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Cats and Doggs prep for region hoops tournament

POSTED: February 15, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Apalachee’s star sophomore, Kamar Baldwin, dribbles against Winder-Barrow’s leading freshman, Bryson Hamilton, in an earlier region game.

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Barrow’s basketball teams spent their snow week on the bench, but the weekend thaw opened up the gymnasium for the Region 8-AAAAA basketball tournaments, much to everyone’s delight.

The opening games of the tournament were held last night at Loganville High School, where the Apalachee Lady Wildcats took on the Heritage Lady Patriots, a team they have previously lost to twice.

The Lady Wildcats were supposed to play Monday night, but the pending weather caused cancellations for both them and for Winder-Barrow’s Bulldoggs.

The Bulldoggs are scheduled to open the tournament against Flowery Branch, immediately following Compton’s game against the Heritage Lady Patriots, a team he believes his Lady Wildcats can find success against.

"The plan is to not fade down the stretch. Both times we’ve held a lead at the end of the third quarter," Compton said of Apalachee’s first two games against the Lady Patriots.

The Lady Wildcats would need to win two consecutive region games, something they were not able to do all year, in order to extend their season into the state tournament. Even if their season ends before that point, Compton is proud of how his team has come along.

"The biggest positive this season, for the first time since I’ve been here, the last five or six games have really come together as a team and you’ve really felt that team unity, everybody working together to win a game and be successful," Compton believes.

"Even though before, even if we were successful at times going back to last season, there was some division among the team. Everybody’s had success on the floor doing something, so that’s something to build on going in to next year.

"It’s been a tough season and sometimes, especially in high school ball, you have to go through that kind of stuff. Hopefully it’s going to lead to better stuff," Compton concluded.

The sixth-seed Lady Bulldoggs of Winder-Barrow will face Gainesville’s Lady Elephants, the third seed, at 7 p.m., just before the Apalachee Wildcats’ game against the hosting Loganville Red Devils scheduled for 8:30 p.m.

Both teams will need a win, with Winder-Barrow needing an upset win over Gainesville, in order to secure a spot in the state tournament.

Winder-Barrow’s Bulldoggs find themselves in the same position as the Lady Wildcats, though, needing to win a play-in game in order to make the region tournament. Unlike the Lady Cats, though, the Doggs will face a team they have already beaten twice.

In Winder-Barrow varsity men’s basketball coach Ron Garren’s mind, that is not necessarily an advantage.

"We’re going into the Flowery Branch game knowing that it’s hard to beat someone three times in one year," Garren acknowledged about his team’s Saturday play-in game.

The Bulldoggs showed flashes of brilliance at times throughout the season, taking both Apalachee and Clarke Central into tight games late at home, but were never able to put it all together.

"Between my starting late and most of our guys playing football, I just really felt like we were always preparing from behind," Garren commented.

"We just had to cut short a lot of things that normally we wouldn’t do, and it has been a frustrating year, but it has been a rewarding year to see some of these young kids really develop, and our four seniors have really kept a positive attitude and I’m proud of them, too."

Although the Bulldoggs have the hardest road to a region title, that possibility is not without precedent. Garren shared with his team how the Bulldoggs were once put out as the first seed in a region tournament by play-in winner Loganville. Those Red Devils would go on to win the region title, something that Garren hopes his team can learn from.

After all, if the Bulldoggs escaped their contest with Flowery Branch, they will face Clarke Central Monday evening for the third time this season. As Garren pointed out, it can be difficult to beat a team three times in one season.

The winner of Saturday’s play-in games advances to Monday’s games against their respective top-seeded opponents. The women will play at Apalachee High School at 7 p.m. with the men scheduled to play immediately after at 8:30 p.m.



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