After three months of grinding competition, prep basketball teams from around the area are priming for one more push that will either send them to the state tournament or send them home for a long offseason.
For some, region tournaments will be viewed as the opportunity for a coronation, a validation of regular season success and — hopefully — the ability to secure a high seed in the state tournament. Others will have their work cut out and may have to pull a few upsets in order to keep their season alive.
Unfortunately, two area teams have already felt the sting of a quick dismissal from tournament play as the girls of Portal and Statesboro fell Monday and are now done for the year. On the bright side, the SEB girls lived to fight another day.
Here is how things are shaping up for other local squads.
While the Lady Panthers are done, the boys are looking much like their squads from the last two seasons that have produced trips to the state semifinals (2013) and state quarterfinals (2014).
Portal currently sits at No. 8 in the Class A power polls and is a lock to make the 16-team state playoff field regardless of their performance at the Region 3-A tournament this week in Millen. The Panthers could go a long way in helping their cause with another solid showing in the region tournament as any sort of success could help their spot in the power poll and a region title – which they’ve won three out of the previous four seasons – will assure them of one of the top seeds at state.
Portal’s 19-6 record isn’t quite as gaudy as some other schools near the top of the rankings, but the Panthers have gone out of their way to play a tough schedule and have dropped just two games against Class A opponents.
Armed with sharp shooting from all of its starters, the Panthers are a threat to once again make it to the end of February.
On Jan. 16, the Blue Devils dropped a 58-47 decision to Brunswick that left them sitting at a 4-3 mark in the hyper-competitive Region 3-AAAAA.
Faced with the possibility of missing out on the state tournament for a second consecutive season, Statesboro hit the gas and tore off wins in six of its final seven games. The final win in that stretch – as 74-65 victory over Richmond Hill last week – was enough to earn the Devils the No. 2 seed in the region tournament.
That high seed also comes with a double-bye all the way to Thursday’s semifinals and guarantees that the Devils will be placed in the state tournament field. A win in Thursday’s game would also lock up at least one home game for SHS in the state playoffs.
The Yellow Jackets of Southeast Bulloch have had the unenviable task of playing in Class AAA’s toughest region for each of the last three seasons.
The 2014-15 campaign has been the most difficult of them all. Already grouped into a sub-region with perennial state powers Savannah High and Johnson of Savannah, the Jackets saw this year’s inclusion of Jenkins High, which proceeded to run roughshod through the rest of the league and claim a top seed in the Region 1-AAA tournament.
SEB avoided having to participate in Monday’s play-in game, but will need at least two victories to advance to a second straight state playoff.
First up for the Jackets will be a Wednesday matchup against Appling County, which split a pair of regular season games with the Jackets this season. A victory there will set up a Thursday showdown against Tattnall County with the winner being guaranteed a state playoff berth.
Two of the County’s hottest teams also have one more week to play before their postseason begins.
Bulloch Academy was in a celebratory mood Monday night as the Gators swept David Emanuel Academy on Senior Night.
The Gators wrap things up with two more games this week before heading into the Region 2-AAA tournament. Bulloch’s boys have dominated the region throughout the season and will be among the favorites to take home the title and a top seed at state. The Lady Gators are defending region champs and will try to reclaim their title before moving on to the Class AAA state tournament of which they’re also the reigning title holders.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9408.