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Surviving and advancing is the most important thing a team can do come playoff time, and that’s exactly what the GMC Prep Bulldogs accomplished Wednesday when they took on Mount de Sales in the Region 7-A tournament.

The Bulldogs, competing as a No. 2 seed, defeated the third-seeded Cavaliers 57-55 to advance in the bracket. GMC head coach James Lunsford did not mix words when asked about his team’s performance over at Hancock Central in Sparta, the site of the region tournament.

“We played the worst game we’ve played this year,” Lunsford said in a Thursday phone interview. “We just didn’t execute and they (MDS) played well. They could’ve easily won it at anytime.”

The veteran head coach believes his players may have taken the lower-ranked Cavaliers a little lightly, and they nearly paid for it with their region tournament lives.

“That’s part of being a young group,” said Lunsford. “You’ve got to respect everybody and we didn’t do that. We just never played any defense. We were lucky to be able to win it.”

But the Bulldogs still have an opportunity to redeem themselves. They will play in the region semifinals 5:30 p.m. tonight against Wilkinson County, the top seeded team from the other side of the region. The Warriors were 17-8 this regular season and a perfect 10-0 against sub-region competition. They advanced Wednesday by defeating Warren County 76-66. 

Tournament host Hancock Central is set to square off with Lincoln County on the other side of the bracket. The Bulldogs of Sparta advanced with an 81-66 win over Twiggs County while Lincoln took down FPD 75-61. Hancock just beat Lincoln 78-36 last week, but lost to the Red Devils of Lincolnton by a point back on Jan. 11. That semifinal is scheduled to tip tonight at 8:30 p.m.

Winners of the two semifinals will meet 8:30 p.m. Saturday for the Region 7-A championship while the losers will play in the consolation game at 5:30.

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