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Early games matter at state sectionals

If the softball state sectional tournament was like the NCAA men's basketball tournament, some of the top teams in the state would be breathing a sigh of relief.

A top seed in the basketball tournament never loses in the first round and rarely loses in the second - wouldn't that be a nice feeling heading into today's sectional?

From top to bottom the brackets are filled talented teams and no No. 1 seed is ever safe from a No. 4 seed.

"The whole bracket is just crammed with talented teams," Greater Atlanta Christian coach Judy Tenney said. "It could be a nightmare for some of us."

It turned out to be a nightmare for Mill Creek last year. The Region 7-AAAAA champion and No. 1 seed won its first game, but then lost a 1-0 battle to No. 3 Sequoyah. The loss to put the Hawks in the losers bracket, where they lost their first game and were sent home early in the tourney.

"Friday night is crucial, and everyone knows it," Mill Creek coach Kelly Murdock said. "It's important to win those first two games and be in a situation on Saturday where you need one win to advance."

Mill Creek is back in the state sectional as region champ again and will play Pope today at 6 p.m. in

Woodstock.

The Hawks are looking to rebound from last year's disappointing finish and make it to Columbus for the Elite Eight.

"We've definitely have been talking all along about what happened last year," Murdock said.

Ideally, Mill Creek, and just about every team for that matter, would like to win its first three games because that would give you a ticket to Columbus. With two early wins a team is still in pretty good shape in the double-elimination tournament.

The Hawks are one of 13 teams from Gwinnett County headed to state sectionals.

Joining the Hawks from 7-AAAAA are Peachtree Ridge, Collins Hill and North

Gwinnett.

In 8-AAAAA, Grayson won the championship and will be joined in Woodstock by Parkview, Brookwood and Shiloh along with Class AAAA's Dacula.

Class AA's GAC and Buford head to Dalton for sectionals along with Class A's Providence and Hebron.

If GAC can get past its first round opponent Adairsville, it could set up a rematch of last year's state title game against Morgan County.

"I have a hard time looking past Adairsville," Tenney said. "If we are able to get to that point, they're (Morgan County) a classy team, and it's a huge blessing to play that team."

Of course a loss would have the Spartans in a position no team wants to be in.

"That losers bracket is just brutal," Tenney said. "That's where you don't want to go."