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Six area teams eye final four in state hoops playoffs
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State quarterfinals

Decatur at Dawson County, 6 p.m.
St. Pius X at Buford, 6 p.m.
Claxton at Towns County, TBA

St. Pius X at North Hall, 7 p.m.
Woodward at Buford, 7 p.m.
New Manchester at Gainesville, 7 p.m.

Unlike previous years, this season high school basketball teams will have to reach the state championship game to make the trek to Macon. 

But the fact that they’ll be played at locations throughout the state doesn’t make a berth in the state semifinals any less coveted, and that’s what six area teams will be shooting for this week when the state tournament resumes.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Gainesville, North Hall and Buford are the final three area boys teams standing after each survived the second round on Saturday night.

Both Gainesville and North Hall depended on defense to overcome second-half deficits, with the Red Elephants scoring the final five points in a 41-40 win over Mays, and the Trojans outscoring Morgan County 26-14 in the final two quarters to take a 50-46 victory.

Gainesville (21-9), which has now won 13 straight games in its first season in Class AAAAA, will host Region 5-AAAAA champion New Manchester (20-10) on Wednesday. Like the Red Elephants, the Jaguars entered the playoffs on a hot streak and haven’t cooled, winning their 11 consecutive game, 42-38, over Stephenson in overtime on Saturday. Also similar to Gainesville, New Manchester prides itself on defense, and has allowed only one opponent to score more than 60 points this season.

North Hall (27-3), the No. 2 seed from Region 7-AAA, will be taking on St. Pius (22-8, No. 2 Region 6-AAA) at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Golden Lions defeated Region 5-AAA champ Cartersville, 51-44, on Saturday, after slipping past East Hall in the first round. A win would put the Trojans in the state semifinals for the first time since 2010.

Buford is the only team to beat North Hall since early December, having done so once in the regular season and in region title game, and the Wolves (25-6) have been dominant in the playoffs, advancing with an 84-68 win over Gordon Central on Saturday. Tennessee signee A.J. Davis scored 32 points to lead the way for Buford, which has won 19 of its last 20. The Wolves’ only loss in that span — and only loss to a Class AAA team this season — came against North Hall in the second of the schools’ two regular season meetings.

Buford will host Region 6-AAA champ Woodward Academy (25-5) on Wednesday.

GIRLS BASKETBALL: The quarterfinals tip off Tuesday night with three local girls teams in action, and like the boys, Region 7-AAA is well-represented.

Region champ Buford (25-4) continues to breeze past opponents even after losing leading scorer and Georgia Tech signee Kaela Davis. The Lady Wolves, who went to the Class AA finals each of the last four years and won three titles, crushed Elbert County in the second round, 59-25.

On Tuesday, they’ll host St. Pius X (27-3), champion of Region 6-AAA, and a similarly dominant team down the stretch. The Lady Golden Lions have won 15 straight, with each victory coming by at least 13 points.

During Buford’s current 10-game winning streak, the only team to come within 10 points of the Lady Wolves is Region 7-AAA foe, Dawson County.

Last season, it was the Dawson County boys who made noise in the playoffs with their run to the state quarterfinals. This year, the Lady Tigers (25-5) are getting their turn. Dawson County upset Region 8-AAA champion North Oconee, 58-50, on Friday and will host Region 6-AAA No. 2 seed Decatur (23-7) on Tuesday.

Carly Gilreath and Sheyenne Seabolt have led the way for the Lady Tigers throughout the season, but Hannah Porter (10 points) and Ashley Parker (nine points, eight rebounds) also played big roles in Dawson County’s second-round win.

In the Class A girls public school tournament, Towns County girls are just one step away from the semifinals after defeating Calhoun County, 83-73, in the first round.

The Lady Indians (25-4) have reached the playoffs each of the last seven seasons, but haven’t been to the semifinals since 2008, and have been eliminated by a private school in each postseason appearance since 2007.

That won’t happen this year, as the GHSA has split Class A into two separate 16-team brackets for public and private schools. Towns County, the No. 2 overall seed in the public school bracket, will host No. 7 Claxton (21-8) on Tuesday.

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