As we reach the sorta, kinda, halfway point of the high school basketball season, four regions in the Northeast Georgia area have gotten underway, and the leaders on the girls side in more than half of them are not who you would have expected.
In Region 8-4A, which is subdivided, Cherokee Bluff (9-1, 3-0 Region 8-4A) is the only undefeated team left on the western side while Walnut Grove (9-2, 3-0 Region 8-4A) is the only unbeaten left on the eastern side of the region. The Lady Bears, who returned just one starter coming into the season, finished sixth in Region 7-3A a year ago and the nine wins are just two short of last season’s entire win total.
Bluff coach Lindsay Justice said they couldn't have asked for a better start. But she also knows it's early.
"We are happy with where we are right now, but we are also very aware that some of our toughest games are ahead of us," Justice said. "We don’t want to get complacent or satisfied, because there is more to be accomplished."
In the already hotly-contested Region 7-3A, White County (12-2, 3-0 Region 7-3A) is the only team left with an unblemished record. Defending state champion Lumpkin County (10-1, 3-1 Region 7-3A) is in second with Dawson County (7-4, 2-1 Region 7-3A) and Pickens (12-1, 2-1 Region 7-3A) tied for third. Wesleyan, the only team to knock off Lumpkin County, is 7-1 overall and 1-1 in Region 7-3A. White County (2nd), Wesleyan (3rd), Lumpkin County (4th), and Pickens (6th) all are ranked in the top 10 in the latest Kyle Sandy poll.
White County coach Jarvis Davenport intimated that it's not how you start, it's, well we know the rest.
"We've made a few plays down the stretch of games that has put us in a pretty good position early in region play," he said. "Continuing to improve and how well we make adjustments down the road will determine how we finish."
As the surprise team early, Dawson County coach Will Anglin said they have a long road to go and can't stop to look at where they are at the moment.
"Just gotta keep our heads down, and keep working," Anglin said. "This region is too good to start looking at the standings. We gotta compete every game, and get into a position to win one game in the region tournament."
Region 8-5A opened its region schedule last week with two surprise teams -- Jefferson and Loganville -- jumping out to quick 2-0 starts. The Lady Dragons (3-7, 2-0 Region 8-5A) beat Winder-Barrow and Flowery Branch. The Lady Falcons (7-4, 1-1 Region 8-5A) beat Clarke Central in their region opener and sit fourth in the early going.
In Region 8-A Division 2, Towns County (4-4, 2-0 Region 8-A D2) sits one-half game behind Greene County, who is 3-0 in the early going.
The rest of the regions housing Northeast Georgia area programs -- 8-7A, 8-6A, 8-2A, 8-A Division 1 -- are scheduled to begin after the New Year, while the previous four will get into the meat of their region schedules.