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Thursday February 11th, 2016 8:01AM

Basketball playoffs stay front and center in busy area sports week

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
This week will open with a bang, as six area basketball teams take to the court to battle in the GHSA quarterfinal round -- and it could end with an even louder bang if those programs progress through to this weekend's semifinal round.

The Gainesville and North Hall boys will join both Buford programs and the Dawson County and Towns County girls this week in looking to battle their way into the high school "Final Four."

And that's on top a packed slate of spring sports contests, as area baseball, golf, soccer, tennis and track teams begin to hit their stride.

Area baseball rivals North Hall and Chestatee will face-off in a non-region battle on the diamond on Monday, while Gainesville and Habersham are set to do battle on Tuesday, while Jefferson and local rival East Jackson will square off on Wednesday -- and that's just scratching the surface.

In soccer, last year's Class AAA runner-up Gainesville boys will travel to face this year's Class AAAAA preseason No. 1 McIntosh on Friday. The Red Elephants are currently No. 3 in AAAAA. Flowery Branch and West Hall will also face off on Tuesday, as will Johnson and Habersham Central.

Meanwhile, defending Class AAA boys golf champ Gainesville will tee off its season on Saturday in the Johnny Paulk Tournament at Jekyll Island, along with Class AAA challenger North Hall.

The week will also feature the Outback/War Eagle Invitational at Chestatee, including a number of area track teams.

Yet despite the onset of March this week, winter is far from complete, and basketball will still hold sway, as area teams look to continue impressive campaigns. Each will face a strong challenge -- and each will do so at home.

Tuesday's match-ups will feature girls games, with the boys quarterfinals scheduled for Wednesday.

With the exception of the Buford girls, who finished as Class AA runner-up last season, the area's representatives are back in the third round after absences -- some longer, some shorter.

The Buford boys reached this point in 2011, while the North Hall boys were last here in 2010, the Gainesville boys in 2009 -- along with the Towns County girls. The Dawson County girls, however, are breaking a 21-year absence from the quarterfinals.

Class AAA's "Elite Eight" battles will see a match-up of Region 6-AAA vs. 7-AAA, with the top two seeds from each league battling for semifinal spots.

It should be an exciting few days to say the least.

STATE QUARTERFINALS MATCH-UPS FOR AREA TEAMS:

BOYS
Class AAAAA
New Manchester at Gainesville, Wednesday

Class AAA
St. Pius X at North Hall, Wednesday
Woodward Academy at Buford, Wednesday

GIRLS
Class AAA
Decatur at Dawson County, Tuesday
St. Pius X at Buford, Tuesday

Class A Public
Claxton at Towns County, Tuesday
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