Sunday April 21st, 2024 7:55PM

Boys basketball playoffs: Area 'Road Warriors' look for more of the same in 2nd round; Lakeview shoots for Final 4 berth in GIAA

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

Upsets were the theme for the boys during the first round of the Georgia High School Association state playoffs for northeast Georgia teams. Three of the five teams still remaining took road wins, including Region 7-3A sweeping out Region 6-3A in the opening round.

All five are back in action on Saturday in the second round, with Dawson County, Lumpkin County, and Towns County once again facing long treks as they try to continue to meander their way through their respective classifications.

In the GIAA Class 3A tournament, Lakeview Academy will take on John Milledge at First Presbyterian Day School in Macon looking for a spot in the Final Four.

The biggest surprise of the 2024 playoffs has to be Lumpkin County, which got its first playoff since 2016 with a convincing 57-37 win over Ridgeland. The Indians (16-3) have a much more difficult task ahead this time, traveling to take on No. 1-ranked and defending Class 3A state champion Sandy Creek (23-3) who hammered Stephens County, 97-42, in the first round.

Lumpkin County’s Chris Faulkner said the playoff win was a positive move as they try to continue to build the program.

“(Wednesday night) was a huge win for our guys and this program,” he said. “We came out and shot the ball extremely well early on and that set up how we played the entire game. I was most proud of how well we defended them and were able to keep their offense in check most of the night.  

“It’s special for our guys to have the chance to advance and it means a lot to this community as well. We are all excited to have the opportunity to still be playing.”

Dawson County, however, probably had the biggest upset win of the opening round, holding off Region 6-3A champion Adairsville down the stretch in a 56-48 win on the road.

It was the Tigers’ (16-13) first playoff win since 2021 and  coach Todd Cottrell felt 7-3A probably was underrated going into the playoffs. But they too have a tough assignment in No. 2 Douglass-Atlanta (15-10) in the second round in Class 3A.

"It was exciting to see our region do well in the first round,” Cottrell said. (Region) 7-3A was extremely competitive this year. Top to bottom, anyone could beat anyone on any night, which is great preparation entering tournament play.

"Gilmer has unreal size and has all the ingredients to make a deep run; Pickens has size and skill and plays really good basketball;  Lumpkin has gotten better and better as the season has progressed, plus they have one of the most talented players around (in Cal Faulkner). Hopefully we all will continue to play well and advance."

Towns County is no stranger to deep playoff runs having captured the Class A Public title in 2021. During that run, the Indians faced two monster road trips south in the quarterfinals and semifinals.

But that will be nothing compared to what they will have to experience in 2024 as the No. 4 seed out of Region 8-A Division 2. The Tigers (19-7) already dispatched Region 5-A D1 champion Twiggs County, 54-48, and now head to Manchester (18-8) in the second round.

Towns County coach Brian Hunnicutt, however, was not surprised by his group’s accomplishment. And he thinks it could be a hidden advantage in the playoffs.

“We have to be the most traveled team in the state. We never go to a region game that is less than two hours and 45 minutes away,” he said. “That makes it extremely tough to play your best basketball. However, it ultimately prepares us for the state tournament. We are not out of our element when we have to drive four-plus hours to a game: that’s just a regular week for us."

(Below is the full schedule of playoff games on Saturday for teams in the AccessWDUN coverage area.)

2nd ROUND BASKETBALL SCHEDULE, Saturday, Feb. 24
BOYS

CLASS 7A
Norcross (Region 7, Seed 2) at Buford (R8, S1), 4 p.m.

CLASS 3A
Dawson County (R7, S4) at Douglass-Atlanta (R5, S2), noon
Lumpkin County (R7, S3) at Sandy Creek (R5, S1), 2 p.m.

CLASS A DIVISION 1
Mount Pisgah girls (R6, S3) at Rabun County (R8, S1), 6 p.m.
Mt. Pisgah boys (R6, S4) at Rabun County (R8, S2), 7:30 p.m.

CLASS A DIVISION 2
Towns County (R8, S4) at Mancester (R6, S2), 6 p.m.

GIAA CLASS 3A QUARTERFINALS (at First Presbyterian, Macon)
Lakeview Academy (3) vs. John Milledge (6), 3 p.m.

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