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High school notebook: Flowery Branch tennis among the state's best
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With the regular season region schedule in the books, the Flowery Branch girls tennis team has put itself in a great position for postseason play.

The Lady Falcons (15-1, 10-0 Region 8-AAAA) are ranked No. 4 in Class AAAA and have what coach Ginger Jackson considers to be the best team she’s coached.

“It’s the best team we’ve put on the court,” Jackson said. “If everyone is healthy and they play to their abilities — it’s exciting.”

The team is led by No. 1 singles player Anna Kate Shaw, daughter of former Flowery Branch football coach Lee Shaw. Despite the departure of her dad to Rabun County, Anna Kate has remained with the team and been a force on the court. Shaw has a 13-3 record in 2012.

Jackson said that willingness to hang on to their rackets during the offseason is vital in taking the next step as a program.

“To play at the top, you’ve got to keep playing in the offseason,” she said. “Teams are made during the offseason. Then you start winning. And when you start winning, you get the fever.”

The Lady Falcons had their best region finish a year ago when they lost to Heritage in the region tournament final. Two years ago was their best state finish, a trip to the round of 16.

This year, Jackson thinks they have a chance to take the next step. They have non-region matches against Lumpkin County and North Hall up next, before the region tournament kicks off on April 18.

“It’s exciting to see our name up there near the top,” she said. “I’m proud of them.”

REGIONS DOWN TO THE WIRE IN SOCCER: Only a handful of games remain on the schedules for the soccer teams around the area, and a number of regions and subregions are still up for grabs.

In Region 8-AAA, the Gainesville boys (12-1, 9-0) hang on to the lead with a host of teams trailing closely behind.

Chestatee (7-5-1, 7-1) is in second with just one loss. That loss, however, came against Gainesville, giving the Red Elephants the lead and the tiebreaker.

Johnson has just one region loss (against Chestatee), but plays Gainesville on April 17. Walnut Grove’s only region loss also came against Chestatee. It plays Gainesville on April 20.

On the girls side, Gainesville also holds a lead. The Lady Red Elephants (11-2, 9-0) sport a spotless region record and are trailed by Oconee County, Johnson and Walnut Grove. Gainesville plays Johnson and Walnut Grove on April 17 and April 20, respectively.

Riverside Military, which is tied with Aquinas with a 5-0 record in Region 8-A, controls its own destiny. It faces Aquinas on April 17. The East Hall boys are also in a good position, as they are 4-0 in the subregion after a 10-0 win against Union County on Thursday. Dawson County trails with one loss in the region.

The Dawson County girls have already clinched the No. 1 seed in Region 8-AA North, and Jefferson has clinched Region 8-AA South.

In Region 8-AAAA, both Flowery Branch girls and boys are in the thick of the region race. The boys trail Heritage by one game in the loss column, while the girls are tied with Apalachee. Both teams play at Apalachee tonight.

EAST HALL’S JENKINS COMPETING IN 3-POINT COMPETITION TODAY: Lady Vikings star Jasmine Jenkins will compete in the American Family Insurance High School Slam Dunk & 3-Point Championship at 8 tonight at the Alario Center in New Orleans.

Jenkins, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the North-South All-Star Game last Saturday in Savannah, averaged 18 points, five rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game this season.

The competition will be broadcast at 4:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS.

GAINESVILLE BASEBALL AMONG LAST OF THE UNBEATENS: The Red Elephants (14-0, 9-0), ranked No. 2 in Class AAA, are in exclusive company. Across the state of Georgia, just two other teams maintain a spotless record.

Crisp County (Class AAA) and Appling County (Class AA) remain perfect, while Columbus, ranked No. 1 in Class AAA, dropped its last game against Orange (Calif.) Lutheran. The loss came out of state to the No. 6 team in the nation, as ranked by Baseball America, so it’s unclear whether Columbus will be punished in the rankings.

Gainesville faces Stephens County at 5:55 p.m. today.

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