January only means one thing in high school basketball — region and subregion races are starting to get interesting.
After a couple of months playing tune-up games, and participating in holiday tournaments, teams in the area are about to start playing “real” games now.
For the next five weeks, area teams will start playing the majority of their region and subregion schedules to position themselves for better seeding in the upcoming region tournaments next months.
A good seed can be the difference between needing to win only one game or having to play two or three to get into the state playoffs. Last season, Forest Park and Jonesboro girls’ teams were the only region champions for the area, and both reached the state semifinals in their respective classifications.
Each lost to the eventual state champion.
Before Forest Park dives into its Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A schedule on Saturday, the Panthers have a big matchup against defending Class AAAAA champion Southwest DeKalb on their home floor.
Last March, Southwest escaped with a 43-41 win at Kennesaw State in the Class AAAAA semifinals. The ‘other’ Panthers would go on to Macon to defeat region foe Miller Grove in the state finals for their fourth title in the last six seasons.
With the majority of its key players back, this will provide a good test for the Forest Park Panthers as their subregion schedule awaits on Saturday. Forest Park has pulled together a 9-5 start without last season’s Clayton News Daily county player of the year Kayla Potts.
She sustained an ACL injury during the summer, and will not return this season.
In her absence, sophomore Tamecia Blue has filled in well by averaging a 9.1 points, the second-most on the team this season. But can the young point guard handle Southwest’s pressure defense and championship experience?
The answer will unfold this evening at 6 p.m.
Jonesboro struggled to an 0-4 start with some key injuries, but seem to have rebounded in time for its subregion slate. The defending Region 4-AAAA champions recently returned for a holiday trip in Florida. The subregion begins tonight at Griffin.
The Lady Cardinals lost 69-44 to Southwest in the Morrow Thanksgiving Tournament in November.
Jonesboro boys appears to be the early favorite for the subregion championship, and the Cardinals should challenge defending state champion Eagle’s Landing for the region title.
In an earlier match-up at Eagle’s Landing, Jonesboro lost 52-51. The Cardinals are led by county player of the year candidate James “MJ” Walker, a freshmen sensation.
After missing the postseason last year, Lovejoy seems to be on a mission with a retooled lineup. The Wildcats are in first place in Region 2-AAAAAA heading into tonight’s matchup against Alcovy.
It is still early, but losses now in the region or subregion can cost you down the road.
Of course, the region tournaments give everyone a second chance for redemption.
Derrick Mahone is the sports editor of the Clayton News Daily, and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter? Follow him @DerrickMahone_.