Region tournaments are always looked at by high school basketball teams as a chance at a second season.
With the tournaments for the 2013-14 season set to start up Monday, both of Gwinnett County’s Class AAAAAA regions are anticipating that opportunity — perhaps as wide-open an opportunity as there has ever been.
“There’s so much depth in our region this year, it adds to the potential parity of the region tournament,” said North Gwinnett boys coach Zachary Smith, whose Bulldogs (22-3) enter the Region 7-AAAAAA as the top seed and open play against either Mountain View or Habersham Central on Tuesday at Collins Hill. “It should be a lot of fun. It’ll be a challenge every night. There are no guarantees. We certainly know that well.”
True, few teams understand the perils the one-and-done tournament scenario that the tournament’s first round present better than North’s boys.
After entering last year’s tournament at 19-5 and the No. 3 seed, the Bulldogs fell to sixth-seed Meadowcreek in the first round to end their season.
Each game could be as up for grabs this season, with higher seeds like North, No. 2 Norcross, No. 3 Collins Hill and No. 4 Meadowcreek finding formidable challenges from lower seeds like No. 5 Peachtree Ridge and No. 6 Duluth for one of the region’s four berths to the state tournament.
The same is true across the county in Region 8-AAAAAA, which tips off its tournament Monday at Berkmar.
And while the host Patriots (19-6) enter as the top seed, literally every team is a threat, a situation demonstrated Friday when Archer, which will play Parkview in the play-in game Monday at 7:30 p.m., upset second-seeded Shiloh in the regular-season finale.
The girls tournament in Region 8-AAAAAA should also be quite competitive, especially now that the exact seeds are known.
Region co-champions Archer (22-3) and Parkview (23-2) had their seeds determined by a coin flip Saturday morning, with the Tigers getting the top seed and the Panthers set at No. 2.
From a symbolic standpoint, being the top seed is a major step for an Archer program in just its fifth season of varsity basketball and fourth season in the state’s highest classification.
But as head coach Ryan Lesniak pointed out, all that goes out the window once the ball is tipped this week.
“I’m proud of our girls,” Lesniak said. “They’ve put in a lot of hard work, especially our seniors. In their freshman year, we were 8-18 and playing in the 7-2 (seed) game against Brookwood. We’ve seen a steady climb in the right direction each year, and that’s exciting.
“But it’s tournament time, and seedings don’t really mean anything. You have to go out and win ball games.”
Over in Region 7-AAAAAA, the top three seeds are set, with Norcross carrying the top seed, Mountain View at No. 2 and Duluth at No. 3 no matter what happened in the Bears’ and Wildcats’ regular-season finale against each other late Saturday.
And like Archer, Mountain View has seen a steady climb since the school opened five years ago, and head coach Jackie Lindquist is eager to see what her Bears can do in the tournament as one of the region’s top seeds.
“It’s definitely huge for the program,” Lindquist said after Friday’s 56-50 win over Mill Creek at home. “That was what we wanted to do — just take care of business (Friday) night and secure that second (seed) heading into the tournament.”
Gwinnett’s smaller schools will also be tipping off for region tournaments this week, with boys and girls teams from Buford hosting first-round games in the Region 7-AAA tournament as top seeds, while Lanier will host the Region 8-AAAA tournament and Hebron Christian and Providence Christian travel to Commerce for the Region 8-A tournament.