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High school basketball state playoff previews
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Mays girls at Flowery Branch

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Flowery Branch

Records: Flowery Branch (10-19, No. 2 Region 8-AAAA); Mays (16-9, No. 3 Region 6-AAAA)

Coaches: Flowery Branch, Hazel Hall. Mays, Natasha Harrigan.

Key players: Flowery Branch, SF Tavia Sykes (5-10, So.); PF Cara Chilton (5-10, Jr.), SG Jacy Ramey (5-6, So.). Mays, C Mariah Dean (6-3, Jr.); PG Kristi Ware (5-7, Sr.).

Chestatee girls at LaGrange

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Where: LaGrange

Records: Chestatee (22-5, No. 4 Region 8-AAA); LaGrange (21-2, No. 1 Region 6-AAA)

Coaches: Chestatee, Web Daniel. LaGrange, Jan Jones.

Key players: Chestatee, F Peyton Robertson (6-2, Sr.); F Rachel Kelley (5-10, Sr.); G Sam Brown (5-9, So.). LaGrange, SG Brittany Tatum (5-7, So.); G Terryuana Godwin (5-7, Sr); C Arneshia Williams (6-0, Sr.).

Outlook: After winning the subregion, the Lady War Eagles lost two games in the region tournament to fall all the way to the fourth seed from Region 8-AAA. For that, they begin the state playoffs against No. 5 LaGrange, the top seed from Region 6-AAA, whose two loses have come by a combined six points. Robertson’s play will be one of the keys for the Lady War Eagles, who will have to find a way to shut down Tatum and Godwin, the team’s leading scorers.

“We have some advantage inside,” Daniel said. “They’re tough, but if we take care of the ball and make shots from the outside, we’ll be in good shape.”

Daniel said the losses in the region tournament won’t effect his team’s play and that the first-round game would have been tough regardless of the seed they earned.

“Our goal is to make it far in the state tournament,” he said. “Our girls are up for the challenge.”

North Hall girls at Carrollton

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Where: Carrollton

Records: North Hall (15-13, No. 3 Region 8-AAA); Carrollton (18-7, No. 2 Region 6-AAA)

Coaches: North Hall, Kristi House; Carrollton, Shon Thomaston

Key players: North Hall, F McKenna Rushton (5-9, Jr.); SG Mary Kate Rushton (5-9, Jr.); F Sarah Paschall (5-9, Jr.). Carrollton, G Kenyata Hendrix (5-9, So.); G Raven Trammell (5-6, Jr.); F Brooklyn Emory (5-9, Fr.).

Outlook: North Hall locked up its first playoff appearance since 2008 with a win against Oconee County in the Region 8-AAA tournament, and secured the No. 3 seed with a win against North subregion champion Chestatee in the third-place game.

North Hall is led by the Rushton twins, with McKenna averaging 11 points and seven rebounds, and Mary Kate is scoring 14 points and pulling down seven boards.

Carrollton is in the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season, a run that includes the Class AAA state title in 2009. Hendrix leads Carrollton with 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals per game. Trammell chips in 11 points, three rebounds and three assists. The freshman Emory is averaging eight points with seven boards.

“Our team is really excited about having the opportunity to play in the state tournament and we are trying to enjoy every minute of it,” House said. “Carrollton is a very talented and athletic basketball team.”

East Hall girls at Buford

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Buford

Records: East Hall (15-11, No. 4 Region 8-AA); Buford (24-3, No. 1 Region 6-AA)

Coaches: East Hall, Joey Rider. Buford, Gene Durden.

Key players: East Hall, PG Jasmine Jenkins (5-8, Sr.); G/F Morgan Jackson (5-10, Jr); PF Natalie Johnson (5-11, Sr.). Buford, PG Andraya Carter (5-8, Jr.); SG Kaela Davis (6-2, So.); C Sheresse Williams (5-10, Sr.).

Outlook: Buford will host at least the first two rounds after winning the 6-AA title. For the Lady Wolves, it was their second region championship in the last three seasons and they’ll be gunning for a third consecutive AA title.
They are the state’s third-ranked team.

Carter has been a key player in Buford’s last two state title runs, and this season she has worked well alongside Norcross transfer Davis to create one of AA’s best tandems. Davis, who comes to Buford after helping the Lady Blue Devils to a AAAAA title last season as a freshman, has excelled in her role with the Lady Wolves.

Both have committed to the University of Tennessee.

The Lady Wolves come in to tonight’s game having won their last five games by an average of 37.8 points.

Conversely, East Hall hits the road on two-game skid that includes a heartbreaking 50-48 overtime loss to Fannin County in the 8-AA semifinals, and a 48-41 loss to Union County in the third-place game.

The Lady Vikings are led by Jenkins, who scored her 1,000th career point in the loss to Fannin County.

Greater Atlanta Christian girls at Union County

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Greater Atlanta Christian School, Norcross

Records: Union County (14-13, No. 3 Region 8-AA); Greater Atlanta Christian (21-7, No. 2 Region 6-AA)

Coaches: Union County, Jim Hughes. Greater Atlanta Christian, Cal Boyd.

Key players: Union County, PG Holli Abernathy (5-6, Sr.); G/F Rebecka Merritt (5-9, Jr.); G Catie Tanner (5-7, Jr.). Greater Atlanta Christian, C Kristina Nelson (6-3, So.); SF Brianna Cummings (5-11, Fr.); SG Shannnon Cranshaw (5-8, So.).

Outlook: Hughes knows his team drew a tough first-round assignment. The Lady Panthers have faced Greater Atlanta Christian three times before in his tenure, leaving a lasting impression on the veteran coach.

“I have nothing but good things to say about GAC,” Hughes said. “They’re a great program. We don’t match up with them all that well, but we’re coming at them with everything we have and try to do some things that will put us at an advantage.”

Union County’s top priority will be finding a way to slow down Nelson, who is averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds, and already has scholarship offers to Georgia, Georgia Tech and LSU.

Union County has its own force in the paint in Angie Hughes, a 6-foot junior who blocked 12 shots in a two-game span last week. But the assignment to limit Nelson likely won’t come down to just one Lady Panther.

Boyd said he expects Union County to attack with a zone defense and “squeeze” his star sophomore.

The Lady Spartans enter the game coming off a disappointing 51-30 loss to Buford in the 6-AA championship. Prior to that, they had won 13 straight, including one over Buford.

Mount Zion-Carroll girls at Towns County

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Towns County High, Hiawassee

Records: Towns County (26-1, No. 1 seed Region 8-A); Mount Zion-Carroll (17-9, No. 4 seed Region 6-A)

Coaches: Towns County, Jim Melton. Mount Zion-Carroll, Bill Bailey.

Key players: Towns County, G Gabby Arencibia (5-10, Jr.); F Jordan Moss (5-9, Sr); G Ali Bleckley (5-11, Jr.). Mount Zion-Carrol, G Hannah Wood (5-7, Jr.); G Kiana Camp (5-1, Jr.); C Ravin Chism (5-10, Sr.).

Outlook: After reaching the state semifinals in 2008 and 2009, the Lady Indians are looking to avenge a second-round exit in 2010.

Led by Arencibia and Moss, who each average close to 15 points per game, Towns County went undefeated in Region 8-A and won the region title for the second time in three years. The Lady Indians come into tonight’s game on a 15-game winning streak.

Getting to 16 might be tougher than Mount Zion’s record would indicate. According to Melton, the Lady Eagles “don’t do anything specific spectacularly well, but they’re pretty good at everything.”

Mount Zion, which didn’t make the state playoffs a year ago, was the top seed from Region 6B-A going into the region tournament, before losing their semifinal matchup with Gordon Lee. Gordon Lee is also the last team to better Towns County, winning 62-48 on Dec. 20.

The Lady Indians’ post defense will be put to the test by Mount Zion’s Chism, who Melton considers to be the second best player on the team behind Wood.

“Our perimeter defenders will have to know where (Wood) is at all times,” Melton said. “But I feel confident we can come out with a win.”

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