Today's GHSA Boys' First-Round Playoffs
Franklin County (20-8) at Dalton (20-7), 5
LaFayette (19-9) at Walnut Grove (25-3), 6
East Hall (21-7) at Dade County (22-6), 6
North Murray (21-9) at Jefferson (19-9), 7:30
Calhoun (11-18) at Dawson County (23-6), 7:30
Gordon Lee (20-9) at Wilkinson County (25-2)
LaFAYETTE, Ga. -- If the LaFayette Ramblers had to pick a current Class AAA top-10 basketball team to play in the first round of the GHSA playoffs tonight, it likely would be Walnut Grove, the team they are playing.
Nothing against the 25-3, sixth-ranked team in the state, but the vertically challenged Ramblers (post Lance Estus is generously listed at 6-foot-1) see in Walnut Grove a team they can at least look in the eye. The Region 8 champion Warriors will have an edge in 6-5 post Brian Pearson, but it's in the backcourt where this game will be decided, and that's where the LaFayette 5-7 trio of Devarus Porter, Jordan Teems and Jarrod Beamon will look to make a difference.
"They're a great team, but the one thing in our favor is that they're not much bigger than we are," senior shooting guard Teems said. "We match up with them probably better than any other No. 1 seed. I know we'll give them a great effort."
LaFayette (19-5) emerged from last weekend's Region 7 tournament as the No. 4 seed after losing in the semifinals to a very tall Allatoona team and in the consolation game against another rugged team, Cartersville. Coach Tommy Swanson said the key to staying in tonight's game is keeping Walnut Grove twin guards Nick and Chris Peters from controlling the pace of the game.
"They're quick, athletic guards and they really make them go," Swanson said. "But we feel with our quickness we can match up with them. It's no secret that we have trouble with teams that have size, but this is a team we think we can defend. For us, we are going to have to shoot the ball better than we have recently."
The game also matches two teams with zero playoff experience. A third-year program, Walnut Grove is in its first postseason, and the Ramblers haven't been in the playoffs since 1999. LaFayette will have an edge in experience with seven seniors, something Teems feels could have an impact.
"It's going to be a crazy atmosphere, but we kind of feed off that situation," Teems said. "Really, both teams have a lot to prove, but there may be a little more pressure on them being at home. That doesn't change our game plan. We have to get them out of their usual game and make them play ours."