The Bulloch Academy Gators open up the state playoffs this week. The girls lost a heartbreaker to Pinewood in the region championship 38-36, and will be the number two seed as they take on Heritage, while the boys beat Pinewood in the region consolation game, and will be the number three seed as they take on Creekside Christian.
The Lady Gators set things underway Tuesday evening at Augusta Christian as they take on the 11-9 Heritage Hawks. The Gators were 18-2 through the first 20 games of the season. Injuries and illnesses contributed to some late season struggles, as the Gators lost four of their last six games.
We know what kind of team we have,” said Bulloch Academy coach Chandler Dennard. “We struggled with a lot of injuries toward the end of the season, and there were a couple games we rested our girls in order to try and get healthy for the region tournament.”
“We play in one of the toughest regions in the state,” Dennard said. “Playing these teams twice, or even three times has us ready for state. We have four teams in our region that I’d say could stack up with any region in the state.”
Tuesday evening Bulloch Academy will square off against Heritage School, and while there isn’t a lot of history between the two teams, Heritage head coach D.J. Clay is a former Gator coach.
“D.J. has really built a great program at Heritage,” Dennard said. “They have won a state title, so they have that championship pedigree. I don’t think this is one of the strongest teams he’s had, but he will always have them prepared and they will play hard.”
The Gators and Hawks are scheduled to play at 6:00 Tuesday at Augusta Prep. Augusta Prep will play Tiftarea immediately afterwards. The two winners will meet Friday in the state quarterfinals in Macon.
The Bulloch Academy girls only had to deal with injuries and illnesses at the end of the season, for the Bulloch Academy boy’s it’s been a year long issue for head coach Chance Cofield.
The Gators have only recently gotten healthy, and after starting the season 5-13, Bulloch Academy has won five of their last seven games. The Gators came within a basket of upsetting top seeded Trinity in the semifinals, before pounding Pinewood in the consolation game 69-36.
“I really think we are finally playing the way I thought we could all season long,” Cofield said. “I was really impressed by our effort against Trinity. We have really just now started to get all the pieces of the puzzle together.”
Last year the Gators advanced to the final four before falling to Holy Spirit, who featured arguably the top player on the nation in current UGA standout Anthony Edwards. This year the Gators open up against another popular name, as they go up against Creekside Christian and leading scorer Shaqir O’Neal. Shaqir 6-7 son of NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal.
“He is a 6-7 shooting guard,” Cofield said. “He is not as good as Anthony Edwards, and I don’t think Creekside is as good as Holy Spirit was last year. I really like our chances, as I think we do some things that could give them problems.”
“Bo Spence and Rodney Hill have both been shooting really well lately,” Cofield said. “Chas Collins and Miller Pope have been controlling the paint, and Will Aaron has been a great leader out there. I think we can make a run if we can get past Creekside.”
The Gators and the Cougars play Wednesday at 6:00 at Brookwood. Brookwood will take on Westminster immediately afterwards. The two winners will square off in the quarterfinals Saturday at Tattnall Square in Macon.