Twelve Columbus area teams will participate in the first round of the GHSA basketball playoffs this weekend. Of the dozen boys and girls teams, only three are hosting their games.
Two of them are from Carver.
The Lady Tigers and Tigers captured their region tournament titles and were rewarded with a chance to play at home. The girls kick off the playoff frenzy against Baldwin on Friday, followed by the boys facing Burke County on Saturday.
Lady Tigers head coach Anson Hundley said the biggest challenge for teams prior to the playoffs is focusing on themselves, not so much the upcoming opponent. Once all the wrinkles are ironed out for your team, the chances of advancing go up.
“We train all year for this time of year,” Hundley said. “Physically, we’re prepared. I think it comes down more to the mental, because it’s such a long season. Sometimes, kids tend to get a little weary or a little tired. We have to fall back on what we’ve worked on throughout the year.”
As one of the few teams in the area playing on its home court, Carver holds a true advantage going into these games. The Lady Tigers have made the most of their home slate recently, having only lost twice there in the last two seasons.
“Our home crowd usually shows up in good numbers,” Hundley said. “They’re very supportive of the girls and are always screaming for them and giving them that support that they need. We definitely play well at home.”
The Lady Tigers are surging as they start the playoffs. The team left the region tournament with a 22-4 record and are riding a seven-game win streak.
That success, however, means nothing at this point. Hundley is the first to make that clear.
“The biggest thing is understanding that we don’t have a second chance,” Hundley said. “We don’t have a chance to say, ‘We’ll get to play them again,’ like you can do in the regular season. We have to bring our A-game every game.”
Here is the slate of first-round games on Friday and Saturday:
Friday, February 17
Class AAAA Girls: Baldwin at Carver, 6:00 p.m.
The Lady Tigers’ opponent in the first round is a Baldwin team which Hundley said is better than its deceiving fourth spot in its region.
“They have some good ball handlers and some good shooters,” Hundley said. “They do some pressing. It’s a tough region over there, and they just ended up getting that bottom number.”
Carver showed throughout the season that it was capable to make a deep run come February, but actually doing so is now the challenge at hand. Hundley said as long as his players don’t allow Baldwin to change the pace of the game, the Lady Tigers have a great chance to extend their season.
“I think it’s going to take just us doing what we do, playing aggressively and up-tempo and keeping the ball going up and down the floor,” Hundley said. “We can’t get into a half-court, slow, methodical game because we just don’t have the size for that.”
Class AAAA Girls: Shaw at Academy of Richmond County, 6:00 p.m.
Class AAAA Girls: Burke County at Columbus, 6:00 p.m.
Class AAA Girls: Kendrick at Pierce County, 6:00 p.m.
Class A Girls: Manchester at Wilcox County, 6:00 p.m.
Class AAAAA Girls: Harris County at McIntosh, 7:00 p.m.
Class AAAA Boys: Shaw at Academy of Richmond County, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, February 18
Class AAA Boys: Kendrick at Liberty County, 3:00 p.m.
The Cherokees start their playoff pursuit on the road against a Liberty County team that won a state championship one year ago. The Panthers enter this game with a 19-5 overall record and have won 11 straight games.
The challenge of taking down Liberty County will be a tough one for Kendrick. It will be even tougher considering the five-hour ride the team will take in order to make it to the game.
“Because of the ride over there, it’s going to be weary and tiring,” Jones said.
Jones said in order for his team to advance to the second round, the Cherokees must stick together out on the court. Otherwise, the Panthers will take full advantage.
“We’re going to have to play team basketball,” Jones said. “I’ve got some kids that are going to have to step up and play. We’re going to do our best to bring back a victory.”
Class AAAAA Boys: Harris County at Starr’s Mill, 6:00 p.m.
Class AAAA Boys: Burke County at Carver, 6:00 p.m.
Class AA Boys: Spencer at Rockmart, 6:00 p.m.
Class A Boys: Manchester at Randolph-Clay, 7:00 p.m.
Two local schools will pick up their playoff runs next week.
The Marion County girls team has a first-round bye and will play the winner of the Gordon-Lee and Wilkinson County on Wednesday at a to-be-determined time.
In Alabama, the Central girls defeated Lee-Montgomery 75-54 on Thursday and play Auburn in the Central Regional final at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday in the Acadome. The Central boys, meanwhile, beat Jefferson Davis 55-52 and face Auburn at 10:45 a.m. on Tuesday.