The state high school basketball playoffs begin Tuesday with all three Albany high schools competing in the Class AAAA playoffs, and Lee County’s boys and girls hosting postseason games in Class AAAAAA.
In Class A boys, Terrell County and Pelham will host first-round games, while Mitchell County and Quitman County will compete on the road. In Class A girls, Calhoun County and Pelham will host first-round games, while Terrell County and Seminole County travel.
The Dougherty High girls (10-8) will open the playoffs Tuesday night in Albany when they host Spalding (13-3) from Griffin. According to MaxPreps, Spalding is ranked sixth in Class AAAA.
“We are excited about hosting the first round of the state playoffs in our gym,” said Dougherty girls head coach Khadijah Ali. “We will face a very tough Spalding team. However, we are up for the challenge. Everybody is healthy and practice has been full of energy.”
The Trojan girls have a strong team as well with five players making the all-region squad. Senior Jana Lee earned first team all-region honors while Shakeria Hallman, Kaylin Thompson and Jaliyah Burns earned second-team honors. Karrington Singfield made the honorable mention list.
“We have been focusing on the little things that make a difference in a basketball game, like boxing out, rebounding and free throws, as well as preparing mentally for the game,” said Ali. “We know we have to put together four good quarters. We know we have to do it as a team and we have to play one of our best defensive games and execute on offense.
“It’s win or go home at this point,” the coach said, “honestly, we’re just not ready to go home yet.”
After losing nine of their first 10 games, the Monroe Tornadoes (8-12) won seven of their last 10 to take the third seed in Region 1-AAAA girls. They will travel to Macon to face Westside High (9-5) on Tuesday. The Tornadoes are led by first team all-region performers Kenzi Williams and Aaliyah Robinson as well as honorable mention performer Ciarra Lunsford.
“I am happy to once again be headed into the playoffs,” said Monroe head coach Jennifer Acree. “This season has been a season,” she said, “but our focus is to play hard and play together. If we can do that we can come out victorious.”
On Wednesday, boys action will take place at both Monroe High School and Dougherty. The fifth-ranked Golden Tornadoes, led by Region Coach of the Year Michael Hoffpauir and Region Player of the Year Dominik Henderson will host West Laurens (6-11) of Dublin. Other than Coach Hoffpauir and Henderson, the Tornadoes also got all-region honors from Cedric Johnson on first team and Kareem Nixon on second team.
“We are just focused on the basics,” said Hoffpauir. “We’ve gotten kind of lax on our defense late in the season, so we are working on that and we are putting up a lot of shots so that we will be able to execute on offense like we know we can.
Across town the Dougherty Trojans (12-7) will be hosting a first-round game against the Perry Panthers (8-5). The Trojans are led by first team all-region performers Jadyn Snider and Elijah West, along with all-region second-teamer Kennard Norris.
While much of the focus these days is staying healthy because of COVID-19, Dougherty coach Bakari Bryant is more focused on the mental health of his team.
“It’s not the (physical health) that concerns me,” Bryant said, “it’s the mental health, being relaxed but also staying locked in. This part of the year it’s not about your opponent. Our focus is not Perry. Our focus is on Dougherty and playing basketball.
“I always tell my guys if you love and respect basketball everything will take care of itself, but that everything is through your actions.”
“I am a believer and I incorporate that into my everyday life,” Bryant said. “Faith without works is no faith at all. I’ve been successful as a coach but I’ve been losing the spiritual battle. Not anymore.”
Westover (10-5) took the No. 3 seed in the boys Region 1-AAAA and will follow the Monroe girls to Westside (14-5) of Macon the following night.
Westover got first-team all-region honors from senior Isaac Abidde and second-team all-region honors from Shamir Wingfield and Kavon Johnson.