Six observations as the GHSA basketball postseason begins

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton/ Jax Abernathy, right, and the battle-tested Christian Heritage Lions could be poised for a long run as the GHSA basketball postseason gets underway.
Staff photo by Matt Hamilton/ Jax Abernathy, right, and the battle-tested Christian Heritage Lions could be poised for a long run as the GHSA basketball postseason gets underway.

Here are six observations, courtesy of Lindsey Young, on Northwest Georgia teams and players as the GHSA basketball playoffs begin.

1. The long drought

The area covered by the Times Free Press -- Walker, Catoosa, Dade, Whitfield, Chattooga, Gordon and Murray Counties -- has not produced a boys' state champion since 1969, when Murray County completed a dominant decade with its third title. So, to say it's been a long time is an understatement.

2. Championship contenders?

With the above as reference, the chances of a boys' championship aren't great, and only two boys' teams, Sonoraville and Trion, enter the playoffs as a region champion. That being said, Christian Heritage in Class A Division-II has a good shot at making a deep run. The Lions, led by 28 points per game scorer Jax Abernathy and a veteran core, are battle tested and are on the opposite side of the bracket with favorites Greenforest and Macon County.

3. Other boys' observations

Though a title may not be in the works, several teams have had nice -- and in some cases, surprising -- seasons. Ridgeland in Class AAA is back in the postseason, while Sonoraville, the 7-AAAA champ, has the size and shooting ability to maybe get to the quarterfinals. Having two games at "The Furnace" doesn't hurt, either. Trion, the 7-A Division I champ, has one of the area's best point guards in Austin Cornett, and good shooters around him. First, though, they have to get past Mt. Pisgah, a state-ranked team despite a 11-17 record, then would likely get the bracket's top three-seed in Prince Avenue.

4. Change needed

Reclassification should help remedy this, but the state's Class A Division I field on both sides is littered with teams with losing records. Now, many of these teams played upper-division teams in the regular season, so some of it can be expected. However, 18 of the 32 boys teams have losing marks. Ten girls teams also are south of .500, with one winless team, Irwin County, making the field due to its region having only four schools.

5. The girls' side -- trending up

The northwest Georgia area has historically been stronger on the girls' side, though the last title came in 2013 when Gordon Lee, led by current Ringgold coach Kassidy Blevins (now Gaylor), won in Class A. After a slow few years, area teams are getting wins if not advancing very deep. Last year, Calhoun made a Final Run in 5A, Murray County won a pair of games in 2A and three other teams won at least one. Teams won a combined 10 postseason games in 2021-22, seven in 2020-21, six in 2019-20 and six in 2018-19, led by Sonoraville's run to the 3A Final Four.

6. Girls' contenders

Dalton, in 5A, and Trion in A Division-I are the best bets to make long runs. The Lady Catamounts have played a tough schedule and are peaking at the right time behind star Grace Ridley and a veteran cast. They have a potential tough second-round matchup with Creekside, but would have a real shot to get past Arabia Mountain in the quarters. Trion is led by cat-quick guard I'ziah McCutchins and a four other senior starters, but the path is difficult. Two other teams with recent postseason success, Calhoun in 5A and Northwest Whitfield in 4A, could be dangerous behind stars Sa'Niah Dorsey and Kennedy Baker, respectively.

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