They all have some work to do.
Each still has to win one more game to qualify for the state playoffs, and overlooking their quarterfinal-round opponents could spell the end of the season.
Both North Cobb teams and the Wheeler boys won’t have to worry about that in their region tournaments. Their tickets to the state tournament have already been stamped with their automatic byes into the semifinals.
Wheeler can thank Milton for easing its entry into the playoffs. Milton was ruled ineligible for postseason play due to recruiting violations by the Georgia High School Association, leaving Region 5AAAAAA with seven boys teams and providing a bye to Wheeler.
The Pope boys ended the regular season on a six-game winning streak. Once the Greyhounds (18-7) got healthy, they started clicking behind Andrew Mendel, who leads the team with 16.5 points a game.
They will take the floor Wednesday against east Cobb rival Kell at Sprayberry, and beating the Longhorns isn’t a given — especially if 6-foot-6 forward Grant Bryant (19.6 ppg) is on his game. Pope escaped Kell 53-52 on Feb. 2, and the Longhorns are coming off a 44-40 win over Forsyth Central on Saturday.
“We’re playing well, and this has been the best we’ve played all year long,” Pope coach Pat Abney said. “We’ve been shooting the ball better and changed a few little things here and there.”
The Kell girls (19-2) are coming off their best regular-season performance in team history, including wins over Class AAAAAA powers Hillgrove and North Cobb.
The Lady Longhorns, guided by seniors Naomi Stuger and China Henderson, secured their No. 1 later in the season, when they beat Osborne 55-32 on Jan. 25. That avenged a loss to the Lady Cardinals in their first meeting.
Having split the series with Osborne, Kell ended up winning the top seed because it had the better region record.
In looking ahead to today’s quarterfinal matchup with Riverwood at Sprayberry, Kell coach Craig Hines said the Lady Raiders are better than their 5-8 region record may indicate.
“The girls seem pretty confident, and they say not to worry,” Hines said. “If we take anyone for granted, the season is over. I’m hoping the girls are ready to go, and I believe they are.”
The Allatoona boys (20-5) were a perfect 15-0 in 5AAAAA play and are looking for their stellar play to carry over into the tournament. The Buccaneers have to get by South Paulding at home today for a spot in the semifinals and the postseason.
The North Cobb boys will await the McEachern-South Cobb winner Friday at Marietta for a spot in the 4AAAAAA finals. The North Cobb girls will face either Campbell or Harrison.
The Wheeler boys will play Friday against Walton or Woodstock in the Region 5AAAAAA semifinals at Roswell. The Wheeler girls, who are the No. 3 seed, will face Walton for a spot in the postseason, while Lassiter will face Etowah looking to reach the state playoffs for the first time since 2009.
The Allatoona girls, seeded No. 2, will be at Lithia Springs on Wednesday playing Hiram in the 5AAAAA tournament quarterfinals.
For Cobb County’s four Class A schools, it’s not as cut-and-dry with the introduction of separate public- and private-school state tournaments. Each 16-team bracket will be filled based on power rankings, as was the case during football season.
The North Cobb Christian boys were first in the most recent power rankings and are all but guaranteed a spot in the state playoffs, leaving the Region 6A tournament to be played for pride at Mount Paran Christian.
North Cobb Christian have a bye into Thursday’s quarterfinal, where it will face the winner of today’s game between Mount Paran — No. 7 in the power rankings — and Trion.
Whitefield, down from its state-championship status of a year ago, has a No. 13 power ranking and will likely need to at least win its first region tournament game against Christian Heritage.
On the girls side, Mount Paran is the only county program currently guaranteed a spot in the state playoffs, ranked ninth overall. Walker is 18th and North Cobb Christian 23rd.