Buford vs. Putnam County
When: 7 tonight
Records: Buford (23-6); Putnam County (15-9)
Seeds: Buford No. 3 Region 6-AA; Putnam County No. 2 Region 8-AA
Coaches: Buford, Gene Durden. Putman County, Jerusha Hudson
Key players: Buford, SG Blanche Alverson (6-3, Jr.); SF Jocelyn Danley (5-9, Jr.); PG Michelle Godwin (5-4, Jr.).
Outlook: The state tournament is a familiar place for sixth-ranked Buford. The Lady Wolves have made five appearances in six years, including the elite eight last year. Putnam County also has playoff experience and has participated in the tournament the last two years.Although the War Eagles have home court advantage and boast a higher seed, the Wolves are clearly a favorite after winning 23 games in a subregion that includes the top two teams in Class AA.
East Hall at Dunwoody
When: 4 today
Where: Dunwoody High
Records: East Hall (17-6); Dunwoody (18-10)
Seeds: East Hall, No. 3 Region 7-AAA; Dunwoody, No. 2 Region 5-AAA
Coaches: East Hall, Joey Rider. Dunwoody, Angela Nash.
Key players: East Hall, C Sada Wheeler (6-3, Sr.); PF Tierra Benton (6-2, Sr.); SG Jessica Blackwell (5-11, Sr.). Dunwoody, PG Kristin Nash (5-8, Jr.); C Madeline Teissler (6-0, Jr.).
Outlook: Dunwoody point guard Kristin Nash is averaging 13.5 points per game and an impressive 3.5 steals and the Lady Wildcats (18-10) other standout, center Madeline Teissler, is good for eight rebounds a game.
The success of tenth-ranked East Hall in this matchup centers on one player, and it’s not South Carolina signee Sada Wheeler.
Senior power forward Tierra Benton has owned the stat sheet all season without being the best in any column. She blocks shots, rebounds, passes, can hit layups and is the key to the Lady Vikings winning.
Dunwoody does not have the size that East Hall does inside and, therefore, there will be a mismatch any way you look at it. Throw Teissler on Wheeler and Benton can run the table, the other way around and the 6-foot-3- Wheeler can prove her worth.
The Lady Vikings’ constant pressure could possibly bother Nash, but the key for the guards will be limiting their turnovers. With a guard on the opposing team who averages nearly four steals a game, ensuring that she doesn’t reach her average, and therefore give her team easy baskets, will be vital for East Hall to upset the No. 2 seed out of Region 5-AAA.
Gainesville vs. Southside
When: 6 p.m. today
Records: Gainesville (23-5); Southside (20-7)
Seeds: Gainesville No. 1 seed Region 7-AAA; Southside No. 4 seed Region 5-AAA.
Coaches: Gainesville, Manson Hill. Southside, Willie Carter.
Key players: Gainesville, PF Jaymee Carnes (6-0, So.); SG Taylor Ricketts (5-3, Jr.); C Hailey Solomon (5-10, Jr.).
Outlook: Gainesville coach Manson Hill isn’t fooled by the Lasers’ No. 4 seed. He knows that Southside could easily have been higher if they hadn’t let one slip away, after leading eventual region champs Blessed Trinity 36-32 going into the fourth quarter in the Region 5-AAA tourney.
"Southside is a very athletic team with quick guards," Hill said. "They can take you off the dribble."
Carnes, a sophomore, leads the Red Elephants in scoring with 18 points per game. Ricketts is averaging seven points per game, and Solomon is scoring six points a game.
These two coaches are also quite familiar with one another. In 1994, Hill coached against Carter’s group from now defunct Crim High in the state title game. Gainesville also faced Carter’s Southside girls in the first round of the 2001 state playoffs.
Southside’s playoff history isn’t quite as immpressive as Gainesville’s, which includes four state championships and six trips to the final four. The Lasers have qualifed for the state playoffs now five times (1991, 2001, 2002 and 2006), but have failed to advance past the first round.
Lakeview Academy vs. Gordon Lee
When: 4 p.m. today
Records: Lakeview Academy (12-12); Gordon Lee (22-5)
Seeds: Lakeview Academy, No. 4 Region 8-A; Gordon Lee, No. 1 Region 6-A
Coaches: Lakeview Academy, Buster Brown. Gordon Lee, Lester Galyon.
Key players: Lakeview Academy, G Brittany Moore (5-5, Jr.); F Louisa Jacobs (5-8, So.); F Megan Rochester (5-7, So.). Gordon Lee, PG Kori Penland (5-9, Sr.); PF Holli Brooks (5-7, Fr.).
Outlook: After starting the season 1-7, Lakeview Academy was able to rebound and reach the state playoffs for the second consecutive season. Unfortunately for the Lady Lions, they have a tough first-round matchup with ninth-ranked Gordon Lee.
The Lady Trojans are led by point guard in Penland, who is averaging 23.5 points per game this year and has scored more than 40 twice this year. That could spell trouble for Lakeview Academy, who closed out the season losers of two straight and struggled to put points on the scoreboard. The lack of offense weapons could doom the Lady Lions, as Gordon Lee is averaging 62 points per game and have won 14 of their last 15 games.
North Hall vs. Westminster
When: 6 p.m. today
Records: North Hall (19-10); Westminster (21-6)
Seeds: North Hall, No. 2 Region 7-AAA; Westminster, No. 3 Region 5-AAA.
Coaches: North Hall, Debbie Blake. Westminster, Tray Malloy
Key players: North Hall, PG Elizabeth Williams (5-7, Sr.); C Letiecia Davenport (6-0, Sr.); PF Ana Porras (5-10, Sr.). Westminster, SF Sandra Fryhofer (5-11, Sr.); G Virginia Zakas (5-5, Sr.); G Lauren Cherry (5-7, Sr.).
Outlook: This is the Lady Trojans’ third consecutive appearance in the state playoffs, and Westminster has appeared in the playoffs all but one season (2006) since 1998.
North Hall’s leadership comes from its seniors: Williams (11 points, eights assists and five steals per game), Davenport (21 points, eight rebounds) and Porras (six points, five rebounds).
"I think our teams match up pretty well," Blake said. "I know the playoff teams from that region are all pretty even."
Westminster’s coach says the key is stopping the Trojans in transition and avoiding giving up the easy baskets.
"We have to match their discipline," Malloy said. "And it’s going to be key to stop them in transition."
These two coaches also walked the same sideline together in the past. Before taking over at Westminster, Malloy served as an assistant coach under Blake at South Forsyth.