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This week: State hoops tourney tips off Tuesday
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The temperatures outside might suggest otherwise, but on the high school sports calendar, spring is here.
Soccer and tennis are already under way, golf is teeing off soon, and baseball gets back into the swing of things today.

But before attention turns completely to the outdoor sports of the coming months, the area’s basketball teams remain in the spotlight as the state playoffs tip off this week with a number of local teams still shooting for a trip to Macon and a state championship.

GIRLS BASKETBALL: The girls state tournament opens on Tuesday night with six area teams in the mix.
Chestatee will be the only girls team playing in Hall County after Flowery Branch slid to a No. 4 seed in Region 8-AAAAA and will be forced to take to the road.

The Lady War Eagles (22-6) fell in the 8-AAAA championship game on Friday, but retain the No. 2 seed, and with it, home-court advantage in the opening round against Columbus. After struggling from the field in the championship loss to Madison County, Chestatee will need to regain its shooting stroke against a Lady Blue Devils squad (20-9) that has surrendered 44 points per game this season. Columbus secured the No. 3 seed from 5-AAAA with a 41-39 win over top-seeded Sandy Creek on Saturday.

Flowery Branch is the only other girls team from Hall County to reach the postseason and will play at Region 5-AAAAA champion Allatoona. All girls games are scheduled for Tuesday, but may be played Wednesday if both teams agree. Unless otherwise noted, game times are yet to be announced.

The Lady Falcons (23-5) cruised through the regular season, but lost on consecutive nights for the first time all season in the region tournament, taking the No. 4 seed in a Saturday loss to Cedar Shoals in what was expected to be the 8-AAAAA championship game. They’ll be facing an Allatoona team (17-7) that has won six straight and 11 of its last 12.

BOYS BASKETBALL: Gainesville and Johnson lead a quartet of Hall County teams that will enter the playoffs with lofty goals.

The Red Elephants (19-9) are one of the hottest teams in Northeast Georgia and showed no signs of cooling off during their run to the Region 8-AAAAA championship last week. Gainesville, which will host Hiram (16-12) at 7 p.m. Wednesday, has won 11 straight games, and, after a slow start, has played like a different team in the second half of the season. The Red Elephants’ last loss came on Jan. 19 against Christ School (N.C.).

Not to be outdone, Johnson is yet to lose in 2013 — the Knights’ last loss came on Dec. 28 against Dunwoody.

Since that time, the Knights (24-4) have won 14 in a row and closed out their first region title since 2005 with a thrilling 51-50 win over Eastside on Friday. With a well-balanced six-man rotation, Johnson has shown an ability to win in any kind of game, scoring more than 90 points three times in the last six games, and holding opponents to 50 points or fewer three times in the last five.

The Knights will host Shaw (17-10) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

North Hall lost to Buford in the Region 7-AAA championship game, but the Lanierland champions figure to be a contender for a deep run in state, as well. Buford, which was No. 2 in the state in MaxPreps.com’s most recent rankings, is the only team to beat the Trojans (25-3) since early December. North Hall, which has spent the majority of the year in Class AAA’s top 10, will host Decatur at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

East Hall (13-15) has come on strong late in the season and earned 7-AAA’s No. 3 seed with a win over Dawson County on Saturday. The Vikings are a perennial power in the area, but struggled early this season after the graduation of multiple key pieces from last year’s team. After slumping through a three-game losing streak in late January, however, the Vikings bounced back to win seven of their last nine and will have their eyes on an upset when they travel to take on St. Pius X (20-8) at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

SOCCER: The 26th Annual Northeast Georgia Mountains Cup gets under way today with numerous area teams competing at two sites. In boys action, Riverside and West Hall will meet at 5:30 p.m. at Allen Creek, while Chestatee and Lakeview are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Chestatee.

Lakeview and North Hall will open girls play at 5:30 p.m. at Chestatee, and Chestatee and White County will meet at 7:30 p.m. at Allen Creek.

Play continues throughout the week, and also includes the White County boys, West Hall girls and both Fannin County teams. Championship games are scheduled for 8 p.m. Friday, with the girls playing at Allen Creek and the boys at Chestatee.

BASEBALL: A handful of local teams are wasting no time getting on the diamond as four games are scheduled for today. Chestatee will be at Riverside (5:15 p.m.), Jefferson is at Oconee County (5:55 p.m.), and Flowery Branch is at Shiloh (5:55 p.m.). The Lumpkin County/North Hall game, originally scheduled for Tuesday, has also been moved to 5:30 p.m. today, in anticipation of inclement weather Tuesday.

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