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Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / LFO freshman guard Brent Bowman, left, and senior Jacob King, center, celebrate their team's Region 6-AAA championship after the Warriors beat host North Murray 58-47 in Monday night's tournament final in Chatsworth, Ga.

The year was 1996. Atlanta hosted the Summer Olympic Games, Bill Clinton was re-elected President, O.J. Simpson endured a civil trial and the Macarena was the dance craze.

That also was the last year the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe boys' basketball program won a region tournament championship — until this week.

The 24-year drought ended Monday when the youthful Warriors upset GHSA Region 6-AAA regular-season champ North Murray, 58-47, with the Mountaineers hosting the matchup in Chatsworth. It was the culmination of a resurgent second season under coach Josh Laney that has brought a sense of pride to the school and the community.

After all, when you've had an entire generation come and go without tasting a title, well, expectations often match the results.

Since the Warriors won the crown, Laney has seen and heard from former LFO players and students about just how much sports success can mean.

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Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / LFO freshman guard Brent Bowman, left, shoots over a North Murray defender during Monday's Region 6-AAA tournament title game at North Murray High School in Chatsworth, Ga.

"It's definitely lifted up the community," said Laney, a 2008 LFO graduate who played under Jerry Jones, the former longtime Warriors coach who died last year after retiring in 2018. "We have a few players here who played for Coach Jones and had heard the stories about previous successful teams.

"Even the younger guys, like (freshman) Brent Bowman, whose dad played for Coach Jones — there is a mystique about this place, and it's kind of been hidden for a while and is being brought back. They are enjoying being part of that process."

At 7 p.m. Saturday, the Warriors (23-4) will host Region 8 No. 4 seed Hart County (22-5) at Jerry Jones Gymnasium in a first-round matchup in the Class AAA state tournament. The Bulldogs have three starters who are 6-foot-5 or taller, but as Laney pointed out, his team is both too young and too close to care about such things.

"We've got a great mix of youth and experience, and the guys have kind of just figured it out and brought themselves together," Laney said of a team that starts two freshmen, a junior and two seniors. "The young ones are so competitive, so they don't back down like younger ones often do. Their dynamic allowed us to have real good, dynamic practices. We've been able to adjust to things pretty quickly."

The freshmen, guards Bowman and JaMichael Davis, lead the Warriors in scoring with per-game averages of 14 and 11 points, respectively. Junior Cameron Gregg has overcome injury to pitch in 10 points a game, senior forward Jacob King averages right at 10 with seven rebounds and 6-4, 270-pound post Zach Coots does a lot of the physical work inside.

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Staff photo by Patrick MacCoon / Sonoraville senior Maliyah Parks drives to the hoop during her team's 53-43 victory over Ringgold in the Region 6-AAA tournament final Monday night at North Murray High School in Chatsworth, Ga.

The rest of the usual rotation is just as diverse in grade level, with post James Beddington joined by guard and fellow senior Robbie Henry, sophomore wing Camron Lay and talented freshman forward Amari Burnett.

"We brought back six seniors, but even with Gregg back, only three had experience," Laney said. "When we got to work with the freshmen, we knew we had potential. After football we only had three days of real practice (before the season started), but one day the coaches sat down and looked at each other and smiled. We had known the talent they had, but we thought it would take time.

"That day we said, 'Man, we can be good.'"

The Warriors are one of nine local boys' teams that made the GHSA state field, a group that includes 6-AAA's North Murray — which was set to play Thursday evening — Calhoun and Murray County. Northwest Whitfield, LaFayette and Heritage are representatives for 6-AAAA, and Chattooga advanced out of 7-AA. Christian Heritage received a bye in Class A private and next week will host the winner of the Bleckley County-Thomasville game.

Eleven local girls' teams advanced to state: Northwest Whitfield and LaFayette from 6-AAAA, Sonoraville, Ringgold, Calhoun and Coahulla Creek from 6-AAA, Chattooga, Dade County and Gordon Central from 7-AA and Trion and Christian Heritage from 6-A. All are set to play Friday except Ringgold, which is scheduled for Saturday.

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.

GHSA basketball state playoffs, first round

Boys

Thursday, Feb. 13
Class AAA
Monroe Area (16-12) at North Murray (21-6), 7 p.m.

Friday, Feb. 14
Class AAAA
Heritage (13-15) at North Oconee (11-16), 7 p.m.
Madison County (9-18), at Northwest Whitfield (16-11), 7:30 p.m.

Class AA
Temple (18-10) at Chattooga (21-6), 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 15
Class AAAA
Oconee County (16-11) at LaFayette (23-2), 6 p.m.

Class AAA
Hart County (22-5) at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe (23-4), 7 p.m.
Calhoun (17-10) at Franklin County (20-8), 6 p.m.
Murray County (18-7) at Windsor Forest (23-4), 6 p.m.

Girls

Friday, Feb. 14
Class AAAA
Madison County (15-12) at Northwest Whitfield (21-7), 6 p.m.
LaFayette (15-10) at St. Pius X (20-7), 6 p.m.

Class AAA
Jackson County (7-21) at Sonoraville (21-6), 6 p.m.
Calhoun (18-11) at Morgan County (13-14), 6 p.m.
Coahulla Creek (20-7) at Jefferson (23-4), 6 p.m.

Class AA
Heard County (14-10) at Chattooga (20-6), 6 p.m.
Dade County (19-9) at Lamar County (18-9), 6 p.m.
Gordon Central (17-10) at Bremen (14-13), 6 p.m.

Class A public
Elite Scholars Academy (14-9) at Trion (16-10), 6 p.m.

Class A private
Athens Academy (15-11) at Christian Heritage (17-6), 6 p.m.

Saturday, Feb. 15
Class AAA
Hart County (15-13) at Ringgold (18-8), 5

 

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