High School Sports

High school basketball playoffs: Kendrick, Hardaway look to stay alive in quarterfinals

When the Kendrick girls defeated Greater Atlanta Christian 61-59 on Friday, it was only the third time all season the Lady Cherokees had failed to win by at least 10 points.

That’s more a result of the quality of Kendrick’s opponent than of any shortcoming of its own.

While the impressive victory instills confidence that the Lady Cherokees (29-0) can handle the tests postseason basketball presents, coach Sterling Hicks, who already had confidence they could do it, said he’s just fine with winning the way they have all season.

“Each team poses different problems, so we don’t want to make a living out of having close games,” he said. “We’re just trying to move on one step at a time, though.”

The next step comes on Tuesday, when Kendrick hosts defending Class AA champion Lovett. While the Lady Lions (16-12) haven’t performed at the level they did a year ago, Hicks is well aware of the challenge his team will face.

“Lovett’s going to be more than a formidable opponent,” he said, noting the strength it has at both post and guard positions. “It’s the same type of challenge GAC was. It comes from one of the most talented regions in the state. All the teams that come out of there are good. We look forward to the challenge.”

Hicks said that his team his still young — none of its starters are seniors — and it’s a challenge to remain humble when you’ve had so much success throughout the season.

As the team goes through the process, it needs to continue to improve on some things that could potentially hold it back.

“We need to improve on our free throw shooting,” Hicks said, noting that was something the team didn’t excel at on Friday. “Our shooting wasn’t as good as it normally is, so we’d like to do better there. If we can take some better shots, we should be fine.”

Kendrick is one of just two remaining unbeaten teams in Class AA. A win against Lovett would put the Lady Cherokees into the semifinals for the first time since 2010.

Hardaway faces test against Forest Park

After a forgettable first-round game in which Hardaway struggled in an overtime win against Whitewater, the Lady Hawks (19-10) played well against Evans to advance to the Class AAAAA quarterfinals.

Coach Kendall Mills said that once the first-round jitters were gone, the team was able to come together and play its normal style of basketball.

Still, the run it’s on has exceeded even Mills’ expectations.

“Honestly, I didn’t come in with a lot of expectations for this team,” he said. “I didn’t know who the leader was going to be, and for us to make it to the second round was a huge accomplishment. Now, I’m enjoying the ride and hoping the girls are too.”

Mills said he isn’t putting a lot of pressure on his team to advance to the semifinals for the first time since 2006-07 and second time in school history.

They’re just focused on Forest Park (24-7), which will be a big enough challenge as it is.

The team is big (“bigger than us,” Mills said) and athletic.

“What they do, they do well,” Mills said. “They do it over and over to try and break you. Hopefully, we can break their rhythm a little bit and make them play our style of basketball.”

With the game being played at home, Mills said his team will have the added advantage of a home crowd. That, he hopes, should help his girls stay calm.

“We don’t have a ton of pressure on us,” he said. “We know we’ve come a long way, and we’re just trying to get past Forest Park (on Tuesday). If we can do that, the rest will take care of itself.”

David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports