Commerce vs. Whitefield Academy
When: 8:30 tonight
Records: Commerce (23-7); Whitefield Academy (26-3)
Seeds: Commerce, No. 1 Region 8-A; Whitefield Academy, No. 1 Region 5-A
Coaches: Commerce, Chad Bridges; Whitefield Academy, Tyrone Johnson
Key players: Commerce, SG Bubba Bonds (5-10, Jr.); PG Tyler Gamble (6-0, Jr.); PF Channing Anderson (6-2, Jr.). Whitefield Academy, PG Chris Lovelace (5-9, Sr.); SG Tekele Cotton (6-2, Jr.); SF Josh Johnson (6-0, Jr.).
Outlook: Commerce has already made it a season to remember. The Tigers claimed the Region 8-A title with a win against Athens Christian, their first region title since 1981.
And Commerce advanced past the second round with a 52-48 win against St. Francis, following going one and out in the playoffs last season.
In the second round, Bonds led Commerce with 16 points. The Tigers took the lead late with a basket from Anthony Norris, 47-46, with only two minutes left.
In the first round of the state playoffs, Commerce managed to escape with a 54-52 win against Our Lady of Mercy.
Now that they’re in the state quarterfinals, the Tigers would like nothing more now than to take down the defending Class A state champions from Whitefield Academy.
Just like last season in the playoffs, the WolfPack are making it look easy this time around. After a big win against Southwest Atlanta Christian in the region title game, Whitefield Academy defeated Social Circle, 78-39, in the opening round of the playoffs, then defeated Paideia, 65-54, in the second round.
The winner of today’s game faces the Terrell County/Wilkinson County winner in the state semifinals at 5:30 p.m. next Wednesday at the Macon Centreplex.
East Hall vs. Columbia
When: 7 tonight
Where: NW Georgia Trade Center, Dalton
Records: East Hall (23-6); Columbia (24-3)
Seeds: East Hall No. 2 Region 7-AAA; Riverwood No. 1 Region 5-AAA
Coaches: East Hall, Joey Rider. Columbia, Chantay Frost.
Key players: East Hall, PG Jasmine Jenkins (5-8, So.); G/F Morgan Jackson (5-11, So.); G Haley Chapman (5-7, Sr.). Columbia, C Akila McDonald (6-4, Sr.); F Jemimiah Ashby (5-8, Sr.); G Mecca Frost (5-6, Sr).
Outlook: The Lady Vikings needed two overtimes to advance to the quarterfinals, and their reward for that accomplishment is a date with a Columbia team that has won 18 straight.
Beating the Lady Eagles won’t be easy, as the team is averaging 61 points per game in the playoffs and winning by an average margin of 33 points.
To combat that scoring output, East Hall will need the type of shooting that it had against Stephens County in the second round. The Lady Vikings made 14 3-pointers against the Lady Indians, including four from Chapman, who finished with 14 points.
Jackson is coming off a season-best 23 point performance, but she might find it more challenging to score against Columbia and its go-to player McDonald, who is committed to Central Florida. McDonald is one of two starters taller than 6-feet, which could pose a problem to the Lady Vikings, whose tallest players are Jackson and Natalie Johnson (5-11).
While they don’t boast a winning streak quite like Columbia, the Lady Vikings have won 16 of their last 18, with both losses coming to Region 7-AAA champion Gainesville.