Kell had to wait a long time to secure its first berth in the girls basketball state tournament, and the wait finally came to an end last Wednesday, when the Lady Longhorns beat Hiram in the quarterfinal round of the Region 5AAAA tournament.
Kell then put itself in an even better position when it shocked Douglas County — then the state’s top-ranked team — in the semifinals to secure a home game in the opening round of the Class AAAA tournament.
After falling to county rival Osborne in the championship, Kell will be a No. 2 seed when it hosts Southwest DeKalb in its first state playoff game Friday.
The Lady Longhorns came close to achieving history a year ago, but at least now they no longer have to dwell on the overtime loss to Sprayberry in last year’s region quarterfinal, which knocked Kell out of contention.
“We blocked that out because last year we weren’t playing as a team,” said Nee Nee Marks, Kell’s lone senior. “This year, we wanted to make school history, so we put that aside and did what we had to do.”
Kell (20-6) wouldn’t mind reciprocating the stellar play it had against Douglas County when it hosts Southwest DeKalb, the No. 3 seed of Region 6AAAA. A win over the Lady Jaguars would likely set up a second-round showdown at two-time Region 7AAAA champion Creekview.
Kell will rely greatly on freshman Caliya Robinson, who had 11 points and 11 blocks against Douglas County and prevented the Lady Tigers’ Christin Mercer from making 3-pointers.
In addition to Robinson, the Lady Longhorns also have Marks, Naomi Stuger and Nikki Eggers capable of scoring in double figures.
Osborne, which defeated Kell 54-45 for the region crown, will open at home against Redan.
The Lady Cardinals (23-5) will need to continue getting fourth-quarter contributions from Ebonee Allen, who scored 13 of her 27 points against Kell in the final quarter, including a 10-for-11 performance from the free-throw line. Nikira Goings and Damia Andrews are also looking to maintain their solid work.
Allatoona survived three long drives into north Georgia and won its first Region 7AAA title at Murray County. After winning a 56-40 decision over Cartersville — the team that beat Allatoona in last year’s region tournament — to clinch the championship, the Lady Buccaneers (24-4) will host Gainesville in the opening round.
Allatoona is just focusing on getting healthy, coach Michael Taylor said. The Lady Buccaneers are expecting to have Jessica Finch (foot) and Alyssa Dobson (thumb) at 100 percent after both nursed injuries last week.
Marietta stumbled in the Region 5AAAAA final and lost 41-40 to Woodstock after holding a seven-point fourth-quarter lead. However, the Lady Blue Devils (23-4), who were undefeated in region play during the regular season, are still very much alive in the hunt for a Class AAAAA state championship.
When Marietta hosts Roswell on Friday, coach Ken Sprague Jr. is just wanting to make sure his players can build a lead and hold on to it.
“Our offense has to be a little more cohesive,” Sprague said. “We need to make sure we get everyone on the same page and execute a little better.”
Wheeler (13-14) advanced to the state tournament for the first time since 2006 with a lopsided win over Etowah in the region quarterfinals and will play at North Forsyth in the first round. The Lady Wildcats are the No. 3 seed after coming from behind to beat Cherokee 45-43 in the consolation game.
McEachern, Hillgrove and North Cobb made it to the postseason as the top three seeds out of Region 4AAAAA, as was largely expected. Harrison is the No. 4 seed after it beat Campbell to qualify for the postseason for the first time in a decade.
All four teams will play south Georgia schools Friday. McEachern and Hillgrove will host Camden County and Windsor Forest, respectively. North Cobb and Harrison, meanwhile, will have to make the long road trips to face Bradwell Institute and Beach.