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State playoffs mean added pressure

Photo by Derrick Mahone
Lovejoy coach Rick Francis says records and rankings “absolutely mean nothing” as the state playoffs begins this weekend. The Wildcats will take on top-ranked Fayette County in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs Friday.

Photo by Derrick Mahone Lovejoy coach Rick Francis says records and rankings “absolutely mean nothing” as the state playoffs begins this weekend. The Wildcats will take on top-ranked Fayette County in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs Friday.

At this point in the season, records and state rankings mean nothing.

As the state playoffs are scheduled to begin later this week, teams from around the Southern Crescent have been preparing for the second season. In all, 17 teams from the area survived their region tournaments to make it into the state playoffs.

It’s now win or go home.

“They (records) mean absolutely nothing,” Lovejoy coach Rick Francis said Monday afternoon. “What is important is that you focus and not get complacent. You have to realize now that at any given moment, any team can be had.”

Francis’ team faces as a tough challenge as any. Lovejoy, the No. 3 seed from Region 4-AAAA, takes on No. 1-ranked Fayette County on Friday in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs.

Fayette County is the second seed from Region 3-AAAA after losing to Alcovy in the finals of the region tournament. Last season, Lovejoy lost to Fayette County in the quarterfinals at Fort Valley State.

“We are definitely looking forward to this game,” Lovejoy center Justin Tuoyo said. “I know most of the guys on the Fayette County team, so we know it’s going to be a good game.”

Forest Park boys coach Antonio Wade is hoping his team becomes a little more excited about its first playoff appearance in three years. Wade said the team seemed flat during the last two games of its region tournament.

“I know I’m excited about this,” said Wade, who is taking his first team to the playoffs. “For some reason, the players didn’t seem as excited in the region tournament.”

One loss now means the end of the season.

Eagle’s Landing guard Eric Wortham says the “win or go home” mentality of the playoffs adds a lot of pressure. The Golden Eagles are the Region 4-AAA runner-ups, but are ranked No. 2 in the state.

Eagle’s Landing hosts No. 10 Thomson, a team it lost to during the summer league. Although that was a meaningless game at Mercer University, Wortham said his team is definitely looking for some revenge.

“There is a lot of pressure in the playoffs,” said Wortham, the Region 4-AAA Player of the Year. “Your season is on the line from here on out. You know you can’t lose a game now.”

Last season, Eagle’s Landing reached the final four for the first time in school history.

The injury-plagued Forest Park girls team is trying to reach the state semifinals for a third straight season. Forest Park was state runner-up last season, but has experienced the injury bug this season.

The state tournament gets started tonight for Strong Rock Christian, which is making its Georgia High School Association state-playoff debut. The Lady Patriots take on Trion tonight at 6 p.m. in one of four Class A play-in games.

If Strong Rock wins, it will play at fifth-ranked St. Francis on Friday. St. Francis is the Region 6-A champion.

“We are definitely excited about our first state playoff appearance,” Strong Rock coach A.C. McCullers said. “We have been building for this moment.”

State playoffs schedule

Boys

Dutchtown (15-14) at North Clayton (17-10)

Griffin (10-17) at Jonesboro (23-4)

Lovejoy (22-5) at Fayette County (25-2)

Forest Park (16-11) at Alcovy (25-3)

Washington Co. (24-4) at Drew (24-4)

Thomson (22-5) at Eagle’s Landing (25-3)

Henry Co. (16-12) at Josey (19-9)

Girls

Woodland (21-9) at Jonesboro (22-5)

McIntosh (21-7) at Forest Park (21-6)

Mundy’s Mill (21-6) at Alcovy (24-4)

Lovejoy (14-10) at Fayette Co. (23-5)

Luella (18-10) at Lowndes (24-3)

Cross Creek (21-7) at Drew (23-5)

Henry Co. (13-15) at Westside-Augusta (23-4)