ALBANY -- Sherwood Christian will get its shot at payback for last year's loss in the GISA Region 3-AA championship to Tiftarea Academy.
The top-seeded Eagles advanced to the region championship game Thursday at home with a convincing 75-51 win against No. 4 seed Valwood School. Sherwood and Tiftarea meet at 8:30 p.m. tonight at Darton College.
Eagles coach Matt Ruta won't need a pre-game speech, either.
"They're our rival," Sherwood senior John Schramm said. "We'll be ready."
To get to this point, the Eagles had to deal with Valwood's Neo Banks again, while his 27-point performance against them earlier this season was still fresh on their minds.
Banks scored half of Valwood's points in the first two quarters, but couldn't keep pace with Schramm and the 3-point marksmanship of Wesley Pittman. Sherwood (18-6) used a 14-2 run to close out the first half, and when Schramm and Pittman hit back-to-back 3s before the break, the Eagles found themselves up 39-28.
"We had an 11-point lead at halftime and we pushed it (out)," said Pittman, who hit three 3s in the first half and finished with 13 points. "(Banks) is a heck of a player. He shocked us (in the last meeting). The second time we were more prepared for him."
After dropping 14 in the opening half, Banks finished with a game-high 23 points, but was the only Valiant in double figures.
"We ran three, four guys at him," Ruta said. "Derinique Daniel did a great job on him and we were able to hold him down a little in the second half."
Schramm led Sherwood with 22 points. His scrappy play, along with Pittman's high-arching 3s that splashed through the net, kept Sherwood's student section alive for most of the night.
"We feed off the crowd's energy a lot and I think that helps us, especially on the defensive end," Pittman said.
Sherwood now turns its attention to No. 2 seed Tiftarea (11-14), a team the Eagles have beaten twice already this season -- albeit by close margins each time.
"It's been tight," Rutta said of the previous games. "They got us last year in the region championship game, so I hope we come out with a little bit of energy."
TIFTAREA GIRLS 58, SGA 24:
Tiftarea's onslaught continued in the semifinals of the GISA Region 3-AA tourney after jumping out to a 27-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The Lady Panthers (24-1) advanced to play Valwood School in the region championship today at Darton College. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.
Courtney Albritton led Tiftarea with 20 points, while Shamonica Fowler added 10.
SGA, the region's No. 4 seed, trailed 39-17 at the break and could never get close. The Lady Warriors (2-21) were led by Hayley Chappell's eight points, while Kyndal Andrews finished with six in the season-ending loss.