This is the week the number of local high school basketball teams still playing drops.
How many will make the state tournament? Three? Five? Seven?
It can’t be all of them, but the state postseason realists will emerge and pretenders will search for moral victories after falling short of continuing their seasons. Last season included six teams making the state tournament — both the boys and girls teams from Dalton, North Murray and Northwest Whitfield — and four of the teams hosting in the first round. Only North Murray’s boys advanced beyond the opening round, though.
The area’s postseason representation this year could be just as strong. The Region 7-4A tournament continues today as Dalton’s girls, the No. 4 seed from Sub-region 7B-4A, take on Sub-region 7A No. 5 seed Cedartown at 4 p.m. at Cass High School in Cartersville. Southeast Whitfield’s boys, who beat Ridgeland to keep their season alive, will face Cass at 8:30 p.m. today.
If Southeast wins, it faces 7B’s top seed, Northwest Whitfield, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in a winner-clinches-state matchup. Dalton’s boys, 7B’s second seed, have the same fate at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday against Pickens.
Southeast’s girls, 7B’s No. 3 seed, face 7A No. 2 seed Gilmer at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Northwest’s girls, the sub-region champs, will face the Ridgeland-Cass winner at 4 p.m. Wednesday. Both games are for state tournament berths.
Then it’s onto the semifinals. The boys teams from Dalton and Northwest shared the sub-region championship — the Bruins earned the top seed via a coin flip — after splitting the season series, and the earliest they could play is Saturday in either the region championship or third-place game.
The Region 5-3A tournament begins Wednesday at Cartersville, where the boys and girls teams from Coahulla Creek and North Murray all are seeded no better than fifth and must pull an upset to advance to the state postseason. The brackets weren’t finalized and reported to The Daily Citizen as of Sunday night, but North Murray’s boys clinched the No. 5 seed.
The Region 7-2A tournament begins today with three local teams in action. Murray County’s boys will play Morris Innovative at 4 p.m. at Calhoun High in an elimination game. The winner advances to face the top seed in the second round. Murray County’s girls host Coosa at 7 p.m.
The Region 6-A tournament begins today, too, and both Christian Heritage teams will try to advance to the second round. The girls play Mount Paran Christian at 4 p.m. at Darlington School in Rome. If the Lady Lions win, they play again Wednesday. The boys play Walker-Marietta at 8:30 p.m. at the same location, and a Lions win means they play again Tuesday. A full bracket was not finalized and sent to The Daily Citizen by Sunday night.
For a full breakdown of the region tournament schedules for local teams, visit the prep schedule on page 3B.
• Aside from region basketball, this weekend also is about local wrestlers vying for state glory. A total of 13 local high school grapplers qualified for the state tournaments in Class 2A, 3A and 4A and will begin Thursday at the Gwinnett Center in Duluth.
Northwest has five wrestlers in the finals, while Southeast has three. Dalton and Murray County each sport two, and Coahulla Creek has one representative.
Of the 13, only Dalton’s Sidney Wheeler is a former state champion.
• This week also is the first chance for local soccer teams to play official matches, and we start with a local-versus-local look.
Coahulla Creek hosts Murray County today with the girls playing at 5 p.m. and boys at 7 p.m. Both boys teams made the state postseason a year ago — Murray County in Class 2A and Coahulla Creek in Class 3A — and a win to begin the season would be a nice momentum builder for either side.
Dalton’s boys, the Class 4A defending state champs, will begin their season in Sub-region 7B play on the road Thursday against Ridgeland. The girls start at 5 p.m. with the boys at 7 p.m. Southeast’s teams begin Tuesday at Gordon Central with the girls starting at 5 p.m. The boys, the runners-up in Class 4A last season, play at 7 p.m.
And Northwest’s boys, who reached the semifinals, were scheduled to play Thursday against an old rival, Rome. However, the game may be moved to a later date, if played at all.
• Listen to the last in a series of two-part episodes of The Daily Citizen’s “After Deadline” sports podcast this week. Fellow sports writer Chris Whitfield and I will decide the greatest sports movie ever between “Bull Durham,” “Field of Dreams,” “For Love of the Game” and the original “Rocky.” Also, we’ll talk about the region basketball tournaments — and predict who would win if the boys teams at Dalton and Northwest played a third time.
Devin Golden is a sports writer for The Daily Citizen. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenDev or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org