Class AAAA: Storylines and matchups to watch for this weekend
The state has four weekends left until the region tournaments tip off to determine the seeding for the 2018-19 GHSA state playoffs. That’s more than enough time, however, for a bevy of intriguing matches, and this weekend is no exception. Here’s a region-by-region breakdown of some of the top storylines and matchups to watch for this weekend.
The Americus-Sumter and Carver-Columbus boys are set to square off this Friday night in Region 1-AAAA action. These two teams last met on Dec. 28 in the Lee County Christmas Tournament and Americus-Sumter came out victorious 80-54. Carver-Columbus has responded to the loss with three straight victories and is taking a 11-3 overall record into the showdown. The teams will clash for a third time on Jan. 19 at Carver-Columbus and could very likely cross paths again once the Region 1-AAAA tournament tips off the first week of February.
In Region 2, two-time defending state champion Upson-Lee is still the team to beat. The Knights cruised to a 72-54 win over Mary Persons Wednesday night to improve to 14-1 overall and 3-0 in region play. Baldwin edged Thomson 65-60 in a competitive Region 3 matchup over the weekend to move to the top of the region standings. The front-runner in Region 4-AAAA is Henry County—which sits at 17-1, but Salem and Woodward Academy have already tightened the race. The Warhawks were defeated by Woodward Academy 68-58 on Dec. 4 and take on Luella this Saturday before their much-anticipated rematch with Woodward Academy on Jan. 15.
Sandy Creek has responded to its 72-71 loss to Fayette County with back-to-back region wins and senior TJ Bickerstaff has been sensational all year. The 6-foot-8 forward is one of four Patriots averaging in double-figures and he is hauling in 10.8 rebounds and dishing out 4.5 assists per game to go with his team-high 17.7 points per game.
LaFayette (5-1), Northwest Whitfield (6-2), Gilmer (4-3), Heritage-Catoosa (4-3) and Southeast Whitfield (4-3) are all currently above .500 in Region 6-AAAA action, and Region 7-AAAA looks just as crowded. First-year program Denmark is 14-4 on the year and 4-2 in region action so far. Marist (10-6), Blessed Trinity (9-7) and Chestatee (12-5) are also above .500 on the season and lead this seven-team region.
State-runner up St. Pius scored a 72-59 win at Oconee County on Wednesday to improve to 2-0 in Region 8-AAAA, 15-2 on the year and extend their current win-streak to 13 games.
On the girls side, 16-0 Carver-Columbus is 7-0 in Region 1-AAAA action and the Westover girls are 5-0. Westover hosts Columbus on Friday and will face Americus-Sumter, Hardaway and Northside-Columbus before they host Carver on Jan. 22. Last season, Carver-Columbus beat Westover 67-37 in the first meeting and 52-42 in their February rematch.
Region 2-AAAA Upson-Lee is trending in the right direction and is 11-4 after its 17-12 finish a year ago. The Lady Knights will be tested on Friday when they visit defending state champion Spalding. The Jags have remained a stout defensive team, but inconsistencies on offense have resulted in a 12-4 start that includes a 54-49 loss to West Laurens in region play on Wednesday. Perry, at 3-0, is currently the leader in a talented Region 2-AAAA.
In Region 3-AAAA, Baldwin defeated Burke County 59-48 on Wednesday to improve its region record to 3-0 and will take on Cross Creek on Jan. 15 for another key conference matchup.
Henry County scored an 84-41 win over North Clayton to improve to 8-0 in Region 4-AAAA and will visit Luella on Saturday in a rematch of their 76-67 win in December. Sandy Creek and Cedartown remain unbeaten in Region 5-AAAA action and will faceoff at Sandy Creek on Jan. 15.
Heritage-Catoosa, Northwest Whitfield, Gilmer, Pickens and LaFayette are all floating above .500 in Region 6-AAAA. Heritage-Catoosa was the last of the bunch to avoid the losing column in region play, but Pickens changed that on Wednesday with a thrilling 50-46 overtime win.
Flowery Branch, Marist, Chestatee, Blessed Trinity and White County are playing outstanding basketball in Region 7-AAAA, but it is only Flowery Branch (5-0) that has remained unbeaten in conference play.
St. Pius and North Oconee each boast 2-0 records in Region 8-AAAA and will square off at North Oconee this Friday. Last season, North Oconee fell 35-19 to St. Pius on Jan. 26, but then handed the Golden Lions a 40-35 loss in the Region Tournament to steal the No. 2 seed.