Jonesboro coach Lamar Harris has seen his team recover from some early season struggles to position itself for a subregion title. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
There are a few non-region games sprinkled into the remaining schedules, but for the most part, its the stretch run for area basketball teams.
That’s because teams are now in the thick of region and subregion play. And everyone is gunning for pole position in their region that can possibly lead to region tournament title and, more importantly, state tournament berths. Teams are now beginning to jell and look to pick up steam as region tournaments are only about four weeks away.
Here is a look at a few games that could shape the upcoming region tournaments.
Lovejoy at Luella (boys): If part one was any indication, the Feb. 4 rematch is definitely on the “can’t miss” list. These two teams may be playing, once again, for positioning in Region 2-AAAAAA. Look for TeMarcus Blanton and Doral Moore to have bigger games on their homecourt than they did at Lovejoy last Friday. And expect a focused Wildcat bunch to come hungry for revenge after the one-point slip to the Lions. It will be interesting to see how Lovejoy guard DeAndre Mathis and Luella’s A.J. Banton continue to develop.
Riverdale at Jonesboro (boys): The first of two matchups between these two rivals will take place on Friday. The rematch will close the regular season at Riverdale on Feb. 4. After Jonesboro’s loss to North Clayton at the buzzer last week, this game is huge. Riverdale now controls its own destiny and can clinch the subregion title with a sweep. Look for an interesting battle between county player of the year candidates Quincy January of Riverdale and Jonesboro’s freshman sensation James “MJ” Walker.
North Clayton at Jonesboro (boys): The Eagles escaped with a much-needed one-point lead over Jonesboro at home last Friday. The rematch will occur on Jan. 28 at Jonesboro. These schools have always been rivals, but it will be even more intense after North Clayton’s upset win in Tracy Hector’s return to North Clayton. The junior played for the Eagles last season before transferring to Jonesboro over the summer.
Morrow at Lovejoy (boys): Lovejoy is still smarting from its last-season loss to Luella, which gave it control of first place in Region 2-AAAAAA. Morrow, a surprise team last season, has struggled some this year with a new lineup, but the Mustangs are starting to pull together. The teams met on Jan. 25, and Lovejoy will be hoping that Morrow has a hangover from a contest against Luella the night before.
Mount Zion at Drew (girls): With all its starters back from last season, Drew is expected to challenge for a state playoff berth in Region 4-AAAAA. The Titans have lived up to the preseason hype with its only subregion loss coming to defending region champion Forest Park. Mount Zion has been a surprise team this season. The Bulldogs’ only subregion loss has come to Forest Park. The winner stays within striking distance of Forest Park. Tipoff is Friday at 6 p.m.
Drew at Forest Park (girls): This Jan. 21 game will be a rematch of Forest Park’s four-point win on the road. The Panthers were coming off a two-point loss to defending state champions Southwest DeKalb the night before. A win by Forest Park could possible solidify the Panthers’ top seed in the upcoming region tournament at McIntosh.
Riverdale at Jonesboro (girls): Jonesboro is starting to develop its chemistry after earlier season struggles because of injuries. The teams meet this Friday in a game that could decide first place in the subregion. There is a rematch on Feb. 4 at Riverdale, which is led by first-year coach Derick Powell.