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HS basketball: Saturday's first-round playoff previews
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East Hall vs. Dade County

When: 6 tonight

Where: Dade County High School, Trenton

Records: East Hall (21-7, No. 3 Region 8-AAA); Dade County (22-6, No. 2 Region 7-AAA)

Coaches: East Hall, Joe Dix. Dade County, Glen Hicks.

Key players: East Hall, PG J.C. Hampton (6-2, Sr.); SG Brian Edwards (6-1, Jr.); PF Chris Orr (6-5, Sr.). Dade County, PG Josh Green (6-1, Sr.); PF Ben Williams (6-4, Sr.); SG Chance Kessler (5-9, Sr.).

Outlook: At least one thing looks certain about tonight's matchup in Trenton: This will not be a grinding, defensive game.

Both teams led their respective regions by wide margins in points scored per game. Dade County averaged 85 points and East Hall 76 per night this season.

Dix said the question is, who will have the fastest tempo?

"Game could be in the 100s," he said.

It's not an exaggeration as both teams have already surpassed the century mark in scoring this season.

The Wolverines are averaging 15 made 3-pointers a game this season.

The Vikings are led by Hampton, who is averaging 24 points, 4 1/2 assists and 3 1/2 steals a game. Edwards averages more than 17 points per game, and junior shooting guard Hayden Chapman averages 15 points and shoots 43 percent from 3-point range.

Both of these teams are subregion champions, but both also had a misstep in the region tournament, with East Hall falling in the semifinals before winning the third place game, and Dade County losing in the title game to Coosa.

The winner of this game will play the winner of Manchester/Decatur in the second round.

Lakeview vs. Aquinas

When: 6 tonight

Where: Lakeview Academy, Gainesville

Records: Lakeview (23-5, No. 2 Region 8-A); Aquinas (21-6, No. 2 Region 7-A)

Coaches: Lakeview, Seth Vining. Aquinas, Santos Pagan.

Key players: Lakeview, SG Austin Pearson (6-0, Sr.); PF Austin Montgomery (6-8, Jr.). Aquinas, PG Michael Scott (5-7, So.); F Ahmed Hill (6-4, So.).

Outlook: Lakeview Academy coach Seth Vining said his team was still frustrated after falling short to Athens Christian for the second time this season in last weekend's Region 8-A championship game.

On the bright side, it may have been a learning experience for the Lions.

"I think we're all disappointed that we didn't play better," Vining said. "And we definitely don't think we played as well as we can. That's one thing we understand: We've got to play better, no matter who we play at this stage of the season."

Aquinas looks like a tough first-round matchup, but one the Lions should be prepared for after playing a schedule that included 8-AAA runner-up North Hall and top-ranked Class A team North Cobb Christian, in addition to two games against fourth-ranked Athens Christian.

The 10th-ranked Fighting Irish are led by a dynamic sophomore duo in Scott and Hill. Both players average nearly 20 points per game.

Lakeview features its own high-scoring tandem in Peason and Montgomery. Both average more than 16 points, with Montgomery averaging 8.6 rebounds and Pearson shooting 37 percent from 3-point range.

Tonight's winner will face the Mount Pisgah/WD Mohammed winner in the second round.

North Hall girls vs. Pickens

When: 6 p.m. tonight

Where: Gainesville

Records: North Hall (21-7, No. 1 Region 8-AAA); Pickens (19-10, No. 4 Region 7-AAA)

Coaches: North Hall, Kristi House; Pickens, Kevin Jacobs

Key players: North Hall, G McKenna Rushton (5-10, Sr.); G Mary Kate Rushton (5-9, Sr.); G Taylor Swoszowski (5-6, Sr.). Pickens, P Kristen Garner (5-8, Sr.); G Danielle Goss (5-8, Jr.); P Sarah Smith (6-1, So.).

Outlook: The Lady Trojans enjoy the fruits of winning their first region title since 1991 with tonight's home playoff game against the Lady Dragons. North Hall wrapped up the region championship with last Saturday's 42-29 win against Chestatee in the 8-AAA title game at Gainesville.

Against Chestatee, the Lady Trojans trailed 26-23 midway through the third quarter but secured the win with great defense, holding the Lady War Eagles to only 10 second-half points.

Offensively, North Hall is led this season by the Rushton twins, who both average 13 points per game. Swoszowski averages eight points and four assists per game.

North Hall won both regular season meetings against Pickens (75-45 on Nov. 29, and 70-60 on Dec. 13).

The Lady Dragons, who missed the playoffs every year between 2001-2010, are back in the postseason for the second consecutive season. Smith is Pickens' leading scorer with 15 per game, while Goss averages 14 per night. All of Pickens' losses this season were against teams in the state playoffs (Cartersville, North Hall, North Forsyth, Allatoona, Cartersville and Gilmer).

Before going to Pickens, Jacobs led Jefferson High to a state title in 2001 and state runner-up finish in 2002.
The winner will play Carrollton in the second round.

North Hall boys vs. Cartersville

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: North Hall High, Gainesville

Records: North Hall (23-5, No. 2 Region 8-AAA); Cartersville (14-7, No. 3 Region 7-AAA)

Coaches: North Hall, Benjie Wood; Cartersville, Dennis Godfrey

Key players: North Hall, PG Ebo Smith (6-2, Jr.); F Adam Kelly (6-3, Jr.); G Griffin Olson (6-1, Jr.). Cartersville, G J.R. Davis (5-11, Sr.); F Elijah Windhom (6-1, Sr.); F Ryan Davis (6-2, So.).

Outlook: North Hall's ability to earn a home playoff game has largely been predicated on playing great defense. The Trojans allowed the second lowest points per game in the North subregion this season at 50 a night.

North Hall set itself up for a subregion title during the regular season with a school-record 14-game winning streak.

Offensively, Ebo Smith's been the steadiest hand shooting for the Trojans with 18 points per game. Kelly, Olson and Preston Smith are all averaging about nine points a night. Wood also applauds the effort of his sophomore guard Andrew Smith, who has a hand in all parts of the game.

"Andrew is one of our most key contributors," Wood said. "He takes care of all the intangibles."

According to Cartersville's coach, the way his team handles North Hall's press will likely dictate the outcome.

"North Hall really likes to press and plays uptempo," Godfrey said. "But we've played really well against teams like that this season."

For the Purple Hurricanes, Davis is the catalyst of the offense with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists per game. Windhom and Davis both average 11 points and six rebounds a night for Cartersville.

The winner will play the winner of Carrollton/Grady in the second round.

Buford boys vs. Spencer

When: 5 tonight

Where: Buford High School

Records: Buford (20-7, No. 2 Region 6-AA); Spencer (9-16, No. 3 Region 5-AA)

Coaches: Buford, Allen Whitehart. Spencer, Walter Jackson.

Key players: Buford, PG Isaiah Williams (6-1, Jr.); SG A.J. Davis (6-8, Jr.); PF T.J. Shipes (6-8, Sr.). Spencer, PG Deandre Hubbard (6-2, So.), C Cornelius Brown (6-5, Sr.).

Outlook: For a team as talented as Buford, it would be easy to overlook a team that finished the season with just nine wins, as Spencer did.

But, not so fast, Whitehart says. These Wolves are taking nothing for granted.

"I just know them from the scouting that we've done, and I'll tell you, they're really a pretty good team," he said. "They're very long and athletic. The record is not at all a reflection of how good they are."

Buford, which lost against Greater Atlanta Christian for the third time this season in the Region 6-AA championship game, will have to be at its best, Whitehart said, to avoid the upset.

His main concern was Spencer's size and athleticism under the basket, which, he said, gives it a strong ability to score in the paint.

Spencer coach Walter Jackson noted that his team played in a tough region that has prepared his team for the playoffs.

Jackson declined to single out a single player on his team that would be key against Buford, because, he said, it is built on a strong team concept. In its region tournament opener against Kendrick, Spencer survived a triple-overtime game without its starting point guard, center or small forward; a sign of the depth it carries on the roster.

The winner of this game will take on the winner of Dawson County/Calhoun.

Dawson County boys vs. Calhoun

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Dawson County High, Dawsonville

Records: Dawson County (23-6, No. 1 Region 8-AA), Calhoun (11-17, No. 4 Region 7-AA)

Coaches: Dawson County, Thad Burgess; Calhoun, Derrick Broom

Key players: Dawson County, G Tyler Dominy (6-4, Jr.); P Bruce Clark (6-4, Jr.); PG Jonathan Sanderson (6-0, So.). Calhoun, PG Ben Lamb, 6-1, Sr.); SG Grayson Arnold (6-0, Jr.); SF Clay Johnson (6-1, Sr.).

Outlook: Dawson County enters the postseason as region champion tonight for the first time since 1969 and is hosting only its second playoff game in school history. In the Region 8-AA tournament, the Tigers secured the No. 1 seed to the postseason with a tournament semifinal win against East Hall, the first in school history, and then a come-from-behind win against Jefferson in the tournament finals.

Dominy is the Tigers' leading scorer at 15 points per game.

Meanwhile, the Yellow Jackets put a run together with a subregion tournament win against Gordon Central, then a win against Rockmart in the playoff-qualifier game to open the region tournament, despite opening the season with a 2-4 record and losing four straight again at the end of the regular season.

For Calhoun, Lamb is the leading scorer with 13 a night and Arnold averages 12 points per game.

The winner will play the winner of Buford/Spencer in the second round.

Jefferson vs. North Murray

When: 7:30 tonight

Where: Jefferson High School, Jefferson

Records: Jefferson (19-9, No. 2 Region 8-AA); North Murray (21-9, No. 3 Region 7-AA)

Coaches: Jefferson, Bolling DuBose; North Murray, Eric Bishop

Key players: Jefferson, SG Austin Thompson (5-10, Sr.); C Will Puckett (6-4, Sr.); PG Andre Daniel (5-9, Sr.). North Murray, SG Tyler Duckett (6-0, Sr.); SF Brady Swilling (6-3, Jr.); C Zach Vess (6-5, Jr.)

Outlook: DuBose said that Jefferson's first round state playoffs opponent looks a lot like the Dragons last opponent, Dawson County, on tape.

Jefferson lost to Dawson County in the Region 8-AA championship game last Saturday, one of only three losses for the South subregion's top team in its last 16 games.

The difference between Jefferson's last and today's opponent: Dawson County slowed down the tempo, and North Murray likes to run.

The Dragons prefer to run.

"We play better when we run the ball," DuBose said. "I think we play better with an up-tempo game.

"Hopefully it will be a fast-paced game."

Jefferson can score with most any team, led on offense by Thompson, who averages 15 points per game, and Puckett (nine points, seven rebounds per game).

Daniel doesn't fill up the stat sheet, but his role is crucial as well.

"He sets the tempo and he's one of our best defensive players," DuBose said. "If he plays well, we typically have a chance to play well.

"If he's not playing well we usually struggle."

Even with Jefferson playing well, the second-year school from Northwest Georgia won't be an easy out with a scorer in Duckett, who DuBose said can shoot it outside and penetrate, and a rebounder and shot blocker in Vess.

The winner will face the GAC/Callaway winner in the second round.

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