Region 7-AAA girls
Flowery Branch vs. Chestatee, 6 p.m., at Gainesville
East Hall vs. Pickens, 6 p.m. at Gilmer
West Hall girls at Gainesville, 7:30 p.m.
West Forsyth at Gilmer, 7:30 p.m.
Athens Academy girls at Lakeview Academy, 7 p.m.
Region 8-AA boys
Banks County vs. Dawson County, 5:30 p.m. at North Oconee
Lakeview coach Seth Vining could get used to this. That is if he’s not already.
For the sixth straight year, the legendary coach who won state titles at East Hall and has more than 600 career wins has led the Lions to the Class A state playoffs. They sewed up the 2009 bid with a 73-35 win over Towns County on Tuesday in Gainesville.
"Like I told (the players) in the locker room after the game, that’s the way it’s supposed to happen," Vining said. "A lot of people played well tonight, and we did what we had to do."
The second-seeded Lions (18-8) will play in the Region 8-A semifinals 5:30 p.m. Friday at Social Circle High School. They await the winner of tonight’s Hebron Christian/Athens Academy contest. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. at Lakeview
"We got a great effort from everybody," Vining added. "We played tough defensively, we put the ball in the basket and we hit the boards tough. It was just a very satisfying win for our team."
It was a smothering pressure defense that spurred Lakeview. After a loss to Athens Academy ended their regular season a week ago, the Lions put forth a focused and businesslike effort against Towns County.
The Indians looked flustered most of the night, struggling to settle into an offensive rhythm or get an open look at the basket.
The Lions led 43-16 at halftime and had already forced 17 turnovers. The Indians turned the ball over 30 times by game’s end and shot 28 percent from the field.
Especially early in the game, the Lions’ senior guard trio provided the spark, pressuring Towns County ballhandlers and cashing in on the offensive end.
Nick Saye had a hand in a pair of early steals with high-energy defense. Haughton Carswell, a four-year starter at point guard, efficiently engineered the offense and had six of his seven assists in the first half. Tyler Ward did his part by knocking down open shots, scoring all of his 13 points in the first half.
"The experience of having done it before is valuable and it’s important," Vining said. "When you’ve been there before and been in those situations, it makes things easier."
Ross Biegler led the Lions, who emptied the bench in the third quarter, with 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field. Reserve freshman Austin Pearson went 3-for-4 beyond the 3-point line and finished with 11 points.
Ezekiel Gribble posted a team-high seven points for Towns County.
The Lions return to practice today in preparation for Friday’s semifinal. They won’t know their semifinal opponent, but Vining said that won’t change the team’s focus.
"We’re just trying to get better," he said. "We’ve played Hebron Christian and we’ve played Athens Academy before, so we know some things we might want to work on, but really we’re just working on getting better as a team."