Thursday, February 9, 2017

Ours is a basektball town. A look at all the ranked teams in Friday's region tournament championship and semifinal games proves it.

In three area high school gyms Friday, eight region tournament championship and semifinal round boys and girls games will be played, and 10 of the 16 teams in action are ranked in Georgia's top ten in their respective classes. One may say we are playing the state playoffs here in the Augusta area before the state tournament even begins next week!

Of course, AugBball will bring as many highlights and updates as you could ever wish to see from all of the championship week action. Here is a run down of what is ahead, along with a look back at some of the games this week that have led to this weekend's climax:

#5 Lakeside vs #9 Heritage, Round 3
Class AAAAAA, Region 3 Championship Game

Lakeside has no fewer than five players who can manufacture a win for first year coach Jeff Williams, who has guided the Panthers to a 20-4 overall record and a spotless 11-0 run through region play so far. Thursday's semifinal win over Greenbrier was not the only game I've seen in which senior Kre'Sean Hall made the ultimate difference in the outcome. But it may have been the most important one:

Lakeside swept a pair of regular season games against Heritage. The Panthers clinched the regular season region championship at home on January 31 when sophomore Kalen Williams (26 points) and senior Deon Berrien (18) danced their way to a 74-71 win to the roaring approval of their classmates in the stands:

#5 Richmond vs #10 Baldwin
Class AAAA, Region 3 Championship Game 

It took Baldwin coach and Augusta native Buck Harris less than 18 months to take the 3 win team he inherited when he left Laney to a region championship game. And if his trip to Augusta Friday from Milledgeville to compete against long time coaching foe Steve Nobles, himself the leader of a perennial state title contender, is as exciting as this season's first region game between Richmond and Baldwin, we will be in for a treat!

Baldwin repaid Richmond in Milledgeville weeks later, handing the Musketeers their only region loss. We can be sure that two of the town's best coaches who have piled up many of the most notable postseason wins we've seen in the last decade will have their teams in top form for Friday's championship showdown.

#1 Cross Creek vs Richmond
Class AAAA, Region 3 Championship Game

Memphis signee Alana Davis has been the area's most dominant player for two seasons running. The Lady Razorbacks rolled through region play undefeated, much like they did in Thursday's semifinal game against Burke County:

But Richmond's scoring machine Jasmine Robinson, a Troy signee who has scored over 2,000 career points and who went for 50 in a game this season, has proven she can do things others simply cannot. Friday she and her Lady Musketeer teammates will get the chance to shock us all by attempting to knock off the state's top team. Watch Jasmine (in the first three clips of the video below) work against Baldwin in Thursday's semifinal win:

#6 Butler vs #9 Josey
Class AA, Region 4 Semifinals

The Bulldogs and Eagles have an endless rivalry and both teams will seemingly always be fixtures in the region and state tournament picture. Josey handed Butler one of its two league losses during the regular season. So there is no reason to believe the Eagles cannot knock off the top seeded Bulldogs Friday at Laney. Josey certainly looked ready Wednesday, knocking off Glenn Hills in the quarterfinal round:

#1 Laney vs Westside
Class AA, Region 4 Semifinals

The most dominant high school team on this area's Georgia's side did this the last time I saw them in action against a region foe, and I expect much the same from the Lady Wildcats this weekend:

#3 Aquinas vs First Presbyterian (in Macon)
Class A, Region 7 Semifinals

Aquinas sports a 23-1 record and it may be the area's best team. It may also have the best fans. Evidence in support of both points can be found in Wednesday's report from the Fighting Irish's quarterfinal round win over Twiggs County at Aquinas:

#7 Grovetown vs Heritage
Class AAAAAA, Region 3 Championship Game

The Lady Warriors made quick work of Evans Thursday:

#3 Laney vs Westside
Class AA, Region 4 Semifinals

Westside's leader Justin Phillips told me last Saturday (see video below) that he has had Laney on his mind since last season when the Wildcats topped the Patriots in the region championship game:

I understand why Phillips remembers the game so vividly. I do too. It was a great one and it is the type of game you will see if you visit Laney, Cross Creek, or Evans tomorrow. Or if you tune in to @AugBball!

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