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State basketball playoffs set to tip off
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Chestatee's Kayla Watson looks to pass the ball while being guarded by Buford's Tatum Shipes during the Region 8-AAAA championship game Feb. 14 at Johnson High. - photo by Erin O. Smith

State playoffs

First-round games

Class AAAAA

No. 3 Gainesville girls at No. 2 Kell, 6 p.m. Tuesday

No. 4 Gainesville boys at No. 1 North Atlanta, 7 p.m. Wednesday

No. 4 Flowery Branch girls at No. 1 Sequoyah, 7 p.m. Tuesday

Class AAAA

No. 1 Johnson boys vs. No. 4 Southeast Whitfield, 6 p.m. Wednesday

No. 1 Buford girls vs. Heritage-Catoosa, 6 p.m. Tuesday

No. 2 Chestatee girls vs. Pickens, 6 p.m. Wednesday

No. 2 Buford boys vs. No. 3 Northwest Whitfield, 6 p.m. Wednesday

No. 3 North Hall girls at No. 2 Northwest Whitfield, 6 p.m. Tuesday

No. 4 North Hall boys at No. 1 Cartersville, 7 p.m. Wednesday

Class AAA
No. 1 East Hall boys vs. No. 4 Jefferson, 7 p.m. Wednesday

No. 1 Dawson County girls vs. Elbert County, 6 Tuesday

No. 2 East Hall girls vs. Oconee County, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

No. 2 Banks County boys vs. No. 3 East Jackson, 7 p.m. Wednesday

No. 2 Jefferson girls vs. No. 3 Banks County, 6 p.m. Tuesday

No. 4 Lumpkin County boys at No. 1 Morgan County, 7 p.m. Wednesday

Class AA

No. 2 Union County girls vs. No. 3 Darlington, 5 p.m. Tuesday

No. 3 Union County boys at No. 2 Coosa, 6 p.m. Wednesday

Class A
Power ratings for public and private school brackets will be announced Tuesday.

First-round playoff tickets cost $7, per GHSA rules.

Johnson’s boys are enjoying two big benefits for winning the Region 8-AAAA basketball tournament Saturday night. First, the fifth-ranked Knights will be able to hang another championship banner in the gym as back-to-back champ.

However, the Knights (27-0) also get a postseason bump with a guaranteed second-round home playoff game, if they’re able to beat Southeast Whitfield (11-14) to open the postseason Wednesday night in Oakwood. In Johnson’s case, the second-round opponent would be West Laurens, which is in Southeast Georgia, or Westover, an Albany school.

“That’s definitely a tough trip having to travel that far,” said Johnson coach Jeff Steele. “But we’re just focused on playing one game at a time.

“Once you get into the playoffs, they’re all tough.”

For the first round, girls games are Tuesday. Boys opening-round games are Wednesday. The only exception is Chestatee’s first-round girls game against Pickens, which was pushed back to Wednesday for weather and travel considerations for the visitor’s traveling in from the mountains.

Also entering the postseason locally as region champs include East Hall’s boys, Buford girls and undefeated Dawson County girls.

Johnson won the Region 8-AAAA title game against Buford (15-12). Should the Wolves win in the opening round, they’ll likely have to travel five hours to battle Region 1-AAAA champ Albany during the second round this weekend.

The playoff bracket design leaves much to be decided as far as accommodating travel, especially once the state tournament makes it to the third round. Games next week will require long travel distances across the state for teams in the Elite 8 during the school week. East Hall boys coach Joe Dix said it could easily be fixed with returning to a neutral site for the third round on the weekend to cut out missed midweek classroom time.

“If you have two No. 1 seeds playing in the third round, I don’t think a coin flip should decide who hosts.”

The Vikings boys are playing their first home playoff contest since it last won a region title in 2011. East Hall’s coach expects a boisterous crowd with his basketball-dominated school playing against a nearby opponent Jefferson.

“It’s going to be exciting for us here at East Hall,” said Dix, who has four players averaging in double-digit points. “We expect a great crowd here for the game.”

The Lady Vikings get it started against Oconee County tonight.

It should come as no surprised that Johnson has some of the top individual performers, led by Hall County’s leading scorer Ty Cockfield with 29 points, six assists and six rebounds a game. Senior Roderick English averages a double-double for the Knights with 21 points and 11 boards a game.

No. 5 Johnson’s portion of the bracket in Class AAAA is particulary challenging. Should the Knights make the third round, they would almost certainly face either top-ranked Jonesboro (27-1) or No. 4 St. Pius X (24-4).

East Hall’s boys have its most balanced team since it won the Class AA state title in 2005, according to Dix. Led by senior center Kyvon Davenport at 22 points and 11 rebounds a game, East Hall also has Tylor Brown (13 points), Jacquen Hopkins (11) and Triston Cooper (11) all in double figures.

In Class AAAAA, the Gainesville boys and Flowery Branch girls enter the postseason as a fourth-seed, after going into their respective region tournaments as a No. 1.

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