Buford girls vs. Callaway
When: 6 tonight
Records: Buford (27-1); Callaway (16-12)
Seeds: Buford No. 1 Region 6-AA; Callaway No. 4 Region 5-AA
Coaches: Buford, Gene Durden. Callaway, Albert Gilliam.
Key players: Buford, G Blanche Alverson (6-3, Sr.); G Andraya Carter (5-8, Fr.); F Jocelyn Danley (5-9, Sr.). Callaway, PG Tersheor Tigner (5-4, Sr.); SF Erin Anderson (5-8, Sr.); SF Brenique Cameron (5-10, So.).
Outlook: The Lady Wolves are on a 26-game winning streak and coming off their first region title in 10 years. It isn’t winning streak that’s impressive, however. It’s the manner in which they’re beating teams.
On average, Buford is beating its opponents by 27 points and has won by 35 or more six times.
Led by Auburn signee Blanche Alverson, Valdosta State signee Jocelyn Danley and freshman phenom Andraya Carter, Buford uses depth — the Lady Wolves play upwards of 13 players per game — and constant full-court pressure to wear down its opponents.
Setting up in a half-court offense isn’t in the Lady Wolves repertoire. Getting easy baskets in a run-and-gun style of play is.
Callaway is appearing in its first state tournament since 1996 and riding a two-game losing streak.
The Lady Cavaliers snuck into the playoffs with a down-to-the wire four-point win against Pike County. Tigner, a defensive stopper, stole the ball and converted on the offensive end to give her team the win. Anderson is Callaway’s leading scorer and scored 11 in the win against Pike County.
Chestatee girls vs. Franklin County
When: 7 tonight
Records: Chestatee (16-11); Franklin County (24-3)
Seeds: Chestatee No. 4 seed Region 7-AAA; Franklin County No. 1 seed Region 8-AAA
Coaches: Chestatee, Web Daniel. Franklin County, Holly Wilk.
Key players: Chestatee, C Peyton Robertson (6-2, So.); SG Melissa Bailey (5-11, So.); SF Chelsea Wilson (5-9, Jr.). Franklin County, PG Ashley Harris (5-7, Sr.); PF Katie McFarlin (5-10, Sr.); SF Morgan Hart (5-8, Jr.).
Outlook: Chestatee’s coach knows his team is in for a tough fight in the first round of the state playoffs tonight. The Lady War Eagles are facing the Region 8-AAA champions, who are currently riding a 10-game winning streak. In Daniel’s mind, there isn’t much that Franklin County doesn’t do well.
“They transition very well and shoot well, too,” Daniel said. “They have about four girls that can shoot the ball really well. We have to play very well on defense or we are going to get sent home really quick.”
Another aspect working against Chestatee is the high level of interest that Franklin County receives for its girls basketball games. It’s not uncommon for the Lady Lions to play in front of a packed house.
“We know they pack it in for their games,” Daniel said. “We expect a crowd like the region tournament, maybe even bigger. Except almost everyone there will be cheering for them.”
Lions senior Ashley Harris holds the school scoring record. She broke Oceana Jackson’s career point total of 1,654. McFarlin tied the single-game rebound record with 12 against Stephens County on Jan. 27.
East Hall girls vs. Elbert County
When: 7 tonight
Where: East Hall
Records: East Hall (21-8); Elbert County (20-8)
Seeds: East Hall No. 2 Region 7-AAA; Elbert County No. 3 Region 8-AAA
Coaches: East Hall, Joey Rider. Elbert County, Alton Smith.
Key players: East Hall, G Jasmine Jenkins (5-8, Fr.); C Symone Hampton (5-10, Sr.); G Dorreka Faulkner (5-6, Sr.). Elbert County, G D.D. Downer (5-8, Sr.); F Myia Ashmore (5-5 Jr.); G Sarah Ward (Sr).
Outlook: Two years removed from a state championship, the Lady Vikings are looking to go deep again, starting with Region 8-AAA third seed Elbert County.
The two teams share similarities in scoring tendencies, with both teams averaging 54 points per game. East Hall has the upside in average points allowed, with 44, but not by much. Elbert County is allowing 48.
Additionally, both teams seem to be playing their best basketball of the season. The Lady Vikings enter tonight’s game having won 12 of their last 14. The Lady Blue Devils have won eight of their last 11.
Elbert County’s biggest threat is Downer, who scored 30 points, including her 1,000th career tally, in the Lady Blue Devils’ win over Hart County in the Region 8-AAA tournament third-place game last Saturday. She is joined by senior Sarah Ward, the school’s all-time leading 3-point scorer.
Elbert County will face as many as three towering East Hall post players in Hampton (5-10), Kayneshia Maddox (6-0) and Morgan Jackson (5-11). Jenkins and Hannah Strickland provide the Lady Vikings with outside shooting.
Gainesville girls vs. Hart County
When: 7 tonight
Records: Gainesville (18-9); Hart County (17-11)
Seeds: Gainesville No. 1 Region 7-AAA; Hart County No. 4 Region 8-AAA
Coaches: Gainesville, Manson Hill. Hart County, Mike Edwards.
Key players: Gainesville, F Jaymee Carnes (6-1, Jr.); G Mikalyn DeFoor (5-8, So.); G Kiki Thompson (5-3, Sr.). Hart County, SG JoJo Martin (5-9, Sr.); PG Brittany Burton (5-5, Jr.).
Outlook: Playing in the state tournament is quite the habit for Gainesville, as the Lady Red Elephants are making their 13th straight trip to the playoffs. Led by Carnes, Gainesville enters the playoffs winners of five straight, including the region title last Saturday.
While Carnes is the go-to player on offense, the Lady Red Elephants get scoring from several players, including Thompson and DeFoor from the outside, and Madison Strickland and Rebecca Webster inside.
Although their offensive skills are good, what’s most impressive about the Lady Red Elephants is their defense. With size inside, Gainesville dominates in the rebounding category and opposing teams are rarely able to get more than one shot on offense.
That could spell trouble for Hart County, which gets solid play from guard combo of Martin and Burton, but only have one player listed as being taller that 6-1.
Gainesville ususally only plays seven players, but that group has proven that they can get the job done and they rarely show any signs of tiring. Their stamina will be tested against Hart County, which scores 58 points per game.
Gainesville boys vs. Eastside
When: 8:30 tonight
Records: Gainesville (16-8); Eastside (9-15)
Seeds: Gainesville No. 1 Region 7-AAA; Eastside No. 4 Region 8-AAA
Coaches: Gainesville, Todd Cottrell. Eastside, Michael Gerald.
Key players: Gainesville, PG Blake Sims (6-1, Jr.); G George Manomano (6-1, Sr.); F Nick Johnson (6-3, Sr.). Eastside, PG Neal Latimore (5-11, Sr.); G Cameron Robinson (5-11, Sr.).
Outlook: A well-disciplined and athletic team fresh off their first region title since 2006, the Red Elephants will use speed and ball pressure to keep the Eagles on their heels.
Eastside does have strong guard play in Latimore and Robinson, but Gainesville matches up well with them, as Sims and Manomano are two of the best guards in the area.
Gainesville’s biggest strength could be its depth, as more than 10 players see playing time and all have the ability to contribute. Size will also be on Gainesville’s side, as Eastside only has three players 6-foot-1 or taller. The Red Elephants boast several players taller than 6-3, including Juwon Jeffries (6-5) and Brock Boleman (6-6), who utilize their size and strength inside to grab rebounds.