ALBANY -- It's not a matter of who's who as much as it's a matter of who's where right now as every GHSA basketball team gets ready to make a run at the region this week.
That regular season that looked so long and winding is gone, and all that matters now is what teams do this week, because the top four teams in the region tournaments advance to the state playoffs. Everyone else goes home.
Some teams -- such as Westover's boys and girls teams and Monroe's boys -- have already been guaranteed a berth in the state playoffs.
"That's why it's so important to Finnish in the top two in the region (during the regular season). It means you are going to the state tournament,'' said Westover girls coach Lewis Smith, whose team has been ranked No. 1 in The Herald for most of the year.
The Lady Patriots claimed the top spot in the Region 1-AAA race last Friday with a win against No. 2 Americus-Sumter and both the Lady Patriots and Lady Panthers won't have to play until the region semifinals on Thursday. If they both win they meet Friday for the title.
"We could play them again in the final,'' said Americus-Sumter coach Evelyn Wright, stating what most girls basketball fans believe will take place.
There are plenty of basketball fans in Albany who are anticipating another showdown between the Monroe boys and the Westover boys, who could meet in the Region 1-AAA final on Friday night. They went 1-2 in the region race with Westover edging out The Herald No. 1 ranked Tornadoes. Westover split its two games against Monroe, winning the decisive matchup last Tuesday in the Civic Center, 51-47, to win the top seed in the region with a 10-2 record. Monroe, which was upset by Worth and Cairo, finished at 9-3.
That win also gave Westover the choice to host the semifinals and finals of the Region 1-AAA tournament, and the Patriots took it. There was speculation the tournament title games might be held at the Civic Center, where high school basketball flourished this year as it returned to Albany's biggest stage. But Westover wants the home court.
"It's important,'' said Westover boys coach Dallis Smith, whose team beat Monroe for the title last year at Westover in a rubber match of the 2010 three-game series. "The players want to play here. They're familiar with the gym. You want to be at home.''
His players all but shouted that sentiment after they beat Monroe.
"You have to go through the Boston Garden,'' said Daquan Green, referring to Westover's gym, which is affectionately known for legendary coach Willie Boston.
The Region 1-AAA tournament starts today with play-in games. Worth's girls meet Cairo and Worth's boys face Americus-Sumter today. The winners advance to the second round, which will be held at Dougherty.
Dougherty's boys and girls both captured the No. 3 seeds, and they will meet the winners of the play-in games. Tuesday's games at Dougherty begin at 4 p.m with the Monroe girls facing Crisp County.
At 5:30 p.m. Cairo's boys face Crisp County at Dougherty, then at 7 p.m. the Dougherty girls play the winner of today's Worth-Cairo game.
The finale at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday will feature Dougherty's boys facing the winner of today's Worth-Americus-Sumter game.
Tuesday's winners at Dougherty advance to Thursday's semifinals at Westover, where four games will be played, starting at 4 p.m. The consolation games will be played Friday at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and the finals will be played on Friday with the girls title game beginning at 7 p.m., followed by an 8:30 p.m. boys title game.
The Region 1-A tournament is finally here after much discussion, a few arguments, a reversal of a previous decision and a couple of coin flips.
"There was a lot of talking arguing and we changed the format because the region executive committee voted to change it,'' said Pelham AD Jim Morrell, who heads the region. "They voted to change Wednesday's (host site) to Randolph-Clay. It was a 3-2 vote.''
The original plan was to have the top girls team in the south host Wednesday's all girl slate of games, but the region executive committee changed that format, allowing the top girls team in the north to host on Wednesday.
The idea was to keep the tournament host sites based entirely on a north-south format. The region had already decided that the top boys team in the north would play host to Thursday's all boys round, and that the top overall team in the north would host the semifinals on Friday and the finals on Saturday . The only change was to allow the top girls team in the north to host the Wednesday girls round of games.
Next year the format will turn to the south, and the top overall team in the south end of the region will host the finals, the top south boys team will host the all-boys semifinals and the top south girls team will host the all-girls quarterfinal round.
The Region 1-A tournament begins today with play-in games. Quitman and Stewart meet in the girls play-in game, and Quitman and Webster meet in the boys play-in game.
All of Tuesday's games will be at Terrell County. Miller's boys meet the play-in winner at 4 p.m. and Calhoun County's boys face Baker County at 7 p.m. Miller County's girls meet the play-in winner at 5:30 p.m. and Terrell County's girls face Baker County at 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday's games are all girls quarterfinals games at Randolph-Clay, which is the No. 1 seed in the north.
Seminole meets Webster at 4 p.m. and Calhoun County plays Mitchell County at 5:30 p.m. Pelham, the op-seeded girls team in the south, opens against the winner of the Terrell County-Baker game at 7 p.m. Randolph-Clay meets the winner of the Miller County-play-in winner game at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
Thursday's games are all boys quarterfinals and they will be played at Terrell County. Pelham plays Stewart at 4 p.m., and Randolph-Clay faces Seminole at 5:30 p.m. Mitchell County, the top seeded boys team in the south, opens play at 7 p.m. against the Calhoun-Baker winner, and Terrell County, ranked No. 3 in The Herald and No. 4 in the Class A state poll, opens its defense of the region title 8:30 p.m. against the survivor of the Miller County-play-in winner game.
The semifinals for both girls and boys will be at Terrell County on Friday, with the girls semifinals at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. and the boys semifinals at 5:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Saturday's action begins with the girls consolation game at 4 p.m. followed by the boys consolation at 5:30 p.m. The girls final starts at 7 p.m. and the boys title game begins at 8:30 p.m.