Region 1-AAAA boys standings
ALBANY — With six of the eight Region 1-AAAA boys basketball teams separated by just two games in the region standings, the next two weeks will go a long way in determining seedings for next month’s region tournament.
And the separation between teams could begin as early as Friday, when all eight teams face off in Region 1-AAAA matchups.
“It’s a bottleneck right now,” Crisp County coach Terry Smith said. “The next two weeks, it’s going to get really interesting. This is the time of year when it boils down to who can make stops and who can play the best defense. It’s going to boil down to kids making plays.”
Smith’s Cougars are right in the middle of the logjam with a 3-3 region record. Above them sits Herald No. 5 Albany (4-2) and No. 1 Westover (3-2) and below them are Monroe (3-3), Dougherty (2-3) and Cairo (2-4). Worth County has pulled away from the pack and is in first place at 6-0, while Americus-Sumter has struggled to an 0-6 region record.
But all of that will start to change this weekend when each team wraps up the first half of their region schedules.
On Friday, Westover hosts Dougherty, Albany travels to Cairo, Worth County hosts Monroe and Americus-Sumter plays at Crisp County. On Saturday, the Albany Civic Center will host Albany vs. Dougherty and Westover vs. Monroe.
“A lot will be decided in the next two weeks,” Westover coach Dallis Smith said. “People are going to start making adjustments, so you have to be ready for every game. You have to be prepared for every game you play.”
Smith’s Patriots, the defending region champs, missed out on a chance to jump into first place in the region with a loss to Worth County on Tuesday, but region coaches were quick to label Westover as the favorite to emerge from the middle of the pack and snag a Top 2 seed in the region tournament, which will be played the second week of February.
“They will stay the champs until somebody knocks them off,” Terry Smith said. “They have been there and have great tradition. They are still the team to beat.”
Dallis Smith is just fine with the spotlight and the pressure.
“If we play like we are capable, I do think we would be the favorites,” he said. “But you have to come and be ready to play. You have to be mentally ready every game.”
It’s the mental part of the game that Dougherty interim coach Ty Hayes says will make the difference as teams fight for the region’s four spots in the state playoffs.
“It will come down to mental toughness and discipline,” Hayes said. “It’s probably neck-and-neck as far as talent goes. Each team can play on any given night. I think the team that makes a push for it in the end will be the most disciplined team.”
For Terry Smith, whose Cougars won their first region title in school history in 2012, it would be an honor to emerge from the pack and hoist another trophy.
“This is the best league in south Georgia basketball,” he said. “I know Tift and Valdosta might have something to say about that, but year-in and year-out this is one of the best regions in south Georgia.
“And it’s tight like this every year. These next couple of weeks are going to separate some things.”