By Derrick Mahone
No tomorrow. Five one-game seasons. Win or go home.
These are the cliches that coaches have been using all week as they prepare for the state playoffs.
"We all know what is at stake," Dutchtown coach Angela Williams said. "I think our players are a little hungry this year."
Seventeen teams from the area made the state playoffs, which begin tonight with eight boys games. Henry County is the only team that will host a doubleheader on Saturday starting at 6 p.m. Both enter the tournament as top seeds after winning Region 4-AA tournament championships. Dutchtown girls and Stockbridge are top seeds after winning the Region 4-AAAA titles.
Winners from this weekend will play second round games on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Dutchtown, Ola and Eagle's Landing boys' team will be making their inaugural appearance in the state tournament while Lovejoy boys ends a six-year playoff drought with its game against visiting Coffee.
Lovejoy finished as Region 4-AAAAA runner-up, but still gets to host a first round game.
"We have been waiting for this since ninth grade," Lovejoy senior guard Cameron Solomon said. "We were saying at the start of the season that we were going to make it to state, that has always been our goal."
The playoffs will offer a second chance for North Clayton, which finished third in the Region 4-AAAA tournament after winning the regular season region championship. North Clayton lost to Stockbridge in the semifinals of the region tournament.
It snapped a 13-game winning streak by the Eagles, who enters the tournament as the only state-ranked boys team in the area.
"We can still win state and accomplish that goal that we set at the beginning of the season," North Clayton sophomore Marcus Hunt said. "We just can't let up."
Dutchtown girls enter the state tournament as the hottest team in the area with a 13-game winning streak. The Bulldogs will try to avenge last season's 65-64 loss to Hardaway in the first round of the playoffs.
Hardaway will make the trip from Columbus for a 6 p.m. game on Saturday.
The surprise team of the tournament might be Henry County boys, who won the Region 4-AA tournament with a 70-66 win over state-ranked Northeast-Macon in the championship game. Henry County entered the tournament in sixth place in the region.
"We are definitely happy about being in the state playoffs for the second straight season," Warhawks coach Vincent Rosser said. "We definitely came together in the playoffs. We always believed that we could win once we got our full roster back."
Rosser said winning the tournament championship has given his team a lot of momentum and confidence heading into Saturday's home matchup against Fitzgerald, the No. 4 seed from Region 1-AA.
Stockbridge also broke out a tailspin to win the Region 4-AAAA tournament. The Tigers had lost nine of their last 12 games, but son all three of their region playoff games to capture the championship.
"The key for us lately has been playing hard on defense," Stockbridge senior guard Chris Davis said. "Winning the region and getting in the playoffs was our goal the whole season. We were able to fix our flaws."