Photo by Heather Middleton
By Derrick Mahone
A few weeks ago, third-ranked Lovejoy looked as if it would coast to the Region 4-AAAA regular-season championship.
The Wildcats were riding a nine-game win streak into Wednesday night's game against Forest Park, and a win would have clinched the region title.
Lovejoy lost to the Panthers 48-45 behind a 15-point, 10-rebound performance from Keshad Chinn. Now, the Wildcats have to win one of their last two games to clinch the top seed for the upcoming region tournament.
Lovejoy faces North Clayton Saturday, and then it plays the Eagles again on Feb. 11.
Winning the regular season championship has an extra special meaning, because the champion gets an automatic berth into the state tournament. The champion will be placed in one of the two region tournament's semifinals games.
Here are some other top games scheduled for tonight:
Jonesboro boys at Morrow: Forest Park's win over Lovejoy keeps
Jonesboro's hope of winning the region championship alive. The
10th-ranked Cardinals have two losses, including a 53-44 setback to Lovejoy on Dec. 7.
But the Cardinals need some help in addition to having to win their remaining four region games. If North Clayton sweeps Lovejoy and Jonesboro wins out, they will take the top seed in the region tournament.
If Jonesboro and Lovejoy end in a tie, the Wildcats get the top spot because of their earlier win this season.
Coming into tonight's matchup at Morrow, the Cardinals have won six straight since their loss at North Clayton. Morrow has won three straight heading into its Senior Night game.
North Clayton boys at Banneker: The Eagles have a chance to avenge a couple of its earlier season losses this week. On Tuesday, North Clayton beat Tri-Cities, a team it lost its season-opener to. Banneker beat the Eagles at their place by nine in overtime.
Coach Martisse Troup said the team has been playing better since the beginning of the season because the players now understand their roles. Sophomore point guard Stefan Bradley has been running the point guard position and Michael Johnson has stepped up in the post.
"We have really been focused since the Christmas break," Troup said. "We were really trying to find ourselves in the first half of the season."
Eagle's Landing boys at Sandy Creek: The 10th-ranked Golden Eagles had their five-game winning streak snapped Wednesday in an overtime loss to Spalding, which dropped them two games behind Region 4-AAA leader Henry County.
Even though Eagle's Landing beat Sandy Creek by 38 in the teams' first meeting, the Patriots are coming off their signature win of the season, a 76-49 victory over sixth-ranked Henry County.
The Golden Eagles need this game to keep their hopes of winning the region alive, and they've shown a resiliency after losses. They've only lost consecutive games once this season.
Drew at Eastside: This matchup features a pair of significant games for Drew's boys and girls teams.
Start with the girls, who had their nine-game winning streak snapped Tuesday, and are looking at an Eastside team that is 17-4 and beat the Lady Titans by 32 on Dec. 17. A strong performance would go a long way toward proving Drew is more like the team that ran off nine-straight wins instead of the one that started the season 2-6.
On the other hand, the Drew boys have hit a skid since starting the season 6-1. A blowout loss to Eagle's Landing (76-59) was the Titans' third in four games. They need a win to avoid falling behind Henry County, Spalding, Stockbridge and Eagle's Landing.
Henry County boys at Stockbridge: Life has been a little more difficult for Henry County without leading scorer Larrentis Thomas.
Since Thomas went down with a hand injury, the Warhawks' tight grip on first place in Region 4-AAA eased a bit with a surprising 76-49 loss to Sandy Creek on Tuesday.
That's just what Stockbridge needed. The Tigers are 1.5 games behind the Warhawks and have a favorable remaining region schedule with games against Eastside, Sandy Creek and Drew, which Stockbridge already beat on the road.
Forest Park girls at Mount Zion: Since returning from the Christmas break, Forest Park has been the hottest team in the area. The Lady Panthers have won 10 in a row and have only allowed three opponents to score at least 30 points in a game.
A win by the sixth-ranked Lady Panthers coupled with a loss by North Clayton would give them the regular season title. If that scenario doesn't happen, Forest Park would get another chance to clinch Tuesday when it travels to North Clayton on Tuesday.
Brian Paglia contributed to this article.
All games start at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted
Griffin at Dutchtown
Ola at Woodland
Riverdale at Mundy's Mill
Locust Grove at Spalding
Greenforest at Strong Rock
ELCA at Paideia
M.L. King at Luella