The North Hall boys basketball team is one of the few Hall County squads playing for region tournament seeding as the regular season concludes tonight.
But Trojans coach Tyler Sanders doesn’t put much stock in what’s at stake.
When region tournaments begin next week, the matchups will play a role in deciding which teams advance to the playoffs. Winners of the high-pressure first-round games receive an automatic berth to the postseason, while the losers will see their seasons come to an end, regardless of regular-season record.
“We don’t stress region standings or go over it because really it comes down to one game that you’ve got to win, or you go home,” Sanders said. “A lot of times, it’s about matchups.”
Though favorable matchups don’t always coincide with higher seeding, North Hall (13-11, 6-5 Region 7-AAA) can still improve its tournament standing against Lumpkin County tonight in Dahlonega.
The Trojans need to win and have Dawson County (12-1, 6-5) lose against Union County to slide up into the No. 3 seed. Any other result puts North Hall fourth in the region tournament, but Sanders insisted matchups matter more than seeding in the win-or-go-home opening round.
One area squad that won’t have to worry about that stressful first-round contest is the East Hall girls team.
The Lady Vikings have already secured the No. 1 seed in Region 7-AAA, a seven-team region that awards a first-round bye to its top regular-season finisher.
Even if East Hall (15-8, 10-1 region) loses at Fannin County tonight, it owns a tiebreaker against second-place Greater Atlanta Christian. The Lady Spartans went undefeated in region play but had to forfeit two games — including a Dec. 16 win against the Lady Vikings — due to a player competing in more quarters between the junior varsity and varsity games than the GHSA allows.
East Hall coach Justin Wheeler hasn’t told his players they’ve already locked up the region’s top seed and, consequently, a trip to the playoffs.
“Sharing that knowledge with them, it doesn’t change what we do and doesn’t change our mindset,” Wheeler said. “I want them to keep treating it like we’re the underdogs because, truthfully, we believe we are. If we stop approaching the game like that, we’ll be in trouble.”
East Hall is among a large group of area teams that have already claimed the No. 1 seed in their respective region tournaments.
Most of them are undefeated in region play: Buford boys and girls, Lakeview Academy boys and girls, Gainesville boys and West Hall girls. Though tournament seeding won’t be up for grabs tonight, they’ll all have a chance to finish undefeated in region play.
“That’s a goal for us,” Lakeview Academy senior forward Tre Gober said. “We don’t think anyone in the region is better than us. So, it’s for sure a goal to go undefeated in region.”
But some local teams are still jockeying for tournament positioning on the season’s final night.
A win at Apalachee will give the Gainesville girls second place in Region 8-AAAAAA, a spot the Lady Red Elephants can also clinch if Lanier loses at either Dacula or region leader Winder-Barrow this weekend.
Coaches can differ on how they approach these region-altering games — Wheeler doesn’t disclose their implications until after the final whistle sounds, while Sanders will keep his players up to speed on the region standings if they ask.
But there’s a common theme in the two strategies.
“Whether we win the game or not, it shouldn’t be based on what’s at stake,” Wheeler said. “We should win or lose game based on who we are, what we do and how we approach the game on a day-to-day basis.”