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SHS, Portal, SEB eye region titles

SHS, Portal, SEB eye region titles

SHS, Portal, SEB eye region titles


    With nearly three months of regular season play in the books, area basketball teams are now preparing for their region tournaments with eyes set on the ultimate prize of landing a spot in the state playoffs.
    Last year was one of the best in recent memory for the area as four different teams reached the Final Four. The impressive play carried over this season, making it likely that it might be another long and exciting postseason for many local teams.

Portal
    The Portal boys were one of last season’s Final Four squads.
    Judging by their play over the last few weeks, the Panthers seem intent on making last season’s run look like a warm-up for this year’s show.
    Portal dropped a game to Calvary Day on Jan. 14, but enters the Region 3-A tournament riding a 10-game winning streak. More importantly, the Panthers (22-3, 9-1) are No. 1 in the latest state power poll. The final poll — to be released next week — will determine the seeding for the 16 teams to make the Class A public school state playoffs.
    The Panthers hold a No. 1 seed in this week’s region tournament — to be played at Treutlen — and will face either Emanuel County Institute, Savannah Christian or Savannah Country Day on Wednesday in the tournament quarterfinals.
    Portal’s girls turned heads by making a run all the way to the state playoffs last season.
    The Lady Panthers hit a rough patch midway through the season, but won four of their last six regular season games to enter the region tournament with a 10-12 mark. Portal is currently sitting precariously close to the edge of qualifiers in the power poll. As the current resident at the No. 13 slot, a Portal win over Wheeler County tonight at 7 p.m. would go a long way to securing a return trip to the state playoffs.

Statesboro
    The Blue Devils must leave the comfort of home as Butler High School in Augusta host both the boys and girls tournaments for Region 3-AAAA.
    Statesboro’s boys (19-6, 5-1) are the defending region champs and are peaking at just the right time. The Devils dropped their first sub-region game, but rebounded to win their final five to secure a top seed this week.
    “We know that it all comes down to this week,” SHS coach Lee Hill said. “We played a lot of close games in this tournament last year and the teams are tough again. We’re playing pretty well right now, but we have to keep that up.”
    Unlike Class A, Statesboro can’t be saved by its ranking if it fails to win its opening game against Richmond Academy today at 5:30 p.m.
    For all regions outside of Class A, only the final four teams remaining in each region tournament game will advance to the state playoffs.
    The Lady Devils will be trying to get back to the state tournament as they fell victim to a buzzer-beater in the quarterfinals of last season’s region tournament.
    Statesboro (15-10, 3-3) has shown improvement throughout the year, but will have its work cut out this week. The Devils take on Richmond Academy (18-6, 8-2) Wednesday at 4 p.m. with the winner clinching a state playoff berth.

Southeast Bulloch
    One of the season’s biggest turnaround stories continues tonight as the Southeast Bulloch boys host Islands in the first round of the Region 1-AAA tournament. The Yellow Jackets failed to win a game two seasons ago and — though much improved — couldn’t qualify for the state playoffs as they moved up to Class AAA last season.
    A suddenly dynamic offense has highlighted a big year for SEB, which finished the season at 16-9 overall and 13-5 in region competition. The Jackets clinched the No. 3 seed in the region tournament and tip things off against No. 10 Islands tonight at 7:30.
    “It’s great to be able to play a postseason game on our own floor,” SEB coach John Page said. “But we aren’t taking anyone lightly. We’re proud of what we were able to do in the regular season, so we need to make sure that we’re prepared to play our best in the region tournament.”
    A win tonight will advance the Jackets to the region quarterfinals Wednesday night at Beach High School against either Appling County or Brantley County.
    The winner of that matchup will secure a spot in the Class AAA state tournament.
    Southeast’s girls won their opening round game over Appling County Monday night and will play Pierce County in the region quarterfinals Wednesday evening.

Claxton
    Heading into the Region 3-A tournament, the Claxton boys find themselves in a familiar situation.
    The Tigers made a run in last season’s region tournament, but finished at No. 17 in the final power poll — missing out on the state playoffs by one one-hundredth of a point.
    As the Tigers (11-12) begin tournament play tonight against Johnson County, they sit at No. 15 in the most recent power rankings.
    The Lady Tigers are in much better shape as their 21-4 record has them sitting on top of the power poll. Claxton reached the state quarterfinals last season and — now in line for a higher seed and more home games — is primed to take the next step this season.
    Thanks to its 9-1 record in region play, Claxton gets to rest until Thursday when it faces Montgomery County at 7 p.m.

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.

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