What we’ve learned from early region action
The holiday season is behind us along with its cross-state, cross-classification lineup of tournaments and showcases. Now, teams across Class AAAA have settled into their region schedules and storylines are beginning to unfold. Here is a look at each region and some of what we have been able to learn so far.
Eight Teams: Americus-Sumter, Cairo, Carver-Columbus, Columbus, Northside-Columbus, Hardaway, Shaw, Westover
Boys: It’s shaping up to be another competitive battle in the Region 1-AAAA standings. Defending region champion Carver-Columbus is off to a strong 6-0 start in region competition and is 14-3 through the year. While the Tigers are playing like the team to beat, last year’s 1-AAAA runner-up Americus-Sumter is still searching for its winning formula. Americus-Sumter was defeated by Northside-Columbus 58-56 last month and the Panthers have a huge upcoming week to test them with a region rematch against Northside that is followed by matchups against Carver-Columbus and Westover in back-to-back days.
Girls: Like the boys, Carver’s girls are also the defending region champions and are off to a 6-0 start in region play. The Tigers, however are demolishing the competition. Last month, Carver cruised past rival Columbus (and last year’s No. 2 seed out of 1-AAAA) 69-39.
Six Teams: Howard, Mary Persons, Perry, Spalding, West Laurens, Upson-Lee
Boys: Upson-Lee hasn’t slowed down since last year’s perfect season and first-ever state title, opening this year with a 16-0 start and front-running the classification to once again take the crown. The Knights’ next big-time game will come on Jan. 19 against Mary Persons. When the two teams met on Dec. 5, Mary Persons was without their star player Cam Holden and was no match for the Knights in a 76-46 blowout. This next matchup should paint a much clearer picture to what kind of competition stands in Upson-Lee’s path to the postseason.
Girls: Defending Region 2-AAAA champion Spalding has opened up a 2-0 region record with two massive victories. First, Spalding handled Howard 56-33 and then the Jags scored a 50-26 win over Perry, last year’s No. 2 seed out of the region. Even more impressive is the youth that has driven the early success of the Jags with sophomore Corriana Evans (12.5) and freshman Kierstyn Milner (8.6) leading the group in points per game thus far.
Six Teams: Baldwin, Burke County, Cross Creek, Hephzibah, Richmond Academy, Thomson
Boys: Baldwin used a pair of 6-point victories over Thomson and Richmond Academy to improve to 2-0 in region play and now the Braves will visit Burke County and Hephzibah before hosting Cross Creek on Jan. 16 to complete the first of two circuits they will take through the region competition.
Girls: Defending region champion Cross Creek has taken out Burke County 52-47 and Hephzibah 72-26 to start the new year off right and their region slate 2-0. Tuesday’s trip to Thomson precedes an interesting home game on Jan. 12 against last year’s region runner-up Richmond Academy. Surprisingly, Richmond Academy has followed last year’s 14-13 season with a 1-9 start this year, so Friday’s matchup should prove quite a bit about the state of the region’s top team and the rest of the competition.
Seven Teams: Druid Hills, Eastside, Henry County, Luella, North Clayton, Salem, Woodward Academy
Boys: All seven teams in Region 4-AAAA have already lost at least one region game this season and the depth of this region is being shown with Salem proving to be a much-improved squad from a year ago. After missing out of the playoffs last year with a 7-5 region record, Salem has opened this year with four wins in its first five region games. The Seminoles’ only region loss so far came in a 46-43 battle with Druid Hills on Dec. 5 and they’ve since knocked out North Clayton (63-39), Henry County (54-44) and Woodward Academy (53-37).
Girls: On the girls side, North Clayton is struggling after taking the Region 4-AAAA title last season and Woodward Academy, Luella and a surging 15-0 Henry County team are already pushing the Eagles downward in the standings. Henry County’s strong 5-0 start in region play includes a 58-33 win at North Clayton, and outside of the classification, the Warhawks impressed at the Chuck Miller Classic with lopsided wins over Columbia (60-17), Decatur (57-31) and Parkview (66-36).