0

GHSA girls state tournament basketball capsules (includes today's girls schedule)

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

Class AAAA

BAINBRIDGE:

Seed: Region 1, No. 3.

Record: 24-3.

Opponent: Region 4, No. 2 Forest Park (20-5).

When/Where: 4 p.m. today at Forest Park.

What: First round of state playoffs.

Game analysis: You probably could've put your house, car and entire savings account on the fact that Bainbridge would emerge from the Region 1-AAAA Tournament as at LEAST a No. 2 seed -- and all signs would've pointed to it being the lock of the century. But as everyone knows, that's not how it turned out as Bainbridge was stunned by Lee County -- a team it had beaten handily twice in the regular season -- in the region semis, for just their third loss all year. There's no question the Lady Bearcats have been the best team in Southwest Georgia all season, but curiously enough, they struggle when they leave the confines of their own backyard. Their three losses have come at Thomasville (Christmas tournament), at Colquitt County and in Macon against Lee. Now they go on the road to face a seriously tough opponent in Forest Park, which has only lost five times all season after starting 10-0. The good news for Bainbridge? Forest Park is struggling as of late, having lost three of those five games in the last month, including the region finals to Dutchtown.

X-factor: Bainbridge's Alexis Burke. Who else, right? Burke, an Illinois signee, is arguably the best player in the area along with Randolph-Clay's Destiny Mitchell, and can simply change a game -- for better or for worse. Her presence was missing for much of the final quarter in that upset loss to Lee as she fouled out, but just before that, Burke came back from foul trouble with four fouls and scored eight points in a row to give Bainbridge back the lead. But when she fouled out, they lost the lead -- and the game. Burke hasn't been stopped really by anyone she's played against this season, but when she's off the floor, the entire Lady Bearcats team suffers big time.

If win: Will play the winner of Region 3, No. 2 Hephzibah and Region 2, No. 3 Effingham County on Wednesday.

-------------------------------------

Class AAA

MONROE:

Seed: Region 1, No. 4.

Record: 11-14.

Opponent: Region 4, No. 1 Rutland.

When/Where: 4 p.m. today, Macon (22-6).

What: First round of state playoffs.

Game analysis: Rutland has both size and speed, whether its their twin stars Shaquita and Shaketa Hodges -- or the big girls who play down low. Monroe is not a big team, meanwhile, but has a defense that can shut most anyone down when its on. Monroe enters on a two-game losing streak, while Rutland has won six of its last seven, including the region title.

X-factor: Monroe's offense. The defense is what has won the Lady Tornadoes games this year, but its inability to score sometimes has been its Achilles heel. Between Shaniqua Young, Lakeisha Jackson and Davone Anduze, they've all had big games this season, but sometimes it comes in a loss. When Monroe gets solid offensive games from these three, or even two, the Lady Tornadoes are tough to beat.

Coach says: Monroe's Cheryl Cheeks "We're just preparing for the game by letting our defense be the main focus. If our defenders can contain them, I (like our) chances. The girls are focused and ready."

If win: Will play the winner of Region 3, No. 2 Baldwin and Region 2, No. 3 LaGrange on Wednesday.

-------------------------------

WESTOVER:

Seed: Region 1, No. 1.

Record: 23-3.

Opponent: Region 4, No. 4 Jackson, Atlanta. (18-8).

When/Where: 6 p.m. today, Westover.

What: First round of state playoffs.

Game analysis: Championship seasons are often times defined by teams that comes in the hottest at the right time -- just ask the New York Giants of a few years ago, which beat the previously unbeaten, 18-0 New England Patriots in the Super Bowl after barely making the postseason. The Westover Lady Patriots, meanwhile, resemble a little of both: They're like the Giants in that they're as hot as anyone right now, winning 12 in a row, while they're like the N.E. Patriots in that they're the ONE team that a lot of the rest of Class AAA is afraid of playing. Of course, this matchup is even more intriguing considering Jackson probably shouldn't even be a road team in the first round of state after it dominated Region 4 all season, only to get upset in the region tournament -- twice -- last week. Westover can't overlook anyone, especially this team.

X-factor: Westover's DyTiesha Dunson. This honor could go to any number of girls for the-talented-across-the-board Lady Patriots -- like Latisha Williams, Ieshia Young, Danielle Glover or Cessily Colwell -- but ultimately the big scoring games this year have belonged to Dunson. Defense wins championships, yes. But against a high-scoring dangerous team like Jackson, it may take a 30-point game from Dunson, or one of the other aforementioned, to advance.

If win: Will play the winner of Region 2, No. 2 Northside, Columbus and Region 3, No. 3 Richmond Hill on Wednesday.

--------------------------------------

Class AA

MITCHELL COUNTY

Seed: Region 1, No. 2.

Record: 17-7.

Opponent: Region 4, No. 3 Putnam (19-9).

When/Where: 6 p.m. today, Camilla.

What: First round of state playoffs.

Game analysis: In addition to Westover and Randolph-Clay, Mitchell County is straight streaking into the postseason, having its 10-game win streak snapped in the region title game by Thomasville, while Putman is 3-2 in its last five games. That gives the momentum advantage to the Lady Eagles, not to mention the homecourt advantage in Camilla, where the fans vigorously support their team and make it tough for any opponent to play.

X-factor: Mitchell County's Tiona Burley on defense. Burley has been on a tear since coming back from a midseason suspension, posting double-doubles like nobody's business. However, when she has big games defensively in addition to her 25-point, 11-rebound game average, the Lady Eagles win far often than they lose, as coach Rosemary Sanders points out.

Coach says: Mitchell's Sanders: "We need Tiona to have a 10-or-11-block game and really turn it up defensively (tonight). Putnam is good, but I don't think they don't have anyone who can match her offensively, so she will have to play tough defense on their best post player (No. 24 Brianna Rocker) and shut her down."

If win: Will play the winner of Region 2, No. 1 Appling County and Region 3, No. 4 Swainsboro on Wednesday.

-----------------------------------

ALBANY

Seed: Region 1, No. 3.

Record: 11-10.

Opponent: Region 4, No. 2 Northeast Macon (24-3).

When/Where: 4 p.m. today, Macon.

What: First round of state playoffs.

Game analysis: The Squaws got a really tough draw with three-loss Northeast Macon in the first round after NE had been the best team in its region all year, only to get upset by Henry County in the region title game. However, all season, Albany has shown up big time in big games and pushed many of the area's best teams to the brink, even in losses. With Northeast coming off a tough loss, all the Squaws may have to do is frustrate them early and jump out to a lead and hold on for the upset.

X-factor: Kizzie Coleman and Chasity Mullins. Looking back at the Squaws' wins this season, these two are the common denominators. If it's not Coleman, then its Mullins leading the way on the box score. Most recently is was Mullins, grabbing 13 rebounds and scoring 15 points in a region tourney win against Early County. But they can't keep taking turns. If the two can find a way to both post huge games simultaneously, Northeast could watch its amazing season end to a lower seed.

If win: Will play the winner of Region 3, No. 1 Vidalia and Region 2, No. 4 Brantley County on Wednesday.

-----------------------------

Class A

RANDOLPH-CLAY:

Seed: Region 1, No. 1.

Record: 24-3.

Opponent: Region 4, No. 4 Hancock Central (12-16).

When, where: 6 p.m. at Randolph-Clay

Analysis: On an 11-game winning streak, the Randolph-Clay girls -- on paper -- are a massive mismatch vs. Hancock Central when you consider Central has limped into the playoffs, losing four of its last five. But Central reached the Class A Elite 8 last season and will only be able to make another run if it can shut down the stunning offense of the Lady Red Devils, who jumped from No. 5 to No. 2 in the latest state poll and haven't lost a game in 48 days.

X-Factor: Randolph-Clay's defense. You thought it would be Destiny Mitchell, right? Wrong. Sure, Mitchell is one of the hottest recruits in the nation right now, averaging 30 points a game while playing a huge role in the Lady Red Devils reaching three straight Final Fours. But when Mitchell started carrying too much of the load this season without help from her teammates -- she scored 53 points in a game against Bainbridge ... and LOST -- coach Jennifer Acree retooled the team's approach and made it more about defense than offense. Since then, other players have stepped up offensively -- like Asha Alexander, Sheresa Vaughn and Shamara Stevens -- while R-C has gone on a tear following their last loss Jan. 9 vs. Westover. And they did it with a perfect complement of offense and defense, outscoring their last 11 opponents by a combined 805-356. That's right ... 805-356. That revamped defense, meanwhile, was on bright display in their 80-33 rout of Seminole County in the No. 1 vs. No. 2 Region 1-A title game.

Coach says: Randolph-Clay's Acree: "The bottom line is that (Hancock) has to stop us, not the other way around. We've been playing so well defensively and our offense is really kicking in. Our confidence is just so high right now. Plus, we have the experience (factor) on our side. I have five seniors who all went to the Final Four last year and if I had to compare last year to this year, I'd definitely say that we're playing better ball at this point this year than we were last year. ''

If win: Will play the winner of Region 2, No.2 Dooly County and Region 3, No. 3 Savannah Christian on Wednesday.

------------------------------------------

Seminole County

Seed: Region 1, No. 2.

Record: 12-6.

Opponent: Region 4, No. 3 Wilkinson County (12-15).

When, where: 6 p.m. in Donalsonville.

Analysis: Two different kind of Seminole County teams can come out tonight: The one that is still hanging its head from an 80-33 beatdown by Randolph-Clay in the region title game last week, or one that is simply hopping mad -- about getting beat, 80-33 -- and ready to take out some frustration. Going by records and program history alone, Seminole County -- which has now reached nine consecutive state tournaments, including this year's -- has the edge, having been in this spot many times before. But the Lady Indians -- while a talented bunch -- have struggled against certain types of opponents this year, losing three times to R-C, twice to Lee County and once in a fairly big upset to Pelham. But that's also part of the good news: they've beaten everyone else.

X-Factor: The supporting cast around Seminole County's Carrie Washington. Washington, the team's leading scorer at 18 points a game, would be the "X-Factor" on any other occasion. But with Washington still nursing a sore ankle coming in tonight -- "She practiced this week, but it's still REAL tender," Lady Indians coach Jesse McLeod said -- the rest of the girls around Washington will have to carry the load. Washington is going to play, but one thing's for certain: she won't be anywhere near 100 percent.

Coach says: Seminole's McLeod. "We know that Wilkinson is very athletic and really gets after it on defense. They like to crash the boards and run on offense. (With Carrie still hurt) the rest of the girls know its on them to step it up. But it won't be just one person. We've got a rotation of seven who know what they have to do if Carrie isn't (100 percent)."

If win: Meets the winner of Region 2, No. 1 Taylor County and Region 3, No. 4 Bryan County on Wednesday.