There may have been frayed nerves in the stands, but the area's boys basketball teams showed nothing but cold-blooded determination on Wednesday.
And thanks to some thrilling performances and steely nerves, the Buford, Gainesville and North Hall boys programs are all headed to Saturday's state semifinals around the state.
The Trojans and Wolves will both trek to Savannah for the Class AAA "Final Four," after North Hall fended off St. Pius X 51-44 in Gainesville and Buford battled past Woodward Academy 60-53 at home.
The Red Elephants, meanwhile, showed that they too are ready for more, overtaking New Manchester down the stretch for a 60-58 win at home in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
Gainesville will head to the campus of Kennesaw State for a semifinal showdown at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. To get there, the Red Elephants got two clutch free throws from Jikeese Ruff with nine seconds remaining and held off a last-ditch 3-point attempt from New Manchester, notching their first semifinal trip since 2009.
North Hall also proved clutch at the line on Wednesday, sinking 13 of 16 attempts against Pius, while Ebo Smith ignited the Golden Lions for 26 points. The senior guard last played in the semifinals as a freshman -- hitting some key 3-pointers along the way. Now he and his teammates will get another shot when they travel to Armstrong State for a 5:30 p.m. tip off.
On the other side of the bracket, playing in an 8:30 p.m. contest in Savannah will be region rival Buford. The Wolves returned to the semifinals after a one-year absence, knocking off Region 6-AAA champ Woodward to do so.
The three boys teams join two area girls programs, as Dawson County will also head south to Armstrong State after defeating Decatur on Tuesday. The Lady Tigers will play at 4 p.m. Saturday against Southwest Macon.
Meanwhile, the Towns County girls will also compete in the Class A public bracket on Friday, taking on Gordon-Lee at 4 p.m. at Fort Valley State in Peach County.
WEDNESDAY'S STATE PLAYOFF RESULTS
Gainesville boys 60, New Manchester 58
North Hall boys 51, St. Pius X 44
Buford boys 60, Woodward Academy 53
STATE SEMIFINAL SCHEDULE
Class AAAAA, Kennesaw State
-- 5:30 p.m. Saturday: Gainesville boys vs. Effingham County
Class AAA, Armstrong State
-- 4 p.m. Saturday: Dawson County girls vs. Southwest Macon
-- 5:30 p.m. Saturday: North Hall boys vs. Johnson, Savannah
-- 8:30 p.m. Saturday: Buford boys vs. Savannah
Class A Public, Fort Valley State
-- 4 p.m. Friday Towns County girls vs. Gordon-Lee