By Derrick Mahone
North Clayton boys and Dutchtown girls basketball teams can now sit back and watch the rest of the teams in Region 4-AAAA play their way into a state tournament berth.
Since both won the regular season championship they earned a spot in the region semifinals on Friday. The other teams will have to win one or two games before securing a state playoff spot.
"This is what you play all season for," said Jonesboro boys coach Dan Maehlman, whose team is the No. 2 seed. "We are definitely looking forward to the tournament."
The week-long tournament starts Monday at Mount Zion High.
North Clayton coach Martisse Troup said his team welcomes the rest knowing they have secured a playoff spot. The Eagles, who are ranked No. 5 in the latest Associated Press poll, first game in the tournament will be against the Alcovy/Stockbridge winner at 8:30 p.m.
North Clayton hasn't won a region tournament championship since 1993, the same season it won a state title.
"Right now, everybody's record is 0-0," Troup said. "I think it can be good and bad that you don't play in a week. Right now, you can't have any slip ups. You have to be on top of your game."
Stockbridge coach Duane Kelley is happy that his team has had a 10-day rest before the start of the tournament. At one point in the season, the Tigers were leading the region before hitting a losing skid.
Stockbridge has lost nine of its last 12 games to close the season. Kelley said the rest has allowed his team to regroup and get ready for the tournament challenge.
The team meets Alcovy Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in an elimination game.
"Somebody from last year's state tournament will not be back," Kelley said. "Our problem occurred when we couldn't finish games. We didn't execute well down the stretch. We were turning the ball over during crucial situations. I take the blame for that. The good thing about this team is that we have 12 games that have been there before."
Dutchtown girls got the top seed in the region tournament when Griffin upset Forest Park 59-50 in the regular season finale Thursday. Last Tuesday, Dutchtown defeated Forest Park to avenge an earlier loss to the Panthers.
Dutchtown will meet the winner of Thursday's elimination game between defending region champions Jonesboro and North Clayton. During the regular season, the teams split.
After winning the region tournament last season, Jonesboro advanced to the final four. The Cardinals have struggled this season, but won four of its last five games to clinch the No. 5 seed in the region.