrow to put us in a better position going into the next couple of weeks.”

Flowery Branch will take on North Oconee on Thursday at 3 p.m. at Flowery Branch.

GAINESVILLE BOYS 

The Red Elephants had their chance to earn a home playoff game Tuesday evening, but fell narrowly to Denmark on their home court in the Region 6-7A semifinals. Now, Gainesville squares off against Lambert in the third-place game with a chance to lock up a No. 3 seed in the Class 7A tournament. 

Gainesville is coming off an 18-8 regular season that included a Lanierland tournament victory as well as a pair of five-game winning streaks. The Red Elephants find themselves in unknown territory this season, having had great success in Class 6A tournaments over the past several years but having never gone up against Class 7A teams in the state playoffs. 

Win or lose against Lambert, Gainesville will play on the road to start the state tournament on Feb. 23 or 24.

Gainesville will play Lambert at 6 p.m. on Thursday at South Forsyth High School.

LAKEVIEW ACADEMY BOYS

The Lions did not miss a beat in new head coach Tyler Sanders’ first season at the helm of the team, going 17-8 and rolling to a Class A-private tournament contention with a Tuesday evening victory over Pinecrest Academy in the Region 6-A-private tournament. 

Up next, Lakeview Academy will travel to take on Mount Pisgah Christian, the top seeded team in the region. 

Though the Patriots have lost just one region game all season, the Lions enter the contest on a three-game winning streak and will look to carry that momentum as far as it will take them. 

Lakeview Academy has fallen to Mount Pisgah twice this season already, but improved the second time against the Patriots with a 54-47 road defeat earlier this month. 

The two teams will play on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Mount Pisgah Christian.


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