With holiday feasting and festivities behind them, Forsyth County high school basketball teams are set to dig into the meat of their region schedules.
Coaches have spent the first couple months of the season fashioning lineups, developing schemes and, most recently, witnessing their players’ performance in a playoff-like setting. Attention now turns toward postseason tournament seeding and clicking consistently.
The Class AAAAA region containing Forsyth County teams looks top-heavy, particularly on the boys side. The local Class AAAA race appears much more wide open.
Both the North Forsyth and West Forsyth boys teams have a steep mountain to climb in 6-AAAAA, and Milton sits at the top of it. The computerized MaxPreps Freeman Rankings have the Eagles (9-4, 4-0 Region 6-AAAAA) at 16th in the nation, and the Xcellent 25 — MaxPreps’ human poll — ranks them 18th.
Milton ripped through the Beach Ball Classic last week in Myrtle Beach, S.C., beating teams from Miami, Kentucky, Nevada and Utah by an average of margin of 20 points.
The Eagles’ senior class contains a trio of three-star commits, according to Rivals.com, and a four-star forward in Tevin Glass that has yet to pick a college.
“They’ve just got great players,” said North coach Brian Moon, whose team travels to Milton Friday. “I have yet to see them play, and probably won’t until we play them. … But you don’t have to see them in person to know they’ve got great athletes.”
The Raiders (3-10, 0-2) and Wolverines (0-11, 0-3) sit at the bottom of the early 6-AAAAA standings and are the only region teams with overall losing records. Northview, Roswell, Centennial and Alpharetta could all contend for the final three state playoff spots behind Milton unless North and West turn things around come region tournament time.
“That’s one good thing about basketball,” Moon said. “It’s a tournament game, so even if things don’t go great during the season, there’s still always hope.”
The Raiders lost to Johnson and North Hall at last week’s Hall vs. Forsyth Holiday Shootout. West hasn’t played since a 50-44 loss to Creekview Dec. 20, and doesn’t play another region game until Jan. 10.
Alpharetta is the team to beat on the girls side of 6-AAAAA. The GACA coaches’ poll No. 7 Lady Raiders join North as the only region squads with winning overall records.
First-place Alpharetta handed North a 60-42 loss on Dec. 2.
West (4-9, 2-1) and North (9-4, 0-2) are moving in opposite directions after last week. The Lady Raiders went 2-0 at the Hall vs. Forsyth Holiday Shootout, while the Lady Wolverines are mired in a five-game losing streak after going 0-3 at the Pickens Holiday Classic.
But West still has the better current region mark and joins Roswell as teams that are a game behind Alpharetta.
Both Lambert squads have made some noise potentially indicative of a notable Region 7-AAAA run, but each side of the grouping features a handful of teams that have had successful seasons to date.
The Longhorns boys (11-2, 2-1 Region 7-AAAA) have the second-most total wins but sit behind four squads that are unblemished in region play. Third-ranked Chattahoochee (8-1, 3-0), Northwest Whitfield (8-3, 2-0) and Creekview (8-6, 4-0) are all off to good starts, and Woodland (Bartow) (13-0, 3-0) is one of just four undefeated Class AAAA teams.
Lambert’s region victories have come against Johns Creek and South Forsyth — two squads which have yet to win a region game. But the Horns’ Lanier Christmas Tournament championship has them confident they can hang with the top teams.
“If we can continue to share the basketball and play together, we have the chance at hopefully making a run for a region championship this year,” coach Derrick DeWitt said after his team’s 69-61 title game victory over Lanier. “It would be great, and I think our boys have the talent and teamwork to do it.”
Both South (3-8, 0-3) and Forsyth Central (7-6, 0-3) require serious turnarounds if they hope to finish in the top half of the 11-team region. The War Eagles have lost seven of their last eight contests, and the Bulldogs have dropped six of their last seven.
The Lambert girls (9-4, 3-0) join No. 4 Creekview (12-2, 4-0) and Sequoyah (5-9, 3-0) at the top of the 7-AAAA girls standings, thanks in large part to forward Christina Johnson’s scoring expertise. Six teams in the region are .500 or better, and 2010-11 state final four participant Chattahoochee is off to a 2-9 start.
Both Lambert teams will be tested Friday with games at Creekview.
The Forsyth Central girls (10-3, 2-1), seeking their third consecutive state tournament berth, have also started well. Their region mark matches that of Johns Creek and Rome, and the Lady Bulldogs can separate themselves with a win over the Lady Gladiators Friday.
South (5-6, 1-2) could also make a push, but that hinges upon the development of younger players and the health of do-it-all guard Kristie Mason, who’s worked through a concussion this season but is 100 percent heading into the War Eagles’ game at Hooch Friday, coach Keith Gravitt said.
“I think we’ve got a very solid region that we’re playing in,” Gravitt said. “I think especially when you’re talking about seeding for the region tournament, the last couple weeks of the regular season could have a big impact. It’s going to be an interesting race.”
Pinecrest Academy hasn’t played any Region 5B-A games yet, but the school’s second year of GHSA hoops isn’t shaping up to be a pretty one.
The Paladins boys (2-8 overall) are the only 5B-A team with a losing record, and the Lady Paladins (0-11) will face two squads — Wesleyan and St. Francis — ranked in the top four of Class A.
Pinecrest's first subregion games (boys and girls) are Jan. 13 against Mount Pisgah.
Follow Phil Ervin on Twitter @PhilErvin_FCN