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REGION TOURNAMENT PREVIEW: Boys basketball

POSTED: February 8, 2014 12:52 a.m.
Brian Paglia/Forsyth County News

Lambert guard Jake Morris and the Longhorns are the favorites entering the Region 6-AAAAAA tournament that begins Tuesday at West Forsyth.

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REGION 6-AAAAAA

Favorite: Lambert. With a 13-1 record in 6-AAAAAA, Lambert is the most dangerous team in the region. After losing their first two games, the Longhorns have since gone 20-3 and will be hard to stop. Led by seniors Trevor Shipes and Logan Bush — who stand at 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-4 respectively—Lambert boasts a powerful frontcourt that can hang with the best.

Contenders: Alpharetta, Centennial. Alpharetta has been nipping at Lambert’s heel all season long and has a good shot to win this tournament. While they lost both games against the Longhorns this year, the Raiders have the size to compete with Lambert, which is more than most teams in the region can say. Centennial’s sub-.500 record overshadows its strong performances within the region, beating Lambert by two on Feb. 4. The Knights’ proven ability to take down the region leader makes them a legitimate threat.

Darkhorses: Chattahoochee, West Forsyth, Johns Creek. Chattahoochee had won three in a row before running into Lambert on Friday but will have to raise its game to a new level in the region tournament to compete. The Cougars lost all six games against Lambert, Alpharetta and Centennial, so they’ll need to earn respect in the postseason. West, led by Jimmy and Nick Staiti, have the pure skill necessary to win; it’s their depth that remains questionable. After falling to Lambert by 27 back in December, West came within two of beating the Longhorns on Jan. 21. Johns Creek beat Centennial 74-58 last Wednesday, so it’s possible—albeit unlikely—for the Gladiators to pull an upset.

Outlook: While Lambert sports the best record in 6-AAAAAA, Alpharetta and Centennial are not that far behind talent-wise. Additionally, with the two Staitis at their disposal, it’s possible for West to surprise a lot of people and make a serious run. This region tournament is difficult to predict and should include an upset or two.

REGION 7-AAAAA

Favorite: Sequoyah. The only team in 7-AAAAA with a winning record in the region, Sequoyah is the clear-cut favorite. The Chiefs have the best defensive numbers in the region and have two offensive weapons in seniors Dalton Satterfield and Logan Taylor, who each average 14.3 points per game.

Contenders: Creekview, Northview. With .500 records in the region, Creekview and Northview could give Sequoyah a run for its money. Creekview beat Sequoyah once this season and lost in their rematch, so the talent is there to win the region crown. Senior Austin Graham is the Grizzlies’ player to keep an eye on. He averaged 14.2 points and 5.4 assists per game in the regular season.

Darkhorse: North Springs. With a 13-12 overall record (the best in the region) but 5-8 mark in 7-AAAAA, North Springs is a team that’s difficult to figure out. Senior Walter Cole paces the Spartans with 19.2 points per game, but he’s the only player on the team to average double digit points. If Cole can heat up and someone further down the depth chart can rise to the occasion, North Springs could have a solid tournament.

Outlook: No team in 7-AAAAA finished the season with an overall winning record, so there’s a lot of parity here. While North Springs, Cambridge and Forsyth Central are underdogs, any of those three could make a serious run if the right players step up at the right times. For the Bulldogs, who are a very young squad, this tournament will provide them with valuable experience, if nothing else.

REGION 8-A

Favorite: Athens Christian. There are the Eagles, and then there’s everyone else. When you have Connecticut verbal commit and junior guard Will "Turtle" Jackson, not much else is necessary in Class A. But Athens Christian also has 6-foot-5 forward Chris Tate and jack-of-all-trades 6-foot-3 forward Demetrius McWhorter. The Eagles’ only losses this season were to Class AAAAAA schools Johnson (twice), Pebblebrook and Brookwood.

Contenders: Hebron Christian, Providence Christian. It’s hard to pick between the two. Both were 11-3 in the region as of press time. The teams split their regular season meetings – Hebron winning 60-58 on Dec. 13, Providence winning 66-57 on Feb. 1. Both get by on balanced scoring and fundamentals rather than star power and athleticism.

Darkhorses: Lakeview Academy, Pinecrest Academy. Their meeting on Saturday determined the No. 1 seed from subdivision A. The Paladins have championship experience with a region finals appearance last season when they hung with Athens Christian before losing 48-43.

Outlook: The tournament figures to be Athens Christian’s to lose, but Pinecrest hopes to have something to say about that. Athens Christian is virtually assured a state playoff spot by virtue of its ranking in the GHSA Class A Power Rankings. Pinecrest doesn’t have that luxury. They have to win the region title to make the state tournament which should fuel the urgency for Nick Palmer, Michael Bruckner and company.

 

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